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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Journalism At Death's Door?

I read about the death of newspapers and journalism, much of it blamed on the straw woman called the Internet. But everybody seems to be skirting the real culprit in this issue, and that is the quality of today's journalism. People haven't stopped reading newspapers because they prefer getting their news online. People have stopped reading newspapers and stopped watching main stream news on TV or listening to radio because all of them offer little to nothing of value.

Radio has become a sad, and dangerous, joke. During Katrina, people who couldn't read could get zero emergency information on the radio. That's because FCC Chairman and Bush Appointee Kevin Martin was too busy jumping up and down on hotel beds in front of an industry lobbyist and an XM Satellite Radio media executive - you know, those guys that Kevin was supposed to be independently, soberly and professionally overseeing. Meanwhile, he was helping Rupert Murdoch and Clear Channel turn news into global news monopolies. The fall-out from this during Katrina was that independent guys had to erect their own news radio towers (examples here and here and here) in order to broadcast helpful information to people who were stranded. All of the "local" news was prerecorded somewhere in other far-away cities and so, there was zero local information available.

When news companies decided that news was entertainment for the masses, shit started to literally roll downhill, and across the country. Now there are buffoons like Jim Cramer, who makes an ass out of himself for one thing, but more importantly, spewed, and continues to spew, WRONG information about the financial markets. The other day I was excited to see that Arianna Huffington was going to interview Elizabeth Warren and Eliot Spitzer on ABC's Squawk Box. I don't even know the names of the goofballs on Squawk Box, but during each show, I kept thinking, STFU! every time any of them opened their mouths. Of course, they tried to focus on Spitzer's salacious prostitution scandal (because they think viewers love that shit...and the media loves that shit), versus listening to what he had to say (of great value) about the current economic disaster. I wrote about Spitzer's connection with AIG, and even though he's a huge putz for paying for sex while he was an elected official, the Attorney General for fuck's sake, I believe he was taken down by BushCo in order to shut him up about AIG. Of course Spitzer had to leave office. But so should diaper-wearing David Vitter and men's room foot tapper Larry Craig.

What I'm trying to say here is that the contrast of Arianna Huffington trying desperately to stay on point and allow Warren and Spitzer to enlighten us, against the backdrop of her empty-headed, entertainer co-hosts, was stunning. I'm lucky to be in Paris and not have to watch American shit TV news, but even before I left I never watched them. There's NO CONTENT. That's why.

Future news is also a big problem. Huffington Post is also guilty of this. American news in all formats is plastered with conjecture about what might happen. What Obama might do, what Congress might do, what so-and-so might say. What could be the problem, could be the cause, could be the next imminent disaster. Just pick up any newspaper right now, or go online to any main stream media website, and count the number of future news articles. What's left might be worth reading. But I doubt it.

The problem with the American media's recent swine flu orgy is a classic case of crying wolf. The headlines screamed impending death and destruction, while 100 people IN THE WORLD were sick. Heck, by now I think it might be a total of 1000. I don't know the exact figure, and I don't care. But the problem with sensationalist horse shit like this, is that it gets us all cranked up, and then it dies. Meanwhile, in the last day or two I've been watching a headline on CNN's home page "WHO reports big jump in swine flu cases" start at the top of the article list and quickly descend to the bottom and now it's landed in nowheresville because the media has exhausted the public with their overblown coverage, and nobody's clicking on that news anymore. The problem is, right now, if any vital information about swine flu needed to get out there, the media has made it difficult, or impossible to get the public's attention.

Even though the American people have been easily led around by their noses by the media, I think at some level, they know that they're being fed pablum, and aren't getting the news they need, in a professional format, uninfluenced by money or power. This is what has destroyed newspapers, and what will destroy TV news. People will start looking elsewhere for real, in-depth, fact-based journalism, and leave the buffoons choking on their own fairy dust.

If you want to read about a real journalist, whose biographical statement is just as true today as it was when he wrote it in 1963, check out Izzy Stone.

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