One of my frustrations over the past few years has been with what is called “the mainstream media.” That’s the broadcast and cable news networks, along with various internet outlets and various newspaper pundits. What causes my frustration has been the shift from “news” to “opinion” and lack of filtering. The “old fashioned” style of “who, what, where, when, and why” has been thrown out the window along with fact-checking. There have been numerous examples of this over the past few months.
I remember a time when there were no more feared words for someone to hear than “There’s a crew from 60 Minutes outside.” It meant that there was soon to be a very thoroughly researched, tough report airing which would cause you all sorts of legal and public relations headaches, if you weren’t going to be facing trial. Today? Aside from the plethora of news competition these days, 60 Minutes has managed to tarnish its reputation. Besides failing to double-check the “witness,” they also managed to rehash long-debunked stories in that “report.” Shoddy work all around, and it’s not the first time. These days, the “fear” is not “we’ve been caught!” but more “how many incorrect things are they going to broadcast?”
It’s not just one program. We’ve already had the chief White House correspondent for NBC news say:
During a segment on “Morning Joe,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) speculated that most opponents of the Affordable Care Act have been fed erroneous information about the law. Todd said that Republicans “have successfully messaged against it” but he disagrees with those who argue that the media should educate the public on the law. According to Todd, that’s President Barack Obama’s job.
In other words, his job isn’t to do the nuts-and-bolts reporting on what the law actually says and does, his job is to simply report on the messaging from both sides, and of course, the President should be doing a better PR job. Then we had a Politico reporter tell CNN that fact-checking wasn’t “her responsibility:”
During a segment about the increasing role of fact checking organizations like PolitiFact, Sesno asked Gibson how members of Congress responded when they got a “pants on fire” rating.
“Their press secretaries, when it’s the other guy who’s called out, will blast out those as a press release,” Gibson explained.
“And what do you do with that?” Sesno wondered.
“Most of the time, ignore them,” Gibson admitted.
“You ignore it!” Sesno exclaimed. “Wait, wait, wait. So if someone is called a liar or is exposed in a fact check and you’re the reporter of it, you ignore that?”
Yes, she does, because it’s “not her job.” It seems to be a common failing these days with the mainstream media. “Both sides are equally valid,” “both sides do it,” and “checking facts” may mean that they’re not first with a “scoop,” or would actually involve … work. You know, digging in, reading legislation, checking with actual experts, and trying to get your facts right. No, their job is simply to repeat what is handed to them!
Since media companies seem to be having problems with lower profits, and given the state of their “reporting” these days, I’ve given some thought on how they can cut their costs and increase their profits.. There’s a service called PR Newswire, which provides a stream of press releases from various companies and other public relations professionals. Rather than have all those (expensive) “reporters” and field people running around to support them, just use that. I’m sure the subscription charges aren’t that high. For “on air talent,” I’m sure any number of modeling agencies will be happy to provide attractive people who can read those press releases. Overall, they’d save a lot of money and provide the same services they currently do. Because goodness knows, what they’re doing isn’t journalism, as we used to know it.