Thursday, March 23, 2006

"One Headline Why Believe It..."

"We can't decide if the world is growing worse, or if the reporters are just working harder."

-The Houghton Line, November 1965

English philosopher, C.E.M. Joad, once said, "The secret of successful journalism is to make your readers so angry, they will write half your paper for you." Do you think that the American media, as a whole, would rather report news that keeps us fired up, rather then report news that has a positive aspect to it, no matter what that positive spin might be about? Do you, as the viewer or reader, pay closer attention to the scandalous side of the news, as opposed to the consumer reports or the entertainment news? Do you make a distinction between national news publications and local new services? And how about the tabloids, is the National Enquirer a reliable source for news and information? The National Enquirer has a current circulation of about 2.7 million, which is actually a decline in circulation numbers in recent years. In fact, most national newspapers have reported a decline in circulation numbers in the last 10 years.

I am thinking about this, because of President's Bush's assertion that the American media is to blame for the publics recent disdain for the war in Iraq. Personally speaking, I am not buying into that claim. I think it is yet another, in a long series of excuses, for why the American public has become more and more impatient with both Mr. Bush...and the war. I found it kind of odd that he would turn on the media the way he has, considering both Bush and Donald Rumsfeld made sure the there was an unprecedented amount of journalists in Iraq at the beginning of the war three years ago. Journalists were embedded in downtown Baghdad to bring us an up close and personal view of the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Who can forget the photo-op on the aircraft carrier just a few weeks later, when he declared, "mission accomplished?" Now, however, he is less then enchanted with the media because, by his reckoning, the media is not showing the positive side of the story in Iraq. Let's pretend for a moment he is right. Tell me why, doesn't the White House do more then merely repeat the same rhetoric about how unfair the media is, and actually provide proof to the American public that there is a strong, positive growth in Iraq. Words alone won't do it at this point, I need to see this positive inclination for myself.

Do you think the decline in tabloid circulation has to do with our growing distaste for the sleazy? Is it because we just don't care anymore if Paris Hilton gives birth to an alien's baby, while skinny dipping with Jim Morrison? Is the decline due to the fact that we need not look any further then AOL news to fulfill our need for all things scandalous? I mean, I live for the feature, "Who Had AWorse Week?," how about you? Heck, last summer, I got to choose between Michael Jackson, wearing p.j's to court, that ditzy runaway bride, and Phil Spector and his bad hair day. If my memory serves me, I think I chose Phil Spector and his hair. Is that really news? Really? I can't think of one good reason as to why I should care about why Jennifer Wilbanks ran out on her fiance, but I can think of many, many reasons as to why I do care about the fact that tough questions are not being asked of George Bush and his administration by members of the mainstream American media....until recently that is. Why is he not being challenged by members of the media about his assertion that it is media to blame for his low approval ratings? I am most curious about that. Hmmm.

I don't happen to think the American media is the source of Mr. Bush's troubles, but I don't think it necessarily does itself any favors when it insists on reporting "news" that is in actuality, the personal business of a private citizen, like you or I. Instead of continuing to report on the fact that 3 billion dollars is still missing from the war budget, or the fact that there are still empty trailers sitting in Louisiana, that never reached victims of Hurricane Katrina, instead we are subjected to the never ending speculation that maybe the runaway bride has not learned her lesson. That story is not's gossip. That story doesn't affect you's none of your business. The runaway brides antics, did cost the taxpayers of the county she resided in money...that makes it their business, therefore it should have been kept local, and not made into the media distraction it eventually became.

As I said, I don't blame the media for following the success celebrated by such tabloids as the National Enquirer. After all...we Americans spend time reading it, watching it,and following it like it was the news. Isn't it a shame when something really sleazy and disgusting takes place, such as the abuse at Abu Ghraib and we can't tell the difference between the tabloid side of the news...and the real scandals bringing down the integrity of America? So, do we really have room to blame the media, if we continually ask for more? If the Bush administration had full control of the images and soundbites coming out of Iraq, would they show us a more balanced view of the war? Would we still see the horrific images of the aftermath of a suicide bombing? Or would we continually see the same images over and over of Iraqis voting for the first time? How filtered would the news be? Do you think Mr. Bush is right? Is the majority of the news being covered by the mainstream American media only the most negative aspects of the war? Has the media coverage changed since we were at war in Vietnam? Do we only want to hear the worse about everything and everyone, so we won't hurt as bad? Personally, I am a little tired of the media being blamed for the information that is available to us, when we don't stand up and demand we be treated with respect and be brought legitimate news.

Note: Jessica has written a fabulous entry that addresses a number of the questions I have asked in this entry. Please drop by her blog and give her entry a read. It is so well done. "The Fourth Estate"

Berkeley, California
Summer, 2005


V said...

Carly, I haven`t bought a paper since the day Bush was elected. I used to buy 2 papers a day. I guess I`ve given up on the electorate. I just no longer have the time.

Karen Funk Blocher said...

Well, I do think the decline in print circulation has more to do with the rise of online and cable news than anything else. I get my local headlines emailed to me by the Tucson Citizen, and click on the ones that sound interesting or important.

Presidents seem to always complain about the press being unfair or biased whenever things aren't going well for that president. The complaint really comes down to, "Mommy! Helen's being mean to me!" rather than any objective reason. Bush in particular works hard to only play to hand-picked audiences, in order to minimize the possibility of anyone dissenting from his message. That strikes me as being a little totalitarian, frankly. The press isn't always fair-minded or responsible or unbiased, but at least it's still reasonably free. That's important - more important than a President's hurt feelings (if he has any).


Jessica said...

Ok g/f, this makes entry number THREE of yours that I have marked that have inspired me to not only respond with an entry of my own, but to do some serious thinking, considering and pondering before making those responses. Each one for a different reason. That being said, this REPORTER **wink** needs to finish up for deadline before I can take the time to give those entries the time they need. I just wanted to pop up here and say how nice it is to read someone that actually challenges me and makes me consider......or own position.