Friday, January 27, 2006

The Media Borg

Stoller writes:

But my point here isn't about this tiff. It's about the culture of modern journalism. Among journalists, there's a deep sense of pride in the craft of journalism - I just attended a luncheon yesterday with some old practitioners, and they are proud of the work they do. And honestly, much of it is excellent excellent work. And they are keen to talk ethics, and blogging, and print journalism. But whenever I bring up TV, and especially cable TV, immediately reporters throw up their hands and avoid responsibility. They say things like "Chris Matthews is an asshole" or "Don't engage him" or "Fox News isn't what I do", as if the American public's responsibility to police the craft of journalism that they take so much pride in policing.

That same standard is NEVER applied to bloggers - are they journalists, are they reporters, are they mean people on the internet - there's endless handwringing about that question, and a deep sense that this-is-a-very-important issue-that-we-must-all-talk-and-fret-abo ut. Well, that's fine, except that if you believe you belong to a craft, and there is a self-policing mechanism, you have to actually self-police.

That means asking the same questions of Chris Matthews and Tim Russert as you ask of bloggers and journalists. I don't see that happening. And since television is an immensely powerful medium that dominates our discourse, I find it fairly irresponsible that there is such a lack of discouse.

This really is a big issue and it's something too many print journalists just refuse to deal with. To a great degree the media is a collective and the public doesn't really distinguish between outlets. Chris Matthews is granted legitimacy by all of the guests - including print journalists - who go on his show and the relative lack of criticism of what goes on there.

I've written many times that I welcome criticism of bloggers, some of it's just rather bizarre given the incredible silence we get about talk radio/fox news/msnbc/etc. As all powerful as bloggers apparently are now, we're still relatively minor players in the political discourse. What's more important - what Hannity, O'Reilly, Russert, and Matthews have done to our political discourse or what some guy with a website has done to it? The former have the imprint of major respectable news organizations.

If the more respectable portions of the mainstream media don't want to be judged by the excesses of television cable news and talk radio then they should start finding ways to differentiate themselves from it. From the public's perspective you are all Bill O'Reilly.

...let me add that of course being a print journalist at a respectable newspaper is no guarantee of quality. But, at least there are ideals in respectable print journalism even if too often they fail to live up to them.