Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Why I'm not sorry that Air America sucks and few people listen to it.

So yesterday, I’m talking to a friend and I mention the Fox news journalists who were kidnapped in Gaza. My friend said something sarcastic like “What a tragedy.”

My response was something like “They could die.”

And my friend said something like “What a loss to the world," again in a sarcastic tone.

I said. “Well, yes, when a reporter is killed for just doing his or her job it IS a loss to the world.”

“But you know they are scumbags…”

The conversation went on in this vein for some time. It took several minutes for my friend to finally admit that a Fox news reporter being killed by terrorists would actually be a bad thing.

This is why I really don’t like news with a built-in slant. It turns us in to jerks.

Studies are inconclusive over whether the mainstream media has a liberal bias. There is a lot of data that points in several different directions on that one. Studies are quite conclusive that members of opposing factions, say Palestinians and Isrealis, can read the same newspaper article and both find it slanted against their own side. I wish people in general had a better understanding of the separation of the editorial section from the news section, though I wish that separation were as complete in every paper as it is at the good ones.

I've had to explain "The New York Times mostly has different people writing their editorials and their news stories and those kidns of stories are written with different intentions. A liberal editorial page does not equate equally liberal reporting of hard news. These are ideals, but the good papers really do seem to live up to them much of the time" to conservatives several times.

I really worry when people start talking about starting up a liberal news network. Having news shows of every political slant seems like such a direct assault on our critical thinking skills. I already know some conservatives who take a “if it wasn’t reported on MY news, it didn’t happen” attitude. It’s pleasant to be able to write these people off as idiots., though I am far from quick to write conservatives of as idiots unless they say something like that.

It would really piss me off to start hearing that from my own side.



Anonymous said...

On Tavis Smiley some time ago I saw someone talking about this topic. (I don't remember his name, previous position, or the title of his book...) His premmise was that journalism should have an opinion and not hide that opinion.

I apologize for not have more details, but maybe someone can flesh it out for us.

Chalicechick said...

That would be the counterconclusion to what I said. There are some smart people who think that way and their goal of more baldly stating their biases is to some degree laudable. I disagree with that view, though.

The ideal news consumer looks at every story considering the source already, of course. But we’re not all ideal news consumers. I’m a pretty sophisticated and thoughtful reader, but even I don’t do it all the time.

What I think having slanted news will bring us is people who expect to read only what they want to hear and object when someone tells them different, even when they are being told the truth.

I got an email from someone once who was FURIOUS that NPR was asking people in Iowa why they weren’t voting for Howard Dean around the time of the 2004 Iowa primary. NPR is supposed to be liberal! She’d found out that one to the people doing the asking had gone on to work at Fox news and was convinced that this was a sign that NPR was getting more conservative.

The context this argument leaves out is that though the media loved Dean, he was actually losing Iowa and big time. He in fact came in a very distant third after Kerry and Gephardt. That people weren’t voting for Dean was actually pretty groundbreaking news in the days before the election because the media had hyped him so much. I don’t listen to NPR and I recall being absolutely blown away that Dean lost by such a huge percentage.

Yet this person was very angry that the liberal station would dare to tell what was for her an unpleasant truth.

This isn’t cool, y’all. News will never be totally unbiased, but we need news that is doing it’s best to state the facts and let people make up their own minds.


LaReinaCobre said...

CPB info.

Anonymous said...

But we no longer have ANY news that is "doing its best to be unbiased". They are all highly biased, and not necessarily honest about what that bias is.
And I don't think your info about Air America is correct. People do listen to it. And it does not claim to be unbiased, or news.

Freespirit said...

Yes, people DO listen to it, and their opinions, like those of UU's, vary a lot. For example, this year two liberal-religious programs have begun on Air America, and have already featured interviews with at least four prominent UU's, including Bill Sinkford.

In other words, although some of the AAR programs lean toward "rant" formats, others do not. Many of us who regularly listen to Air America have no hatred nor ill-will whatsoever toward the employees of Fox News, no matter how much we may disagree with its harmful and blatantly-biased programming. FYI...anyone interested in the "State of Belief" and "The Time is Now" programs can find out more about them from the AAR website.

Anonymous said...

Recently, I read Katharine Graham's "Personal History". I'm afraid I'm going to have to paraphrase, but IIRC, she said that journalism's job was not just to report the news, but also to do something about it. If they thought there was a wrong somewhere, they ought to do something to correct it, not just blather about.

Coming from -- IMHO -- one of the bastions of liberal journalism, that says a lot to me, particularly because it's not what's happening now.

Anonymous said...

And now that I've found the exact quote...

"In general, the press now sees its role as covering an issue like world hunger and commenting on it editorially, rather than being a participant in trying to alleviate it."
-- Katharine Graham, Personal History

Chalicechick said...
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