Monday, August 9, 2010

A few thoughts about the media

Journalism is a job, and a pretty crappy job at that. Not a lot of the big prestigious gigs left. If a journalist happens to land one of the big jobs, how willing do you think he will be to risk it? Attacking the powers that be will not further a career -especially since the editor will probably not print it. He knows who puts bread in his jar.

If a reporter keeps attacking government, he'll soon not be invited to the all important press conferences. He'll be outside the loop. Soon he'll have nothing to report.

Big media outlets tend to work pretty closely with the heavy hitters in government and business. There's no money in attacking your advertisers. After all, media outlets are in the business of making money. There's no percentage in attacking anything that makes business look bad. Don't believe me? Look back at old newspapers of the 1930s and see if you can find anything about a depression. News about economic bad times don't sell advertising.

There are other serious constraints on a journalist. He always has to "feed the beast." Story after story has to be cranked out. Few can take the time to get really in depth on an issue. The people who write his paycheck want stories quick and fast. The easiest thing is to go with the program. Rewrite the handout from the press release and call it good. Much easier to go with the police report than interview the parties involved.

The sad thing is that most journalist start with high ideals. They want to get to the truth. That's how it starts. Over time, the poor guy just wants to make deadline. He wants to keep his job, so he can make those car and house payments. The truth is nice, but the kids need braces.

In spite of the disincentives, some journalists really are worthy of the name. Too often they work freelance or on-spec. Then don't get paid unless someone picks up the story. These guys have guts. A reporter from someone like the BBC will go to a war zone with a full detachment of local guides and a security detail. The company covers the expenses. A free lancer might work alone or with one hired local. Maybe he'll pay someone to smuggle him over the border. If something happens to him, there's no big organization willing to pull his stones out of the fire.

Once in a while someone like a General Stanley Allen McChrystal will make a mistake and treat a freelancer like a regular beat reporter. The guy with a regular gig knows better than to say anything too unflattering. He'd lose his job. The freelancer doesn't have to protect his source. This is a one off for him. Then it's on to the next job. Freelance journalist Michael Hastings was lucky his story "The Runaway General" was picked up by Rolling Stone. It's almost shocking when truthful unrestrained reporting actually makes it into a major publication.

Then there are us bloggers. We've almost no resources, at least as individuals. However, there are thousands and thousands of us. We are everywhere. We write what we see and hear. It's a diffuse and massively parallel system. Lots of real news is now out there. A reader has to pick and choose, but at least there are voices speaking.

Much is made about the bloggers who get things wrong or outright lie. Who's making a big stink about bloggers? Main stream media, that's who. They are protecting their interests. It's not the untruthful blogger they really fear, it's the truthful one.

That's why I'm not surprised when blogs are shut down. It would not surprise me if one day most blogger are either severely limited or shut down completely. Until that day . . . well, blog on!



  1. I have thought about starting my own media outlet. I admit though for the life of me I would not know where to begin. I think there is a market for something real.

  2. Right on. But those facts seem to be lost on most folks, they can't see past the end of their noses....

  3. Namenlos, your blog is a media outlet. You've started.

    Mayberry, maybe a few will catch on. One can hope.

  4. I can't believe they haven't shut me down yet.
    I have been attacking our government verballyfor several years now, often quit viciously with some not so nice vocabulary.
    What can I say, they deserve every bit of it.
    They pay attention too, whether you think they do or don't the ISP's don't lie.
    I was even linked to once by the Wall Street Journal, the heighth of my glory, I'll tell ya.
    The WAPO is there almost every day and the Seargent of Arms for the Senate drops by .

    All I can say is I agree with what you said completely.
    Keep hammering them.


  5. Thanks for the encouraging words Busted. Keep the pressure on.