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Old 10-05-2010   #21
tequila
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And this is nothing new...not at all. Look back through "journalism" from the Civil War. The partisan press (for all sides, not just one) has been a fixture in the United States for as long as we've been a nation (and most likely before that, even). There have always (or usually) been a few more "intellectual" outlets, but they had very limited distribution compared to the staple broadsheets of the times.
This is very true, but I'd argue that this was not always well to the good. We tend to forget given the relative domestic peace of the past thirty years just how remarkably violent the U.S. was during the 1800s, the glory years of ferociously partisan (and often party-run) news sources. The rise of the Democratic Party under Jackson and Van Buren, for instance, saw genuine political mobilization towards the illegal expulsion of the Cherokees, for instance, led by Democratic newspapers. And then, of course, there was the Civil War itself, the ultimate factionalization of the country.

So yes, I think an aggressively partisan media is absolutely bad for the country. I'm not that old, but I do remember when CNN Headline News, for instance, actually reported just headline news.
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Old 10-05-2010   #22
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This is very true, but I'd argue that this was not always well to the good. We tend to forget given the relative domestic peace of the past thirty years just how remarkably violent the U.S. was during the 1800s, the glory years of ferociously partisan (and often party-run) news sources. The rise of the Democratic Party under Jackson and Van Buren, for instance, saw genuine political mobilization towards the illegal expulsion of the Cherokees, for instance, led by Democratic newspapers. And then, of course, there was the Civil War itself, the ultimate factionalization of the country.

So yes, I think an aggressively partisan media is absolutely bad for the country. I'm not that old, but I do remember when CNN Headline News, for instance, actually reported just headline news.

If you're suggesting a causal link between a partisan media and social violence, I really question it. I believe both intense partisanship and social conflict are dependent variables.

A highly partisan media is the American norm. The only exceptional period was the height of the Cold War. I think it's unrealistic to expect that highly exceptional period to be the norm.

But it all comes down to market mechanisms. Most people want partisan news (we here are by definition abnormal). Hence the media provides it.
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Old 10-05-2010   #23
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Default Distrust in U.S. Media Edges Up to Record High

Relevant data for this thread was published last week by Gallup:
Distrust in U.S. Media Edges Up to Record High
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For the fourth straight year, the majority of Americans say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. The 57% who now say this is a record high by one percentage point.
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Trust in the media is now slightly higher than the record-low trust in the legislative branch but lower than trust in the executive and judicial branches of government, even though trust in all three branches is down sharply this year. These findings also further confirm a separate Gallup poll that found little confidence in newspapers and television specifically.
Source / read the whole report:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/143267/di...cord-high.aspx
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Old 10-05-2010   #24
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It would be interesting to know how much of this mistrust is actually because the media has become more partisan in recent years and how much is because a cadre of inluential political infotainers like Limbaugh and Hannity have been loudly squealing about media bias for so long. In other words, "mistrust" can be based on an accurate perception of reality or an inaccurate one.
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Old 10-05-2010   #25
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I also think the "job" of the commercial media is to make a profit for their company. Ascribing lofty goals is like saying the mission of Merck is to heal the sick when it's to make a profit.
I was using the example of the BBC, a public corporation paid for by the public to inform the public on the issues of the day. Unfortunately, New Labour decided to rein it in and turn it into a spin outlet. American style news-media-entertainment businesses are different from those of "Old" Europe (we have other "older" preferences that may also seem "archaic"). Or atleast they were before US corporations, and one particulalry nasty Aussie, decided to take them over.
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Old 10-05-2010   #26
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And we have National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service. But they are niche, not mass providers. And they are no longer predominantly government funded.

They also have a clear partisan slant. I'm a huge National Public Radio fan but they have made my head explode by deciding to refer to illegal aliens as "undocumented immigrants." I emailed them and asked if they also refer to shoplifters as "unreceipted customers."
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Old 10-05-2010   #27
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If you're suggesting a causal link between a partisan media and social violence, I really question it. I believe both intense partisanship and social conflict are dependent variables.
I think the example of Radio Milles Collines in Rwanda and Radio Television in Serbia during the Bosnian Civil War are strong arguments against your thesis. Both were used to spread false atrocity stories and mobilize communities to "self-defense." As one Serbian dissident editor put it, "You must imagine a United States with every little TV station everywhere taking the exact same editorial line --- a line dictated by David Duke. You too would have war in five years."
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Old 10-05-2010   #28
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I didn't say mass media can never be used to incite violence. I said that I don't think a case can be made that it did so in the United States. Heck, democracy led to Nazism in Germany in the 1930s but that doesn't mean that democracy always leads to Nazism.
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Old 10-05-2010   #29
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Originally Posted by tequila View Post
This is very true, but I'd argue that this was not always well to the good. We tend to forget given the relative domestic peace of the past thirty years just how remarkably violent the U.S. was during the 1800s, the glory years of ferociously partisan (and often party-run) news sources. The rise of the Democratic Party under Jackson and Van Buren, for instance, saw genuine political mobilization towards the illegal expulsion of the Cherokees, for instance, led by Democratic newspapers. And then, of course, there was the Civil War itself, the ultimate factionalization of the country.

So yes, I think an aggressively partisan media is absolutely bad for the country. I'm not that old, but I do remember when CNN Headline News, for instance, actually reported just headline news.
I wasn't contending that it was a "good" thing...just pointing out that a partisan media is really the historical norm in the US. Like Steve M., I think it's a dangerous leap to make a connection between this and social violence, at least on a wide scale. There have certainly been instances when the media has pushed situations (the Spanish-American War, anyone?), but again I think that's more of an exception than the rule.
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Old 10-05-2010   #30
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Like Steve M., I think it's a dangerous leap to make a connection between this and social violence, at least on a wide scale.
I'd argue the expulsion of the Cherokees as another instance of mass sectarian violence driven by Democratic politicians (Jackson) through their control of a partisan media. The Seminole War came from similar roots.

A media run by and for political parties is an American phenomenon, yes, but it's a dangerous one.
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Old 10-05-2010   #31
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I have not seen the story.

With the greatest respect, it would appear that what CBS has done is conduct a "Gap Analysis" between what Iraq was under Saadam Hussien and what it is now.

Being media, and knowing good news does not sell newspapers, is it any wonder that they focus on the gaps? Probably rubbing salt in by mentioning the huge cost of the war in blood and treasure?
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Old 10-06-2010   #32
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I watch these threads on military-press relations with great interest, being an ex-military guy and also the son of a man who spent most of his career, 1956 to 1986, writing and editing for the Washington Post. Generally I get the impression that those who are the most vociferous about denouncing the press are also the same people who would put a pronounced slant on the news were they given the opportunity to be reporters themselves.

One of the built-in limitations of journalism as a profession is the "jack of all trades, master or none" aspect of it. When a reporter works a beat, or a specific subject or specialty, he or she will develop some expertise over time, but in almost all cases the reporter who covers the courthouse has never worked as a lawyer or law enforcement officer. The World War II generation of journalists had some knowledge of military affairs -- my Dad and most of his colleagues were combat veterans, but that is not true of the profession today.
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Old 10-06-2010   #33
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I certainly can't take issue with anything above... I do think you paint a tad to broad a brush when you lump someone disillusioned (see also MAJ Carl Dick) with a community equally interested in promoting their own narrative.

As you know A military officer, as a rule, isn't in the business of selling a slant to a story for the sake of swaying public opinion (at least not junior field grade and below). and usually the burden of operations in places like Afghanistan and Iraq fall on the shoulders of that population. They are proud of their work, they are proud of the people they serve with, they are proud that their family and friends are usually proud of their service. My take is that they want a fair shake, especially from programs like 60 min that deservedly or not enjoys a reputation of hard hitting investigative reporting, that in their eyes clearly ignored very relevant facts to tell a story that in their eyes is flat out untruthful...

I think I'm going to give MAJ Dick and the those like him a break...

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Old 10-06-2010   #34
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I'd argue the expulsion of the Cherokees as another instance of mass sectarian violence driven by Democratic politicians (Jackson) through their control of a partisan media. The Seminole War came from similar roots.

A media run by and for political parties is an American phenomenon, yes, but it's a dangerous one.
I'm not arguing that it hasn't happened, Tequila, but rather that it's not a common thing. In some cases and instances the media has had a dramatic impact on US policy and discussion, but I don't think that they have the pervasive, controlling effect on a constant basis that some people think. Can they whip up or exaggerate popular sentiment in certain times and cases? Sure. But I honestly don't think they can maintain that level of control or influence.
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Old 10-06-2010   #35
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I'm not arguing that it hasn't happened, Tequila, but rather that it's not a common thing. In some cases and instances the media has had a dramatic impact on US policy and discussion, but I don't think that they have the pervasive, controlling effect on a constant basis that some people think.
Not the media alone, I'd argue, but an aggressively partisan media in alliance with a political party/movement can drive polarization in a very strong and effective way. I also wouldn't argue that this is on a constant basis - but it is something we are unfamiliar with in the modern U.S. and a markedly negative development. Historical outlier or no, this is not a situatin which anyone growing up in the U.S. in the past 50 years is familiar with.
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Old 10-06-2010   #36
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Not the media alone, I'd argue, but an aggressively partisan media in alliance with a political party/movement can drive polarization in a very strong and effective way. I also wouldn't argue that this is on a constant basis - but it is something we are unfamiliar with in the modern U.S. and a markedly negative development. Historical outlier or no, this is not a situatin which anyone growing up in the U.S. in the past 50 years is familiar with.
Perhaps being over 50 helps (or hurts... ) but avowedly partisan is IMO a better deal for the news consumer than the current semi-discrete partisanship that exists on both sides of the political spectrum. Many years ago, most newspapers and radio stations made no secret of their leanings and that really only changed with the advent of Television news which tried to cater to far larger and less literate audiences.

The objective and equal bit began with IIRC Radio Act of 1927 which dictated equal time as the minority Democrats stalled the Senate passage until the provision was added to deny the mostly Republican station and paper owners ability to skew the coverage. Didn't work all that well but the intent was honorable. The Democrats made sure that rule was enhanced and further codified with a Communications Act shortly after FDR swept the Democrats into majority status. Later, after WW II, Television was the big mover in the objectivity game in order to appeal to a broader audience.

I'm not at all sure the laws were necessary or desirable -- they allowed a party (either) with little to offer to skater a bit and still get a message of sorts out on the street. I am sure that the TV bit was not a good thing as that nominal objectivity bit crept into being and it's really a bit of a mirage...

Many people can and do filter for bias but many more do not, thus a 'report' that it subtly biased from and 'objective' news organization can lead folks astray -- as we see daily. At least with professed ideologies, the readers / viewers know what they're getting...

We all tend to pay more attention to items that support our views in any event and it is virtually impossible for all reporters and / or editors / producers to avoid letting their views slip into the news. Nor do I think it fair to expect them to do so.

When I read European papers that make no effort to obscure their ideological leaning, I find I tend to get more information from all points in the spectrum on which I can base a decision or opinion. YMMV.
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Old 10-06-2010   #37
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It is often pointed out these days that few journalists understand the military or have served in it. One of my late Dad's friends was John Averill, the Washington DC correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Averill's most vivid memory of World War II was not the time he was wounded, or when he earned a Bronze Star with "V," or when he received his battlefield commission -- it was when he was awakened from a daytime nap he was taking on the deck of his Sherman tank by a furious George S. Patton, who was whipping him on the legs with his riding crop, angry to see leaders setting a bad example.
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Old 10-07-2010   #38
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We all tend to pay more attention to items that support our views in any event and it is virtually impossible for all reporters and / or editors / producers to avoid letting their views slip into the news. Nor do I think it fair to expect them to do so.

When I read European papers that make no effort to obscure their ideological leaning, I find I tend to get more information from all points in the spectrum on which I can base a decision or opinion. YMMV.
That covers it nicely. NPR has, at least, a Liberal view. But they also provide sufficient depth and context that the facts are presented and the listener can make up his own mind. Fox News, for all the demonization for slanting right, takes pains to ensure that both sides are represented and get equal opportunity to present their case. My commute/driving radio is WRN (World Radio Network) on Sirius, and a big surprise is the quality of news from, for example, Voice of Russia - always with a slant to the Russian view of the world and their interests, but still providing information not included in MSM coverage.

My gripe with the MSM is not their slant or political tilt. It's with their failure (or refusal) to accurately represent both sides of issues. As an example, during the 1980s, the abortion issue was framed as "pro-choice" vs. "anti-choice." That's biased reporting. To see why, think about the coverage being presented as "pro-life" vs. "anti-life." I also recall quite a bit of "coverage" that consisted of an interview with a pro-choice spokesperson, followed by the "reporter" presenting a summary of the pro-life position (as "understood" by the pro-choice reporter).

Journalism, as it is taught and discussed today in the most prominent schools and forums, is about identifying a narrative that supports (or advocates) a particular point of view, then framing the presentation to support it. That framing includes selectively presenting the facts. Most people consider that biased, and rightly consider it propaganda.
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Old 10-07-2010   #39
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Fox News, for all the demonization for slanting right, takes pains to ensure that both sides are represented and get equal opportunity to present their case.

Personally, I don't consider Fox a serious news outlet anymore. Not for their ideological slant, but because of providing a platform for people like Beck and Hannity who are pure (and dangerous) propagandists.
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Old 10-07-2010   #40
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Personally, I don't consider Fox a serious news outlet anymore. Not for their ideological slant, but because of providing a platform for people like Beck and Hannity who are pure (and dangerous) propagandists.
I don't want to get into the "dangerous" part, but, yes, they are propagandists. Very clearly so. They would be the first to argue that they aren't presenting "news," they are presenting opinion, and opinion centered discussion. (In Beck's case, observations and analysis, with an invitation to look it up for yourself, but it's still struck me as an "opinion" program the few times I watched.) I have no problem with that on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, et. al. I do have a problem when opinion is presented as news, or when facts are omitted, distorted, etc. in order to advance the advocated narrative.
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