Media

Doing the Job Big Media Won’t Do

My friend Jay Anderson linked to this excellent piece from a Fox affiliate in Cincinnati addressing crime statistics in Great Britain and the United States.

As Jay remarked, it’s sad that it takes a small affiliate news station to do the sort of fact checking that major news networks are incapable of, 0r, more likely, unwilling to do.

As for Piers Morgan, watch what happens when he is forced to interview someone actually tethered to reality.

I think “your little book” is going to be an instant classic.

Our Contemptible Media

One takeaway from the tragedy in Newtown is that if there’s an element in the Bill of Rights that needs revisiting, it’s the first and not the second amendment. The absolute gleeful joy that members of the media have taken in using the tragedy to advance an agenda is exemplified by the likes of Piers Morgan, who at least has the decency to admit as much:

Okay, Piers was being sarcastic, but this is a case where sarcasm revealed some truth. Morgan has been a leading crusader for gun reform in light of the shootings, and he has used his platform to bully gun rights proponents. Here is Morgan embarrassing himself on national television with Larry Pratt a few nights ago. And here he is with John Lott.

When a media personality causes you to yearn for the insight and wisdom of Larry King, you know you have reached the absolute bottom of the barrel.

Now Morgan’s rank opportunism in the wake a tragedy is not even the most disgusting aspect of media behavior in the past week.  Matt Lewis details some of the more egregious behavior.

The media originally reported the wrong name of the alleged shooter. (The suspected killer was Ryan Lanza, they breathlessly reported. Turns out it was actually Ryan’s brother, Adam.) Then, some in the media advertised Ryan’s Facebook and Twitter pages. (This, of course, brings to mind Brian Ross’ irresponsible and premature on-air suggestion over the summer that the Aurora shooter was a Tea Party member.)

As if those cases of egregiously mistaken identity weren’t enough, producers and reporters began trolling Twitter, seeking to proposition friends and relatives of the victims for an interview.

Meanwhile, others staked out the young survivors, and then proceeded to conduct on-air interviews with these young children. This was unseemly and superfluous. As TIME‘s James Poniewozik wrote, “There is no good journalistic reason to put a child at a mass-murder scene on live TV, permission of the parents or not.”

While the media preens about gun control, the fourth estate ignores its own role in potentially prompting these horrific events. A forensic psychologist named Park Dietz thinks the media has blood on their hands.

“Here’s my hypothesis,” he said. “Saturation-level news coverage of mass murder causes, on average, one more mass murder in the next two weeks.” The reason, he says, has something to do with the USA’s size. In a country so large the likelihood of one or two people snapping becomes quite high.

“It’s not that the news coverage made the person paranoid, or armed, or suicidally depressed,” Dietz said. “But you’ve got to imagine this small number of people sitting at home, with guns on their lap and a hit list in their mind. They feel willing to die. When they watch the coverage of a school shooting or a workplace mass murder, it only takes one or two of them to say – ‘that guy is just like me, that’s the solution to my problem, that’s what I’ll do tomorrow’. The point is that the media coverage moves them a little closer to the action.

The 24/7 news cycle may not be the cause of these massacres, but the intense coverage . . . doesn’t help.

What the past few days have shown is that the media’s leftist tilt is not the primary problem. While there are some noble and decent reporters – Jake Tapper comes to mind – overall they are a wretched hive of scum and villainy. All right, maybe they’re not that bad, but one wonders what motivates certain members of the press. One relatively minor incident from the world of sports demonstrates what I mean. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Faux News Meme

The last refuge of a leftist flailing away in an argument, be it in person, on the radio, or the internet, is to accuse his conservative opponent of getting all their information from Fox News.  Actually, they don’t say Fox News, they say Faux News because they have all the creativity of a discombobulated yak.  Be that as it may, this line of argument amuses me on several levels.  First of all, the left’s ire about Fox News is completely hysterical considering the left-leaning tilt of just about every other major news organization.  In fact it is a sign of the overall leftist tilt of the mainstream media that left-wingers are so obsessed with Fox News.  You see there are so many left-wing news stations and major news publications that skew left that conservatives can’t really focus their ire on any single one.  Meanwhile, the major right-leaning news organizations are pretty much Fox and perhaps the editorial section of the Wall Street Journal.

What’s more, from the sound of the complaints you would think that every conservative in America was tuned into Fox at all hours of the day, receiving our marching orders before heading out into pitched battle with the forces of the left.  Sure, Fox News does better ratings than all the other cable news stations combined.  But if you take a closer look at the numbers, Fox’s dominance has as much to do with the fact that nobody watches cable news.  Fox attracts a bit more than a million viewers a day on average for its programming.    That’s impressive . . . until you consider that the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (the show that is pretty much single-mindedly obsessed with attacking Fox News for its news coverage) gets more viewers than any show on Fox except Bill O’Reilly.  So the same people who mock conservatives for being Fox News drones are basically getting most of their news from a satirical show on Comedy Central.  Yeah.

Fox News is a killer whale in a local swimming pond.  So the idea that legions of conservatives are largely just aping Fox News is simply laughable.

Personally, the only time I watch Fox News is when I occasionally watch Special Report with Brett Baier (the guy who got Mr. Cool, Mitt Romney, completely off his game the other night), and then only to watch the final 20 minutes for the All-Star Panel.  So I basically watch Fox News once a week or so if that, and then only to watch pundits talk about the issues.  I also tend to watch Fox over the other networks on election nights, but that’s because I think it has better coverage – after all, they’re the network that has Michael Barone.  Based on conversations I’ve had with most of my conservative friends, I think my viewership is par for the course.

So, I’m curious, do any of you actually watch Fox with any regularity?

What He Said

Go read Jonah Goldberg’s NRO post on the disgusting media hypocrisy when it comes to cries of civility.  Like Jonah, I do tire of playing the media blame game, but today the media’s double standard was in full glare.  Gabby Giffords has made a remarkable recovery and is back in Congress, and the morning news show focused on this story.  That’s wonderful.  And of course they completely ignored the fact that Joe Biden called tea partiers terrorists (or nodded along when the terminology was applied), and also failed to discuss the columns written by guys like Tom Friedman and Joe Necera that also use the language of jihad and terrorism to describe the tea party.

But think about this for a second. The Giffords shooting sent the media elite in this country into a bout of St. Vitus’ dance that would have warranted an army of exorcists in previous ages. Sarah Palin’s Facebook map was an evil totem that forced some guy to go on a shooting spree. The New York Times, The Washington Post, all three broadcast networks, particularly NBC whose senior foreign affairs correspondent — Andrea Mitchell — devotes, by my rough reckoning, ten times as much air time to whining about Sarah Palin as she does about anything having to do with foreign affairs, flooded the zone with “Have you no shame finger wagging.” A memo went forth demanding that everyone at MSNBC get their dresses over their heads about the evil “tone” from the right. Media Matters went into overdrive working the interns 24/7 to “prove” that Republicans deliberately foment violence with their evil targets on their evil congressional maps.

. . .

So flashforward to this week. Tom Friedman — who knows a bit about Hezbollah — calls the tea partiers the “Hezbollah faction” of the GOP bent on taking the country on a “suicide mission.” All over the place, conservative Republicans are “hostage takers” and “terrorists,” “terrorists” and “traitors.” They want to “end life as we know it on this planet,” says Nancy Pelosi. They are betraying the founders, too. Chris Matthews all but signs up for the “Make an Ass of Yourself” contest at the State Fair.  Joe Nocera writes today that “the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests.” Lord knows what Krugman and Olbermann have said.

Then last night. on the very day Gabby Giffords heroically returns to cast her first vote since that tragic attack seven months ago, the Vice President of the United States calls the Republican Party a bunch of terrorists.

No one cares. I hate the “if this were Bush” game so we’re in luck. Instead imagine if this wasDick Cheney calling the Progressive Caucus (or whatever they’re called) a “bunch of terrorists” on the day Giffords returned to the Congress. Would the mainstream media notice or care? Would Meet the Press debate whether this raises “troubling questions” about the White House’s sensitivity? Would Andrea Mitchell find some way to blame Sarah Palin for Dick Cheney’s viciousness? Would Keith Olberman explode like a mouse subjected to the Ramone’s music in “Rock and Roll High School?”  Something inside me hidden away shouts “Hell yes they would!”

The Today Show even had Debbie Wasserman Schultz on this morning for five minutes talking about Giffords. No one thought to ask her what she thought of Biden’s comments? It’s not like she’s the Democratic Party’s national spokesperson or anything. Oh, wait. She is!

I have to give a hearty “AMEN” to Jonah’s concluding sentences.

Well, go to Hell. All of you.

I find all of this particularly laughable considering that I spent time in the eye doctor’s office this morning straining to read Rolling Stone with my contacts out.  I’m not sure what was rougher on the eyes – the drops they put in them or reading that trash.  At any rate, there was a rather long feature story on, what else, but the evils of Fox News.  Yes, that bastion of journalistic integrity, Rolling Stone, is calling Fox News a propaganda arm of the GOP.  It was your typical hysterical screed about Fox’s bias, made all the more ironic considering the author’s failure to note the 2×4 stuck in his eye.

Optics

Mitt Romney is far from being one of my favorite presidential hopefuls, but I agree with Jim Geraghty that this Newsweek cover, portraying Romney as a dancing lunatic, is fairly appalling.  Geraghty says that the article itself is very fair, but that doesn’t matter.   Roughly 99% of the people who see this cover will never read the article.  For better or worse – and almost certainly worse – our politics are dominated by optics.  The story is secondary to the substantive issues.

One of my grad school professors, Mark Rozell (now at George Mason) liked to talk about an evening news report done on Ronald Reagan’s economic policies during the 1984 campaign.  I don’t recall which network it was,  but the report just decimated Reagan on the economy.  It was a voice-over piece, and most of the images were of Reagan in various settings, mostly in places like Yellowstone or other grand settings.  After the network aired the report, the head of the news division was contacted by a member of Reagan’s staff, and was thanked for the report.  Why was this network being thanked for a hit piece?  The images.  The text of the story didn’t matter.  What would stick in viewer’s minds were the images, and these were images of the president in majestic settings, showing off the trappings of power.  Many viewers would tune out the content of the story and instead focus on images that were greatly favorable to Reagan.

It’s human nature to focus on imagery, and so I don’t necessarily fault those who ignore the broader context of such stories.  That being said, I’m sure Newsweek didn’t choose this particular photo by accident.

On Media and Mosques at Ground Zero

One of the interesting (by which I mean dull, predictable and repetitive) aspects of the 24 hour news cycle is that all forms of media have incentives to magnify and actively seek out controversy. Not only does this increase ratings/page views/newspaper sales, it provides media outlets with something – anything in a slow news month – to talk about. I can’t help but feel that the recent outburst of commentary about the construction of a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks is the type of story designed to increase media consumption and accomplish little else. The First Amendment is not in dispute here; freedom of religion is well established and protected by settled case law. Furthermore, the proposed mosque is to be constructed on private property, and there is no legal reason to challenge its construction. And so most of the discussion revolves (and frequently devolves) around taste and symbolism.

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The Romance of the Press

It’s been interesting, though a bit odd, for me, watching the hand-wringing over the “death of the press” as some of the major newspapers struggle to figure out how to make their budgets work in a world in which fewer people read “dead tree” editions and advertisers can take advantage of more targeted advertising online and in specialty publications. There is, it seems, a level of reverence which many people seem to attach to “the press”, which does not seem well born out what it actually is.

Looked at historically and economically — newspapers exist as a delivery system for ads. They seek to provide stories that people want to read (whether “news”, human interest, comics, crosswords or recipes) in order to persuade people it’s worth parting with the artificially low newsstand or subscription price.

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USA Today Reports on Catholic Blogosphere

Last Friday on October 30 the mainstream media here in America reported inaccurately that the Vatican was warning parents that Halloween is ‘anti-Christian’.  Of course no such thing occurred.  The Vatican did not say that Halloween is ‘anti-Christian’, in fact they didn’t say anything at all.

On that same day, Jack Smith of The Catholic Key Blog debunked the story with yeoman’s work finding the source of the “alleged” Vatican Halloween Warning to a priest of the Spanish Bishop’s Conference by the name of Fr. Joan Maria Canals, CMF, a liturgy expert.  I followed up with a posting on this website early the next day supplementing Jack Smith’s findings with common mistakes made in reporting what is and isn’t official.

I then submitted my article to several news organizations, including the Drudge Report and the USA Today.  Additionally I left comments and sent emails explaining why their reporting was inaccurate.  To their credit, both the Drudge Report and the USA Today, rectified the situation some extent.

Drudge Report Catholic Church Halloween Evil 2

The Drudge Report removed the link to the Daily Mail late Saturday morning.  Then early Monday afternoon on November 2, Doug Stanglin, who wrote the piece that inaccurately attributed the Vatican warning parents of the anti-Christian nature of Halloween, followed up with our side of the story.

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Prisoner 16670

Today we celebrate all the saints who now dwell in perfect bliss before the Beatific Vision, seeing God face to face.  All the saints love God and love their neighbor, but other than that they have little in common.  We have saints who lived lives of quiet meditation, and there are saints who were ever in the midst of human tumult.  Some saints have easy paths to God;  others have gained their crowns at the last moment, an act of supreme love redeeming a wasted life.  Many saints have been heroic, a few have been timid.  We number among the saints some of the greatest intellects of mankind, while we also venerate saints who never learned to read.  We have saints with sunny dispositions, and some who were usually grouchy.  Saints who attained great renown in their lives and saints who were obscure in life and remain obscure after death, except to God.  Among such a panoply of humanity we can draw endless inspiration for our own attempts to serve God and our neighbors.  For me, one saint has always stood out as a man with a deep meaning for this period of history we inhabit:  Saint Maximilian Kolbe.  Why?

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Movie About Saint Josemaria Escriva

There Be Dragons

A new movie about Saint Josemaria Escriva’s early years placed during the Spanish Civil War has been produced and will be released in 2010 A.D. titled, There Be Dragons.

Saint Josemaria Escriva was born in 1902 A.D. in Barbastro, Spain.  Later at the age of 26 in Madrid Saint Josemaria started the apostolate that would eventually be called the Work of God, or simply Opus Dei, in pre-Civil War Spain in October of 1928 A.D.  Opus Dei would experience delays in progress with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 A.D.  This is the period that the setting of the movie is placed in.

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Archbishop Chaput on the News Media

Here is Archbishop Chaput with a worthwhile reflection on how Catholics should think about the media. A few excerpts:

Most of what we know about the world comes from people we’ll never meet and don’t really understand.  We don’t even think of them as individuals.  Instead we usually talk about them in the collective – as “the media” or “the press.”  Yet behind every Los Angeles Times editorial or Fox News broadcast are human beings with personal opinions and prejudices.  These people select and frame the news.  And when we read their newspaper articles or tune in their TV shows, we engage them in a kind of intellectual intimacy in the same way you’re listening to me right now….

…The media’s power to shape public thought is why it’s so vital for the rest of us to understand their human element.  When we don’t recognize the personal chemistry of the men and women who bring us our news – their cultural and political views, their economic pressures, their social ambitions – then we fail the media by holding them to too low a standard.  We also – and much more importantly — fail ourselves by neglecting to think and act as intelligent citizens…

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Diagnosing contemporary conservatism's ills.

Apropos of DarwinCatholic’s post on the meaning of conservatism, the following comment from Francis Beckwith (What’s Wrong With The World) struck a chord:

“Conservatism–as a philosophical, cultural, and political project–does in fact have boundaries, and those have been set by the cluster of ideas offered by such giants as Burke, Lincoln, Chesterton, Lewis, Hayek, Chambers, Friedman, Kirk, Weaver, Gilder, Buckley, and Reagan. There are, of course, disagreements among these thinkers and their followers, but there is an identifiable stream of thought. It informs our understanding of human nature, families, civil society, just government, and markets.

“What contemporary conservatism has lost–especially in its Hannitized and Coulterized manifestations of superficial ranting–is the connection to a paternity that is necessary so that its intellectual DNA may be passed on to its progeny.

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Christianity and Mainstream Entertainment

Typically if one discusses the reflection of American culture in mainstream entertainment, there are very little positive things to be said—especially in Christian circles. But there is rarely a clear solution to the problem. Some discussions of the issues, in my experience, fail to reflect the gravity of the matter. I think it matters, more so than just casual condemnation in conversation. The entertainment center in America—Hollywood—matters because it is the global center of art and entertainment. Art is the way we humans respond to the cosmos. Every generation delivers something beautiful for future generations to brood over and take delight in. Storytelling is the way human beings learn. It is the way we define our values. It gives us heroes and noble dreams. Entertainment is the way we stretch beyond the limits of our day to day work to experience the depth of our human nature. Entertainment should lead us to laugh hard, to cry with empathy, and to feel exhilaration and wonder.

It is frightening to think that Christians are missing from this unbelievably influential and urgent landscape. Christians have something to offer that is direly missing from Hollywood. We bring hope, the mandate of concern for the world, and most importantly, the glory and creative energy of the Holy Spirit.

This is needed terribly in movies, television shows, videogames, and the Internet. We need not only to be donating to and praying for organizations such as ActOne, which has a Christian vision for entertainment, we need to encourage faith-filled artists and professionals to be writers, directors, actors, and so forth, in order to change the landscape and give our youth better idols to look up to. This is a moral imperative for all Christians.

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