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Sunday, October 18, 2009

I may just keep Newsweek after all
Posted by Jill | 6:47 PM
I've been reading Newsweek since I was a child. Back in those days, Republicans were Time and Democrats were Newsweek. In more recent years, I've threatened to cancel my subscription any number of times, not least of which was when Michael Isikoff hopped on board the Whitewater bus and drove it right into the brick wall where it should have died....then he proceeded to beat the brick wall for a while.

Recently, the suits at Newsweek realized that reporting on week-old news was anachronistic in these days when you can get updated news online on a 24 x 7 basis, and so it has been retooled into a magazine of commentary or analysis. The skimpy advertising, dominated by ads for faux "masterpiece" jewelry and those Amish heaters, leaves doubt as to whether the new concept can make Newsweek survive, but with columns like this one from Jacob Weisberg about how Fox News flies in the face of what American journalism is supposed to be, I sure hope it does:
What's most distinctive about the American press is not its freedom but its century-old tradition of independence—that it serves the public interest rather than those of parties, persuasions, or pressure groups. Media independence is a 20th-century innovation that has never fully taken root in many other countries that do have a free press. The Australian-British-continental model of politicized media that Murdoch has applied at Fox is un-American, so much so that he has little choice but go on denying what he's doing as he does it. For Murdoch, Ailes, and company, "fair and balanced" is a necessary lie. To admit that their coverage is slanted by design would violate the American understanding of the media's role in democracy and our idea of what constitutes fair play. But it's a demonstrable deceit that no longer deserves equal time.

Whether the White House engages with Fox is a tactical political question. Whether we journalists continue to do so is an ethical one. By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations. Respectable journalists—I'm talking to you, Mara Liasson—should stop appearing on its programs. A boycott would make Ailes too happy, so let's try just ignoring Fox, shall we?



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Blogger Joe Ruby Oswald said...
Hell yes.

Blogger Ralph said...
Mara Liasson respectable? Twenty years ago she was; today, not at all. As far as I can tell, today she is neither more nor less than a bitter, vacuous Republican shill. I cannot imagine why NPR still uses her as a reporter.

Blogger Bartender Cabbie said...
Fox certainly is slanted. So is MSNBC. They both distort the facts to suit political ends.

Blogger Interrobang said...
I personally don't see a problem with the slant in, say, the British media, since it's very transparent -- they admit they do it, everybody knows they do it, and everyone just carries on as usual.

Where you run into problems is in the American system where the news is slanted, but everyone makes this loud pretense of faux-"objectivity," which too often leads to that execrable "Shape of the Earth: Views Differ" type non-reporting, where, in the interest of "balance," the reality (or expert consensus) gets balanced off by some kind of whackaloonery -- this is particularly evident in science- or medicine-related reporting, where the quackiest of quacks always gets equal time against ten million actual experts.

Perhaps even worse is the sort of plausibly deniable stuff the NYT does habitually, where they'll run a feature on some kind of trend they want to promote or condemn subtly, and do it entirely using loaded language or biased examples, all written in this rather carefully-constructed facade of faux neutrality.

The average American really doesn't pick up on that stuff save subconsciously (which, especially in the NYT's deeply status-quo-reinforcing point of view, is exactly what they want), so right now you've got the worst of all worlds, especially given the average American's complete lack of critical thinking skills...

Blogger Ralph said...
... stuff the NYT does habitually, where they'll run a feature on some kind of trend they want to promote or condemn subtly, and do it entirely using loaded language or biased examples, all written in this rather carefully-constructed facade of faux neutrality.

Interrobang is right on target. The Times' style of propaganda is more insidious than Fox's hate-filled lies. NYT news prose can make it easy to be lulled into a set of beliefs without knowing anything is happening. Their pre-Iraq-War coverage actually helped lull me into thinking the war might be a good idea. I'm still angry about that.