Class-In Looks at the News
I was a bit young to really remember Edward R Murrow, but I do remember watching Walter Cronkite, Huntley-Brinkley, John Chancellor, Eric Sevareid, Edwin Newman and a lot of very credible-seeming newsmen. I used to believe everything they said. Later, I watched David Susskind’s political talk show – even though my mother despised him – which challenged much of what the network news men assured us was the truth.
The comedy show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In poked fun of everything, including network TV news. Their “News of the Future” skit even picked Reagan as a future president. Beyond the Fringe, That Was The Week That Was and later, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, did the same thing to the BBC across the ocean, but didn’t predict Thatcher as PM as far as as I know. Nowadays, the Onion tries hard to parody a mainstream news media that is already a parody of reality.
Robert Parry asks, What Happened to the U.S. Press Corps? He identifies a range of topics as difficult to get past the editors if you were criticizing the government:
Reagan’s October Surprise
Salvadoran Death Squads
Parry follows up with, Why the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt Should Be Fired:
So how could Hiatt still have the same important job at the Washington Post after being catastrophically wrong about the justifications for going to war – and after smearing war critics who tried to expose some of Bush’s lies to the American people? How could the U.S. news media be so upside-down in its principles that honest journalists get fly-specked and fired, while dishonest ones get life-time job security?
The short answer, I suppose, is that Hiatt was just doing what the Graham family, which still controls the newspaper, wanted done. From my days at Newsweek, which was then part of the Washington Post Company, I had seen this drift toward neoconservatism at the highest editorial ranks, the well-dressed and well-bred men preferred by publisher Katharine Graham and her son Donald.
In that vein, another former co-blogger, Michael Maiello often takes those defenders of privilege, David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, to task as he does in, Are We Selfish or Misled?
Back on the Daily Banter site, Chez Pazienza offers an explanation for CNN’s apparent sympathy for two Steubenville football players instead of the passed-out fifteen-year-old girl they finger raped and generally humiliated.
Emotion and stories that play on emotion — stories that seek a visceral reaction from viewers rather than a cold, analytical response — make for great TV. Television is a visual medium and the angle of the story with the best visual element will almost always win the day. And because the victim in the Steubenville rape case was shielded from the press and therefore wasn’t available to have her emotions splashed across the airwaves and otherwise exploited by the coyotes of the media — because she couldn’t be put on camera and we couldn’t see her cry — the focus of the story became the people whose reaction we actually could see: Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond. Is this wrong? Yes. In a case like this, offensive? Absolutely. This, unfortunately, is how it is, though.
I get that news has become entertainment – and the Onion did beat them to this one – but I think there’s more to it. Taking the side of the jocks vs the townie almost seems like an echo of the Duke Lacrosse Case, which was a major rallying point and win for the ‘white makes right’ team. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Brit TV, but I’m seeing more and more classism in the US, and the media is feeding into it.