Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: Take Back America Wrap Up

(This was one of the first good pictures I took of Al the deaf cat. Next Friday I’ll try to post one of his sister Lena who is, how do you say, less photogenic.)

I was trying to think of what else to say about Take Back America 2007. I only attended one panel, and it was the “Mainstream Media: Fair and Balanced?” and I think Rick Perlstein managed to notice something more interesting than what I saw.

I tend to get annoyed at the audience during these kinds of panels because there are always people who stand up and want to give a 10-minute rant to the targets of the “MSM” about “why don’t you guys cover this.” No question, and nothing that the individuals on the panel could actually answer for, just a chance to be yelled at for the collective sins of everyone who ever calls themselves a reporter.

If you want to get angry or ask a question as least ask something that say, Richard Wolffe of Newsweek or David Schuster of MSNBC actually said or did or espoused.

I was going to ask the panel (and Wolffe in particular) why not have a partisan press, along the lines of what exists in the U.K.? (He has sort of dismissed it in his opening remarks). Not a party press...where papers or media outlets are official mouthpieces of a party, but of a partisan—an ideological ideal—nature. This is a crucial distinction. Fox News is a party apparatus. Its ideology essentially shifts to defend Republican party lines. But The Washington Times or the Weekly Standard are conservative media outlets. Sometimes this means they will run in tandem with party ideals but sometimes they will cross.

Because it seems to me the concept of news evaluation, who’s got the best health care proposal, what is the implications of the immigration bill, etc, can only be evaluated if you share a similar outlook from the media outlet. What is “fair” coverage of a policy proposal? There’s no such thing because how one evaluates what’s “fair” means that there is some perfect version of a policy that the outlet looks to for comparison. Horserace coverage of presidential candidates stems from this same issue. Because the non-partisan media cannot use a partisan viewpoint to evaluate candidates they can only use non-partisan methodology which breaks down into categories like who’s got the most money, who’s got the most effective staff, who’s ahead in polling (all of which is ideologically neutral). But a partisan media outlet can actually evaluate a campaign and compare it to its set of ideals (which presumably the reader would align themself).
(Although, I this Slate Chatterbox column on the "health care primary" is a good start I still wonder what criteria Timothy Noah is using to evaluate Obama's plan.)

Talking to Dan Froomkin afterwards, he said “well the blogs are doing that.” And yes they are. But in the meantime everyone is still wondering about the breakdown of even the concept of a non-partisan press (with fewer and fewer people either believing it exists, or willfully misunderstanding the deficiencies).

Anyway this is a bigger topic than one post. Jay Rosen at Press Think has a curious experiment starting which may change how campaigns are covered. It’s not exactly what I would have envisioned but it’s a start.


Gender Blank said...

Al is very hansome. Looking forward to seeing Lena next week. :)

Anonymous said...

I think calling FNC a "party apparatus" is hyperbolic and silly, in the spirit of an Eric Alterman. I think FNC is basically a business that doesn't pretend NOT to be a business. The MSM (especially in terms of TV) try to pretend they are not businesses when it comes to politics, because every David Schuster and Lou Dobbs want to be the next Woodward or Bernstein--a reporter bigger than The Story. FNC is a news channel that has a lot of conservative programming, and because people want conservative programming, it whips the other cables news networks: the Market is the impetus, not the GOP. FNC is no apparatus--and your statement fails because in this day and age, there basically IS no Republican party line on much of anything.

Jim in Cleveland