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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Let us address the declining fortunes of today’s mainstream mass media.

(Yes, I can hear your pained screams of “Nooooo … we don’t want to!” We really must, however, because it’s not about them, but us — about our ability to be at least quasi-informed about who’s-doing-what-to-whom-and-why, in order for us to be a self-governing people. So buckle up, here we go.)

The honchos of America’s establishment media are quick to blame such external causes as the Internet for their problems. But if they looked internally, they might notice that they’re damn near eaten up with a bad case of conventional wisdomitis. The problem with conventional wisdom is that more often than not, it’s nothing more than the contrived “wisdom” of the corporate powers.

Ironically, this narrow perspective not only afflicts their delivery of the news, but also their business model. For example, with newspaper readership declining, the accepted industry response by owners and publishers has been to fire beat reporters, shrink the news hole, reduce reporting to rewriting of wire-service articles — and then run hokey PR campaigns hyping the shriveled product as “Real News.”

But here’s a bit of real news that very few newspapers have mentioned: The new owners of the Orange County Register are blazing a contrarian path toward their paper’s revival and prosperity. They’re expanding the Register‘s news staff, its coverage and the paper’s size, doubling the editorial page and adding more sections. Editor Ken Brusic notes that offering less to subscribers and charging more not only is a ripoff and an insult to readers, but a sure path to failure. “So,” he says, “we’re now offering more.”

Gosh — hire real watchdog reporters, dig out real news and actually try to make the paper real to local readers — what a novel notion for a news business! Unsurprisingly, the conventional wisdomites are sneering at the Register‘s nonconformist effort. “It’s not what most people are doing,” said one analyst of the media business.

Exactly! And that’s why it’s so promising!

Of course, getting in the face of power and defying the conventional wisdom can be a poor career move. You can quickly begin feeling like B.B. King, when he sings, “No one loves me but my mother, and she could be jivin’, too.”

Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein now know that lonely feeling. This teamed-up pair of political partisan observers have long been esteemed peers of the Washington punditry class. Cautious, middle-of-the-road, think-tank conservatives, they were popular on the insider talk-show circuit as reliable voices of conventional thinking. Until they went rogue.

  • sigrid28

    Kudos to the Orange County Register! In this climate of must-watch, 24/7 hyped cable news extravaganza, this gesture toward fair journalism has the smell of printers’ ink upon it, like holding in your hand a copy of “Poor Richard’s Almanac” right off the press or reading Walt Whitman’s unsigned review of his own book printed in his own newspaper. Journalism used to be patriotic, not soporific.

    But that is what has been lost in cable news: fair journalism that is exciting and accurate, and patriotic. On cable, every bit of food for thought gets chewed up into sound bites and then spit out in tweets. Ugh! Discourse takes more words than sound bites and is not well served by commercial breaks. In Europe, commercials take up just one rather long break mid-show, or go before and after programs otherwise. European television news has an old-fashioned look to it: think “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” You know where it’s coming from, from the get go: no posturing around as if its the truth. You get unvarnished personalities citing the facts of the case, with every chance (and everyone knowing it) that the facts might change with time or be rubbish start-to-finish. The audience and the dear reader have a role to play in this kind of journalism, and are not just bystanders to history, as our bipartisan television news coverage sometimes makes us out to be. The talking heads on these “news” programs really don’t give a hoot if you tweet them or send them an e-mail. I’ve discovered that you can keep up just fine by channel surfing back to cable news during commercials while keeping up with the prime time soap operas you follow.

    Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein should have been MORE patriotic than they were, not less. They were right about the lies early on and let themselves be silenced. If the cable news shows won’t invite you, be Walt Whitmanesque, self-publish rapid-fire patriotic journalism electronically, like David Corn with his “47%” or David Frum with “Why Romney Lost.” Publish in newpapers and journals instead, and take as a model the brilliant work Nate Silver did on “538,” which I credit with keeping me sane during the final weeks of the 2012 election. Maybe it’s time to smash the cable news “forme”–the frame that holds the letters of a printing press–and find the next better media for our times. Journalists should be patriots not politicians.

  • FredAppell

    Everything suffers when the interests of the many are being squashed for the self interest of the few. When we can no longer trust the media or the officials that we elect, than we are done! How can we possibly expect to solve any of our national problems when everyone involved is looking out for #1? Dems, GOP, Tea Party, Libertarians and especially all the media are to blame. Americans are sellouts to the highest bidder and that is the greater threat to our Democracy. Hopefully the Orange County Register won’t compromise and abandon their principals to a few just so they can make a profit.

  • The Repropagandists are cruising.. and will soon reap bruising. it’s already happening to their egos.

  • howa4x

    They are banished because they pulled back the curtian and told the world what is really going on. The media tries to make it a wrestling match between the parties instead of getting deeply into the issues. They cover the presidential races like it’s a horse race. They allow groups to make claims that are untrue, and don’t challange anyone. CNN is the worst with this. They have political people from each party comment on every speech made by anyone. They smooth out their own party’s statements and attack the opposing ones. You don’t have any analysis about why there is gridlock, only that the two parties can’t agree is all you will hear. MSNBC will dig into what the republicans are doing, and Fox will just make stuff up. Even showing destruction from a weather event
    where most scientists will say this is because of climate change, the news will present a congressmen with no scientific credentials to counter it.

    They are banished because they told the truth

  • Jim Lou

    I want to relate an experience I had with NY POST (Fox owned).

    At one time in the very recent past, the paper was $0.25. Over the succeeding 5 years the cost went to $1.50, with $.75 within 1.5 years. At that time I stopped buying the paper.

    I read the online edition with the only difference in my opinion are the puzzles, which was why I bought the paper in the 1st. This was to do something during my commute.

    The paper was downsized. The paper wasn’t the same any longer. There was nothing of any real interest. The only thing that seemed to expand was Page 6, which wasn’t on that page after a while.

  • The media likes a neck and neck race. They don’t want to offend candidates, or the big money behind them, by either pointing out either that they are lying or that they have no chance.
    They aren’t interested in good government. They want good theater, good ratings, and good income.

  • iheardu2

    Clearly, some GOP religious stances are based on lies when dealing in the secular world for politcal gain means “lies are acceptable” to gain office or to be re-elected to government positions. For a party to be so anti-government yet willing for taxpayers to pay their salaries and benefits. “Lies are not so bad”.

  • onedonewong

    The US media today is no different than media in Cuba, Venezuela or China. Its all part of the State Run Media orchestrated by the dem’s party

  • turnipgreens

    Naturally, when the truth and GOP get together, one comes out a loser. Guess which?

  • lessthantolerant

    let us all hope that the MSM continues to go bankrupt so the great propaganda machine can be silenced. No more Obamas!