"Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it." — Thomas Paine
Sean Hannity has often said that journalism died in 2008 when most of the main stream media promoted the election of Barack Obama. While agreeing with Hannity on the fact that professional journalism is dead I think it died a long time ago.
Once upon a time people entered the field of journalism for the purpose of enlightening people by reporting on stories and presenting facts as they discovered them. They would dig and dig to get the story correct then they would write the story in a logical way so the reader could follow the facts and make his or her own conclusions. This was called reporting.
Reporting was based on a simple formula, a formula that contained who, what where, when, why, and how. At least this was explained to me during a course in writing I took in college many years ago. Reporters needed to ask the correct questions before writing a story. They needed to ask questions that would provide answers to the five “Ws” and the “H” in the story. They needed to be objective and keep their biases to a minimum and let the story lead the way and not the other way around. A journalist does not write a story with a conclusion in mind and then find facts that will fit the conclusion. That’s what attorney’s due with briefs and columnists due when writing an opinion piece.
Opinion pieces or Op-Eds are quite different. They are written to convince the reader to take some action such as supporting a cause or political candidate and should not be confused with reporting. The First Amendment is in place more to protect the Op-Ed writer than the reporter. What protection does the reporter need for writing a story about a fire that happened at a certain location, at a certain time and destroyed a certain property? It’s a story about a factual occurrence, plain and simple. These stories usually will have photographs to accompany the story in order to give the reader more detail about the story or to add impact to the event. This is called photojournalism, which can fall either in the reporting camp or the opinion camp depending on how the photographer framed the photo and the editor used it. I have written and lectured on this subject as it pertains to war. You can read a PDF file of my newsletter article; The Camera as a Weapon by clicking here.
Ever since Woodward and Bernstein wrote their famous expose on the Watergate scandal for the Washington Post young journalism students and their professors have changed the game. They no longer want to be good reporters and tell factual stories. They now want to use journalism to change the world. To do this they have learned and been hired to write stories loaded with their personal biases so they can affect a desired outcome in the reader’s mind. This pertains to TV reporting as well. Today it is difficult to separate opinion from fact and the visuals are selected, cropped and framed to add to that outcome.
A particular egregious example of this use of photojournalism has been flashing around the world. It involves Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Governor Rick Perry eating a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair. First of all no one can eat a corn dog in such a dignified manner that any professional photographer can’t turn it into a simulated sexual or obscene image.
The attack on Michele Bachmann by the mainstream media was obvious to anyone who saw the unflattering Newsweek Magazine cover. Now, thanks to a delicious fast-food staple served at State Fairs all across America, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have found themselves being ridiculed in photos published all over the globe. From the liberal Daily Kos to the largest selling newspaper in London — The Telegraph — and even a Texas publication called The Dallas Voice (a scandalous LBGT rag), the conservative candidates are being mocked. In fact, some have even called Perry’s sexual preference called into question.
It all seemed to start with the Telegraph’s photo of Congresswoman and top-tier GOP Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann that appears to be questionable in its selection. Seriously, what could possibly be the rationale for publishing this shot of the Minnesota congresswoman?
The response to the picture on the Telegraph’s website has been significant, garnering support and complaints. Several posts from women who are not fans of Ms. Bachmann take exception to the image:
“This picture is offensive. She’s a disgusting human being but there is no need to have accompanied the article with such a blatantly sexually suggestive picture – she’s a politician and this is a crude, low blow.”
Another pro-Bachmann comment from a non-Bachmann fan named Majorie:
“I am a die-hard liberal, who last time around had two gigantic home-made plywood Obama signs in my yard, and I can’t stand Bachmann. That said, she still deserves to be treated with human decency.”
And finally, a reader who goes by the curious name of “ClowardPiven” said the following:
“For one, I only sympathize with Ms. Bachmann because she is a woman and this photo is very DISRESPECTFUL! It is offensive to me as a woman! It should be offensive to every woman no matter what her political affiliation!”
Someone named “Hurricane” clarified the situation with this comment:
“yet if i waved around a picture of barney frank doing exactly what Michele Bachmann is doing in the above picture, i’d be called a homophobe.”
As you can see by the responses quoted above even the most ardent liberal saw the disgusting nature of the use of the Bachmann photo on Mr. Tony Harnden’s article on the Iowa State Straw Poll. It is obvious he achieved the effect he was targeting. Is this honest photojournalism or just an example of yellow journalism? It seems Mr. Harnden is well versed in using the camera as a weapon. As Confucius is quoted as saying; “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
What if photos like these were used in an article about Barack Obama, Michelle Obama or Barney Frank? The outrage in the main stream media would be earth shattering. You can read more about this issue in an article in The Blaze by clicking here. Thank God Sarah Palin eschewed sampling a corn dog!
It has been generations since a Democrat or liberal or leftist has behaved in the political arena according to any tradition of decency, honor, or gentility. Barry Goldwater was an honest man and a politician of the highest standards. If you were to look for his equal today, in either house on either side of the aisle, you would come up with no one. And yet, when he ran for president in 1964, the entire liberal establishment cut loose with an unmatched campaign of slander. Goldwater was a Nazi, an extremist, a paranoid schizophrenic, a maniac out to trigger a nuclear war. And it wasn't fringe publications making these accusations — it was the New York Times and the Big Three broadcast networks. The men involved in that campaign — including the great American Voice of Reason, Bill Moyers — went on to lengthy, lucrative, and influential careers. Not a single one ever apologized; not a single one ever explained himself; not a single one was even confronted over his role.
I stopped my subscription for the Los Angeles Times a couple of years ago. I don’t know anyone who subscribes to either Newsweek or Time magazines. I do not subscribe to ant hard copy newspaper with the exception of my local village news and that’s only to receive news on local issues such as zoning, building, crime and what’s up with the town council. I probably would not even do this if my wife did not insist of getting the little paper so she could look for sales and clip the coupons.
Being a pundit, and blogger I spend time every morning visiting various news and opinion websites and blogs in which I have some confidence. I am less inclined to rely on the mainstream press because it is largely propaganda and I occasionally visit some of the more egregious left-wing sites like the Daily Kos, Media Matters, The Center for American Progress, and Think Progress to see what the liberals are talking about and how they are portraying conservatives and spinning the issues of the day. You can see the list of sites I most visit listed down the left side of my blog page.
I know something about propaganda because I spent time in Washington D.C. on business development and lobbying for my firm and profession. What that has taught me is that virtually everything the mainstream media prints or broadcasts is a handout from a public relations agency or, in the case of government, the torrent of questionable information that pours forth from the White House, Congress, and the many departments and agencies seeking to justify their existence.
One particular example of journalistic ineptness comes to mind. At the beginning of the first Gulf War in 1990 I was leading the development of the commercial use of GPS for geodetic surveying and positioning. At that time GPS was still in an infantile state for commercial users and their very few commercial users in our area. In fact my firm was the first to use GPS for precise geodetic positioning in the state of California.
At the time were working with Magellan to develop a hand-held GPS receiver and they had just brought their first units to market. They could not manufacture these units fast enough to keep up with the demand from soldiers who wanted GPS navigation units to use in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait. When a reporter for the Orange County Register, a mildly conservative paper, contacted Magellan they told them to contact me for more information on using GPS for precise positioning, navigation and mapping.
A reporter did indeed contact me and came to our office to interview me. I spent about two hours showing him the equipment and giving him basic information on how the Global Positioning System worked. I tried to keep it as simple as possible as I knew that in two hours he would never understand all of the technology. During our interview he took copious notes and asked many questions. I thought he was doing a pretty good job of getting a handle on the pertinent information. At the conclusion of our interview I asked him if I could review his article before it went to press to see if all of the technical information was correct. He vehemently denied my request and said thank you and good bye.
Two days later his article appeared on the front page of the Register along with a photo and graphic. When I read the article I could not believe how inaccurate and shallow his article was. He totally misrepresented what I said. He had even gone so far as to claim we received our maps directly from space rather than what I told him that we used GPS in conjunction with our mapping work. It did not take long for our friendly competitors to begin calling me asking me if they could order some of those space maps. It was then I learned that journalists while being experts at the use of the serial comma were not very good at getting their facts straight.
All governments seek to influence the news stream. Totalitarian governments have an easier time because a journalist who becomes a problem either goes to jail or is killed. In a democracy, controlling what journalists receive involves a virtual army of government workers engaged in PR. The most visible example is the White House spokesperson and his daily briefings.
The Internet has had a severe impact on newspapers. The decline has been in progress for a long time. As often as not readers have concluded that their daily newspaper is no longer a source of accurate information. The majority are owned and put together by liberals, slanting the news toward their political orientation.
The mainstream media played a huge role in the election of President Obama and now are experiencing blowback from Americans who are disenchanted with him, but the truth is that newspapers have been experiencing declining circulation for quite some time. With that comes declining advertising income, the lifeblood of a newspaper or news magazine. I recall a radio talker from the 1960s, Joe Pyne, stating that the only thing a newspaper was good for was to wrap the fish in. The man was a prophet.
Newsweek was owned by the Washington Post and sold for one dollar and the assumption of its debts. It is now edited by Tina Brown who made her bones over at Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. She also edits The Daily Beast, an Internet news site. Time magazine is infested with liberal editors and reporters. A former editor, Jay Carney, is now the White House spokesman.
It is, however, The New York Times that has gone from “the newspaper of record” to an appallingly corrupt purveyor of news. It is sad to see it reach a point where its columns are literally filled with lies, big and small, and the lunatic ravings of columnists like Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd. There is no longer even a pretense at objectivity, fairness, or accuracy.
The news business is a closed circle of sorts. Press rooms at newspapers have fewer editors and reporters. Those still working are expected to generate several stories daily. The result is that they are increasingly dependent on public relations professionals who “feed” the news stream. At the same time, PR folk are dealing with fewer or thinner traditional news outlets. The result is less opportunity to get serious, useful news published or broadcast. There is, however, no end of space for celebrity, crime and sports news.
Filling in the gaps are talk radio and the 24/7 cable news outlets. Fox News dominates this area of news and anyone who has watched Fox knows it goes out of his way to always include Democrat and liberal spokespersons in its quest of being “fair and balanced.” Beyond that, when you strip out the commercials, the news is often little more than a three minute headline, interspersed with battling political consultants, lawyers, and others. News is more often discussed than reported.
Little wonder that public relations professionals are now engaged in a desperate effort to master “social media” such as Facebook and YouTube to get out their client’s message.
It is a sad commentary on the news profession that a new generation gets much of its “news” from the liberally biased “Daily Show” hosted by Jon Stewart. It is no surprise that the three network news shows have been losing their audience in droves for years now. Local news is still driven by “if it bleeds, it leads” and opinion rules.
This is not to suggest that journalism does not still play a significant role in how Americans perceive and receive “news”, but they now have plethora of alternative sources from which to choose and, I believe, they are far more wary of what newspapers and noticeably biased broadcast outlets provide. This why the Internet and radio talkers are gaining dominance in the news business and liberals and the traditional main stream media wants to muzzle free speech with the fairness doctrine. It also allows bloggers like me to post my thoughts, analyses, and opinions for the world to read, so they desire. I am sure Thomas Payne would be a big fan of this electronic news medium.
As for the local daily newspaper to which I once subscribed, I now just visit its website and check out the obituaries. If I want to know what the weather is, I look out the window or check The Weather Channel app on my smart phone.