Thursday, May 21, 2009

Feel-Good Feel-bad clips of the year

HuffPo links to Media Matter's examples of good journalism, including several outbreaks of sense at Fox News. A good watch, to see that some people occasionally do show some sense, even on cable news. I call it feel-good feel-bad clips, because even though it's kind of heart-warming, most of the clips are journos correcting distorted perceptions of reality that are likely attributable to their own rather egregious reporting in the first place, indeed, sometimes reporting by the self-same people who are flagrantly conducting decent journalism within the clips (a la Bill O'Reilly, correcting misconceptions about ACORN, even while re-raising the canard about their "dubious" operations and honesty).

Also, read this, an old post critiquing Richard Cohen's complaints about Stewart & Colbert, especially in regards to the financial media. A post with the rare distinction of having commenters who make good points as well.


Daktari said...

You know, those examples of journalistic "integrity" just leave me feeling flat. And the associated article. Well, reports have a responsibility to report. And usually, they dig a little deeper than to just "report" what a CEO says. That makes the news nothing more than a marketing tool for business and politics.

Ok, I think the guy who nailed Rush Limbaugh was exhibiting some backbone, but the rest of them just don't seem so ground breaking. And since when did clarifying the truth, sometimes pointedly so, get to be worthy of note?

I do mourn the loss of quality journalism, but neither do I think these examples come nearly close to the newspaper men and women, who as recently as the 1970s and early 1980s were doing quality investigative reporting.

One of the greatest losses in our society will be the loss of the strong urban newspaper. I hope they find a business model that works and soon. I often think the state of our republic rests on their success or failure.p

J said...

Look at Miss High Expectations!

You're right, of course, that these are hardly genius-level Watergate investigationy examples, but you've also apparently spent less time watching these shows than I have (and I barely watch them). That, or you watched them and kept your brains intact moreso than I.

The number of times I've yelled at the TV screen for useful or worthwhile follow-ups... yep, these examples are atypical. They quite certainly shouldn't be, but maybe in this case you do have to praise the not-idiocy you've got, rather than the not-idiocy you wish you had. =] Seriously, though, I think MMFA was just trying to win journos over a little bit so that they wouldn't just be enemies, but so rather journalists could see being on MMFA as something to aspire to (and something achievable without reaching Stewartian heights of intelligence, something they don't even know to aspire to yet) rather than something to be annoyed about.

In any case, giving positive feedback on these examples of basic journalistic responsibility that I've been yelling for for years gave me a bit of a warm feeling. As far as the associated article -- do you mean the Cohen one I linked to? Cuz the articles associated with the Media Matters video were hardly even, just posts observing the content of the video. But I rather liked the Cohen one myself.

Can't speak to the newspaperpeople of the 70s and 80s, but I generally agree with you. The 70s and 80s were a good fair bit ago, though. I don't know that we need newspapers for good investigative reporting (there's no particular reason TV can't do better, just like newspapers are doing worse these days than they used to) and online journalism has great potential, but you're right in that the great urban paper served us well for a good while. But do you think we'll ever have such a united source -- where a large minority of people get their information from the same primary/secondary sources -- again?

Daktari said...

I read an article by Nicholas Kristof yesterday on mass rape as a weapon of war in Darfur, Congo, Liberia and Rwanda. That was quality reporting.

There are examples. And honestly, I can't believe the New York Times and Washington Post give away their content. Now, I was not willing to pay for the op-ed page of the NY Times when they took it away for a bit and I don't think it is back in its entirety, but I would damn sure be willing to pay for the National and International sections that are currently delivered to my inbox every day of the week. In fact, I don't know that I could get through the day without it. The New York Times and WaPo online are two reasons that I am able to remain reasonably well informed (for a grad student with limited time to devote to outside reading). How the hell can they expect to make money when they give away their content. How can they pay top journalists when they give away their work? I would pay for a by-the-section cross-section of the newspaper. Granted, I would certainly hope that they had student rates, but I would pay nonetheless.

Do I think that we will ever have such a united source? We will if all the fucking papers go under. We will have MSNBC and CNN offering "both sides of the news". (Methinks that the three major television networks news bureaus have already been stripped of their journalistic credentials.) But you see, that's the thing. Instead of having a single reporter report all sides of a story..digging a little deeper, asking for myriad views on a topic, we have a liberal and a conservative media engine that present "their" side and the only way you get "the other guy's side" is by watching the competing new program.

Sad, and sadly it allows far too many people to walk away with the impression that their view is the only view.

J said...

Indeed it does. Saw a pretty good presentation by Chris Mooney at the AIBS (American Institute of Biological Sciences I think), one of the points he made being that people are more and more doing their own research on topics, but unfortunately, that means they can find evidence to support any viewpoint, and don't confine themselves to what we might call "scientifically rigorous" reporting. (One of his examples was the anti-vaccination crusade.)

Kristof does some great reporting that goes under-appreciated, it's true.

There's a clear reason NYT and others "give away their content" -- the primary purpose of selling paper copies of magazines or newspapers has long been to prove to the much more lucrative advertisers that they have a lot of eyes looking at pages. On-line, so far, it hasn't been enough -- but my impression is that the precipitous drop in readership when they instigated pay-walls -- drops which didn't seem to significantly recover over time -- cost them far more in lost revenue from decreased viewership and thus decreased ad revs. I certainly stopped reading the NYT editorials behind the walls. Indeed you're right that they're worth paying for, but for the way I consume news on-line, it isn't and wouldn't be worth me paying them directly. They are excellent sources of news stories, and unique in their size, access, and resources, but I find their actual analyses lacking compared to what many other commentators do with the information they synthesize from several newspapers. And frankly, I only rarely feel the editorials worth my time, and even the best of the editorials are just about reaching the levels of, say, an above-average Slate piece (imho), though the best of the best do reach or surpass the quality of all but the finest work Slate produces. But since I see a couple of these a year, I don't bother to read it most of the time. Slate, Counterpunch, and, if I want deeper views, Salon, Mother Jones, The Economist, Time, US News, Esquire, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert -- these often have equal or superior analyses. It's mostly based on primary reportage from the big institutions, but no one institution impresses me so much that I want to give them money individually. I'd much rather have something more like the BBC, or more non-profit news sources, than NYT and kin. And given the clear positive externalities of quality news, and the fact that I can't efficiently allocate my support among all the news agencies that provide important services, clearly government support is called for by straightforward neoclassical economics here =]