Monday, December 22, 2003

Media Borgs 
This Boston Globe article is a good example of the downside of a professional reporter class: they’re congenitally incapable of policing themselves.

Lead graf: News executives of most Boston television stations are decidedly unenthusiastic about a Bush administration plan to transmit news footage from Iraq for local TV outlets in an attempt to supplement media coverage from that war-torn country.

Imagine a reporter interviewing a bunch of oil company executives about the merits of solar power, and going to press with the interview without any mention of the fact that these oil company execs just might have a financial stake in discouraging alternative energy sources.

Unthinkable. Irresponsible. Bad journalism. Bad joojoo. But I guess that’s what passes for journalism at the Boston Globe’s Iraq and media desks. Television news executives have a vested interest in discouraging any additional information outlets on the Iraq war. Any C-SPAN Baghdad station will compete for viewers and potentially depress advertising revenue which will affect these news executives directly in the pocketbook.

Now, the reporter could have interviewed some communications and media professors. It’s not like there are no universities in Boston.

We have no interest in this," said WBZ-TV (Channel 4) news director Peter Brown. "The Fourth Estate is independent and should remain so."

Public Access TV stations have been broadcasting unedited footage of school board meetings and city council deliberations for years. Miraculously, our republic has managed to wither the assault on the independence of the press perpetrated by such insidious institutions as C-SPAN. If the mere existence of a channel broadcasting unedited press conferences and interviews with soldiers somehow threatens the independence of WBZ-TV—or in any way interferes with its usual practice of accepting large amounts of advertising money from the campaign funds of major party candidates, then Peter Brown ought to start selling aluminum siding and give up his job to someone with a spine.

But Brown’s not content to stop there!

"As news providers, we should go there and see for ourselves."

Except news providers have been miserable failures at doing just that. Check out Instapundit.com’s hilarious account of the New York Times’ embarrassing botch-job of coverage of the December 10th demonstrations against terrorism in Baghdad (you might have to scroll down a bit.)

The New York Times blames their failure, on poor publicity (even though I somehow managed to find out about it two days ahead of time, housewives all over the U.S. somehow found out about it ahead of time, and thousands of Iraqis somehow found out about it far enough in advance to, well, show up.)

But back to C-SPAN Baghdad.

"I'm kind of appalled by it. I think it's very troubling," said Charles Kravetz, vice president of news at the regional cable news outlet NECN. "I think the government has no business being in the news business."

At first blush, I thought Kravetz must just be a very easily troubled guy. Is he that insecure about the quality of his own news programming that he doesn’t think his station can hold its viewership against the edgy, scintillating journalism of the Armed Forces Network?

And is he so certain that giving the public the choice of tuning in to another channel which happens to be operated by the government is a greater evil than awarding the full news spectrum to the interests of corporate America?

And why does he have such low regard for his viewership that he opposes giving them that choice?

WCVB-TV news director Coleen Marren said the station is well served by the reporting resources of CNN and ABC and expressed concern at what she called "a government-sponsored television station."

But the reality is even worse. Not only are Kravetz and Marren apparently insecure about their own lousy programming, but they’re also half blind. Neither one of them mentions how they feel about government-sponsored programming at Agentes France Press, the BBC, Pravda, or NPR and PBS. Nor does the reporter note the glaring analytical omission anywhere in the article.

This article is a gem, indeed. It is a rare treat to see journalism’s inbred mentality of self-congratulation, its mistargeted skepticism, and holier-than-thou cultural elitism so neatly encapsulated in a single piece. This isn’t just the subjects: the reporter himself seems to have been taken over by the Media Borgs. He has become the perfect medium for their message, the perfect tool for the would-be robber barons of his own industry.

If this is the kind of “filtering” we get from the news media’s professional class, then we’re better off without it.

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