June 12, 2007

"The fear of missing out means today’s media, more than ever before, hunts in a pack."

"In these modes it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits. But no one dares miss out," said Tony Blair.
"I’ve made this speech after much hesitation,” he said. “I know it will be rubbished in certain quarters. But I also know this has needed to be said.”

.. Mr. Blair’s criticism today seemed unusually blunt, as he assailed sensationalism, “the confusion of news and commentary,” an alleged lack of balance in British reporting and over-simplification. “Things, people, issues, stories, are all black and white,” he said. “Life’s usual gray is almost entirely absent....

He continued: “I do believe this relationship between public life and media is now damaged in a manner that requires repair. The damage saps the country’s confidence and self-belief; it undermines its assessment of itself, its institutions; and, above all, it reduces our capacity to take the right decisions, in the right spirit for our future.”
My first instinct -- feral, I suppose -- is to rubbish this. Public figures will always complain about the press, and competition among media is the marketplace of ideas. What's new is that the media itself is subjected to instant and vigorous scrutiny.

49 comments:

Maxine Weiss said...

Question: When you are listening to books-on-tape...aren't you distracted if you don't like the reader's voice?

Wouldn't it just be easier to read a normal printed book and use your imagination to conjure up your own voice?

It wrecks my concentration and focus, having to deal with a strange voice when I'm trying to deal with a complex story, mostly novels.

Galvanized said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doyle said...

How does the fact that public figures always complain about the news media imply that it's not true?

It's really bad. I don't know if the press was unfair to Blair but here in the US we have news by idiots, for idiots.

Galvanized said...

The question is whether the press's job is to be a vehicle for information or a critical source, or both. It's true that the press is part of check and balance and to be answered to. But it also should serve as an objective source of news, reporting facts. A lot of it nowadays is based on opinion -- often public opinion that is not well versed on issues. Biases are easily found in reporting where objectivity used to be the standard. I kind of understand what Blair means. Press is filled with people out to make names for themselves and ready to take a stance and set up their poles of opinion maybe before an issue is even really such an issue. And once popular opinion is swayed, sometimes just by suggestion and initial reaction to a biased story, it can be difficult to reinstate objectivity to an issue. Sorry that's inarticulate, but I get the gist of what he means. Reporting today is a lot different than it used to be -- much quicker, more petty, and even giving attention to sometime trivial things and creating controversies for the sake of readership. I'm sure a public figure can become discouraged by it. Still, press's VALID criticisms on key issues that are ripe are necessary.

Joe said...

Yeah, Tony is right, but so what? He needs to get over it. He's yet another broken record. Newspapers have always been partisan--so have the local stories told around the campfire. Gee, has he read the bible?

dave in boca said...

I lived in Beirut when newspapers were owned by political groups or foreign dictators [even the illiterate Qaddafi had one] and now it appears that the US is following the Lebanese model.

I also worked in DC and had press passes to Capitol Hill. Back then we called it the "Thundering Herd," because the press is more like a mindless collection of like-minded beasts than a pack of intelligent wolves.

In general, the press back then was a band of lazy drunks who did as little as possible work and tended never to stick their necks out.

AJ Lynch said...

I don't know who said the press' job was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable but I agree with the sentiment.

The press doesn't do that anymore. And that is a shame cause it sounds like a fun job description.

a said...

Galvanized: 'And once popular opinion is swayed, sometimes just by suggestion and initial reaction to a biased story, it can be difficult to reinstate objectivity to an issue.'

I agree. A prime example of this was the wildly sensational and exaggerated coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Of course there were screw-ups all up and down the line, but people's emotional reaction (e.g., GWB doesn't care about black people) was first set by the falsehoods initially reported. Even after it was found out that mass rapes, etc. didn't occur, it was impossible for a lot of people to backtrack on the knee-jerk emotional reaction and see things objectively.

If you read James Taranto's Best of the Web Today on opinionjournal.com, almost every day he finds egregious examples from AP or Reuters where the story is warped to fit into some preconceived mold (e.g., Iraq as Vietnam). It's lazy reporting, and perhaps is the fault of lazy readers who don't want to input new information without assimilating it into some preexisting bias.

Roger said...

Doyle: "news by idiots for idiots" is a great line--if that's an original Doyleism, I want to credit you!

Maxine Weiss said...

"the porn industry is dominated by Jews. They comprise about half of the leading pornographers.

Money from porn funds much of Los Angeles Judaism, from Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy to YULA (Yeshiva University Los Angeles) to Chabad…" ---Luke Ford

http://lang.dailynews.com/socal/editorial/inter/x_valley/xxx_valley_5.html

Fen said...

Newspapers have always been partisan--so have the local stories told around the campfire. Gee, has he read the bible?

I think he's complaining that today's journalist are so interested in self-promotion that they ignore any consequence. Take NewsWeek's Koran Flushing myth - a rush for ratings that led riots and deaths.

Or imagine the 1940's. A reporter is about to be vaulted into celebrity status - the Americans don't have a third atom bomb, and he got the scoop.

Bissage said...

Prime Minister Tony Blair deciphered:

"Yesterday’s media is such a good media. Good media. Such a good media. Do you want a treat? Want a treat? Okay. Ready now? Here’s your treat."

* Chomp! *

"But today’s media will not come to heel. Bad! Bad media! You’re a bad media! No treat for you! No treat for you! Bad media!"

* Swings wildly with rolled up newspaper, misses, and looks weak in the attempt *

paul a'barge said...

I think someone has hacked into Maxine Weiss's account and is posting nonsense under her name.

Seriously.

MadisonMan said...

Of course there were screw-ups all up and down the line,

Why use the past tense? They are ongoing in New Orleans and all of southeast Louisiana. It's a shame we don't see more good national reporting on that.

Invisible Man said...

I agree. A prime example of this was the wildly sensational and exaggerated coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

I mean obviously some false rumors and stories took off, but if you think the coverage of a great American city being destroyed deserved a measured response than you should be more worried about your biases than the medias. You can pick out a major flaw out of any large scale story, like oh say WMD being nowhere in the country that we went to war with, but it doesn't mean that the story isn't sensational and doesn't deserve exxagerated coverage.

The real problem isn't with stories like Katrina, but the Paris Hilton, Ana Nicole Smith, and white girl of the summer missing stories that get substantially larger coverage than their relevance as a national news story. That's were the true flaws of today's media are on display.

Invisible Man said...

Madisonman makes a good point about follow up reporting. The news media seems to be as ADD as some of its consumers in its inability to concentrate on more than one story at a time. It would seem to me that the follow-up to stories like Afghanistan and Katrina deserve much better reporting from the media, but it seems that they tend to take an "out of sight, out of mind" approach to too many issues.

Richard Dolan said...

Blair isn't the only EU politician venting about the press. From Le Figaro today, reporting on Segolene Royal's interview on France 2 yesterday, where she had a frank exchange of views with the anchor about his channel's coverage of the ongoing legislative elections (to say nothing of her own recent loss): "'Le reportage que vous venez de passer est assez scandaleux', s’est insurgée lundi soir l’ancienne candidate socialiste à la présidentielle reprochant à la chaîne publique sa partialité." She went on for quite a while in the same vein on the clip available at Le Figaro's site.

The "press" is a misnomer here, just as "MSM" and "blogosphere" don't add much to any conversation. Lots of editorialists, commentators and reporters want to influence the course of events. They think they know better than the pols, and maybe they do. But for present purposes, it's enough to note that there's nothing new there; it's been true for as long as newspapers have been printed. For the same reason, there's nothing to "rubbish" here. Just as a docile "press" would be a huge bore, so would docile politicians. So three cheers for Tony (and Segolene) for giving as good as they get.

dick said...

Invisible Man,

While I can agree with you re the stories of Paris Hilton et al, the major problem is the reporting on events like Katrina. When you have stories as wrong as what the media reported and you have that coverage 24/7 telling the country "what is going on" there, then you have a major problem.

Read the coverage in Popular Mechanics and the interviews with the general in charge of the National Guard who were there. You hear about the lack of food yet there was more than enough food in the stadium. You hear about the rapes, yet there were none. You hear about how the NG was not there for 3 days yet the NG was there the afternoon of the first day with supplies and all necessary equipment to handle all the people who were brought there and who also just came there. You hear about the shootings yet there were none.

Check the news from Iraq. How many stories in the MSM have you read about the Sunnis and the Shiites in Anbar who are joining with the government to fight AQ and yet it is happening. How much news have you read about the various regions of the country that have been turned back over to the government and yet there are only 4 regions out of 18 that have not been yet and 2 of them are well on the way. What do we read? US troops and our allies hit by IED's and nothing about the hit taken by the AQ and their allies. Nothing about the Iraqis who are coming to the local police station and turning in the AQ supporters and telling the police and the troops where the weapons are kept and who is building the bombs.

All you have to do is look at the NYT story Ann wrote about here on the illegal immigrant bill. All the polls, even the polls from the LLL, have told us that the democrats in the country were as opposed to the bill as the republicans were. The story had zero input from the democrats. Bias, anyone? Good reporting? Don't think so.

Look at the reporting from the SC reporters on the meaning of the court findings. How many of them are slanted.

Look at the reporting from that march on the memorials and the Pentagon on Mar 17. You were told all about the anti-war people. Yet the police announced that there were twice as many who were protesting the protesters and you read almost zip about them. Notice that there were no counts of that side of the equation? funny how that works.

paul a'barge said...

Invisible: The real problem isn't with stories like Katrina, but the Paris Hilton, Ana Nicole Smith, and white girl of the summer missing stories that get substantially larger coverage than their relevance as a national news story. That's were the true flaws of today's media are on display

Invisible, I just don't agree with you regarding the real problem. Yes, over coverage of Paris Hilton sucks, but if the rest of the reportage were accurate, fair and balanced, then those of us who would be willing to dig through coverage could find it. You can't.

The MSM is dedicated to an agenda, and dishonestly so. The errors are not merely errors of omission. These reporters and their editors are aware of what power they have and they are determined to use that power in some very dishonest ways.

F' the lot of them.

Joe said...

I think he's complaining that today's journalist are so interested in self-promotion that they ignore any consequence. Take NewsWeek's Koran Flushing myth - a rush for ratings that led riots and deaths.

Or imagine the 1940's. A reporter is about to be vaulted into celebrity status - the Americans don't have a third atom bomb, and he got the scoop.


Again, please get up on your history. Ever read some of the "reporting" in the late 18th century? Or some of crap published during the civil war? How about Hearst?

I'm not saying it isn't annoying, it is, but throwing a hissy fit, especially as a public figure, does no good and just makes someone like Blaire look like a whiny ass.

a said...

Invisible Man,

I’m with you when it comes to overcoverage (or coverage at all, for that matter) of Paris Hilton, etc. And I agree that important issues deserve a lot more/better follow-up coverage. That’s just the point. The story gets generated by the first few headlines. Whether it’s because that’s all we have an apetite for or because that’s all they’ll give us--whether it’s our fault for being lazy readers or the journalists’ fault for being lazy and/or dishonest--it seems like that first impression becomes the tagline that sums up the story.

Katrina was indeed a great tragedy on the human level and an important story deserving of intense coverage. But absent good follow up reporting, what most people have been left with is an opinion originally formed by the falsehoods that dominated the early coverage. Blair’s criticism is that everything gets oversimplified and put in artificial black/white terms. So unsubstantiated rumors of people turning into savages in the aftermath of Katrina is what gets reported because that fits the bias of what a typical liberal reporter thinks will happen to the commoners if the government isn’t there to hand out checks and keep people in line.

So give me accurate and less sensationalistic reporting as news breaks and then good quality follow-up work so we can understand events and form opinions based on the real (and whole) story.

Dewave said...

In these modes it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits

Not just public figures, either. Duke case anyone?

Tantallonblog said...

In a consumer world, the decision to flick the channel or pick up a newspaper is a vote.

Tony's right. But th'enemy are us.

Tantallonblog said...

In a consumer world, the decision to flick the channel or pick up a newspaper is a vote.

Tony's right. Th'enemy are us.

Fen said...

In a consumer world, the decision to flick the channel or pick up a newspaper is a vote. Tony's right. Th'enemy are us

No. In a consumer world you have free markets. Note that the Left is currently trying to shut down that market with the "Fairness Doctrine", essentially silencing information they don't agree with. Currently, information brokers in the MSM have a Monopoly of Thought. Its like having Enron as your only source to purchase energy from...

Revenant said...

I agree that the media hunts in packs like feral animals. My question is this: when, exactly, did it supposedly NOT behave this way?

Dewave said...

I'm not sure. Maybe before 1950?

Peter Palladas said...

For a man who has created an entire world of delusion to complain about the behaviour of fellow delusionists is no more than a rat biting its own arse.

reader_iam said...

There's certainly some clear differences, especially with regard to the ubiquity of media, and especially broadcast, but also in terms of certain types of news that didn't get reported as much, or so much.

However, as to the rough-and-tumble nature of the beast, and even its feral quality, this is not new (or news). I spoke to this on an Althouse thread back in April.

Here and here.

Joe said...

when, exactly, did it supposedly NOT behave this way?

I'm not sure. Maybe before 1950?

BUZZ! Try again.

As long as there has been a free press, they've acted badly. It's the price we have to pay for a free press. (I've long marveled at the failure of people to understand that the price of freedom is people doing creepy and annoying things.)

P. Rich said...

Perhaps the little ray of sunshine here is that we the public (for unfortunately small values of 'we') are now aware of major media bias and have alternatives. Half a century ago options were limited, but the "modern liberal" and race/class/gender radicals (and the societal damage they have wrought) were still mostly dark clouds on the horizon.

Fen said...

The arguments presented above would have merit if "mistakes" by the MSM were spread out equally against liberal and conservative issues. Thats not the case, its almost always a bias against the Right.

Revenant said...

Maybe before 1950?

Fatty Arbuckle would beg to differ.

paul a'barge said...

Katrina was indeed a great tragedy on the human level

What happened to New Orleans during Katrina (not talking about the surrounding area) was not a tragedy. Take it from someone who was born in Louisiana and raised in New Orleans, left before Katrina and would never go back, Katrina was the best thing that could happen to New Orleans.

New Orleans was and is the most broken urban center in America, and even Katrina was not enough of a purge to cleanse it completely.

The place is hopeless. Decent folk should get out, and those who are not decent should fend for themselves, and the levees should be removed and let the sea fix the rest.

Seneca the Younger said...

I mean obviously some false rumors and stories took off, but if you think the coverage of a great American city being destroyed deserved a measured response than you should be more worried about your biases than the medias.

I'd settle for a response that wasn't wrong. Hell, I'd even settle for an unmeasured, wrong response that wasn't always wrong in the same direction.

Revenant said...

if you think the coverage of a great American city being destroyed deserved a measured response than you should be more worried about your biases than the medias.

That's exactly backwards. Let us, for the sake of argument, agree with calling New Orleans "a great American city". Well, isn't the destruction of a great American city interesting and traumatic enough in its own right? Did the press really have to bury the truth of that story under a mile of bullshit?

No thinking person has ever believed that the media is the impartial and objective entity it claims to be, course -- but is it too much to expect SOME degree of professionalism? If I want to see left-wing yahoos running in circles screaming "halp teh sky it is fallign" I can get that for free at DailyKos -- I don't need to turn on the news.

peter hoh said...

Right now, fear of being late to a story looms larger in the newsroom than fear of ridicule.

PatCA said...

Great speech by Tony. Sure, he should just "get over it," but it's high time someone openly questioned the press. After all, they are not elected; what other forum do we have to call them to account? Until the blogosphere, that is.

The press have always been partisan--read about the Copperhead press during the Civil War. What's different these days is that the public thinks they are The Holy Priests of Truth. The decline of print news and CNN, et al., is a heartening sign that we're waking up.

What's interesting is that he admitted how he and his government tried to suck up to them, to no avail. IMO that's where Bush went wrong with Iraq--he played to the press, not the public.

dick said...

patca,

Good point about Bush. Problem is how is he to get the message out there? I remember when he was giving a speech and only one channel had it on - the rest did not report it.

He gave a speech and in the speech gave best wishes to ex-pres Clinton who was undergoing a medical procedure. The AP reported that he did not do that and that the people laughed at the idea of Clinton going into the hospital.

The president has only one way to get his message out to the people and that is via the media. If we cannot trust the media to give us at least a semblance of the true facts, how can the president ever hope to get any message out there.

Just look at the coverage of his speech about invading Iraq. If you read the media it was all because of the WMD. Then it was all because Saddam tried to kill his father. After that it was all because of oil. The story was always that there was only one reason Bush attacked Iraq. Yet if you look at the speech there were many reasons for the invasion. The media never told you that bit.

Then we look at the reports from Baghdad which are all filed by stringers for AP. How many of them are true. Remember the mosques and the deaths? When the bloggers went there to check it out, the Imam who was supposedly killed was preaching at the mosque the next day. Only one of the mosques was even damaged and that was minor smoke damage in one area. The others were not even attacked.

Another time we read how the whole city was locked down and people were afraid to venture out at all. That same day Omar of Iraq the Model took his camera and photographed all the stores open, kids going to school, traffic jams at rush hour on the highways, women shopping. Did you see a correction in the media?

Remember when Bremer left and the papers told us he never gave a farewell speech. Funny that CNN was broadcasting his farewell speech delivered to the parliament at the same time as the stories in the paper of his sneaking away. Most of the papers still to this day have not reported that he actually did give a farewell speech.

When are the people of this country going to start getting the real story. The world is not perfect and we are not perfect but we are trying. YOu would never know that from what we see in the news or hear on the radio and television. How are we to really get a handle on what is going on and what should be going on if we are not getting the true stories. How much are we not getting told and where are we to get the whole truth.

Blair is right in what he says. He took advantage of the media and used it as it used him. Same with Bush as much as he could. Clinton was a past master at it. The problem is that we the people are not getting enough to determine when we are being lied to and when not and that is the fault of the media.

Theo Boehm said...

There's an old monologue by Garrison Keillor from the days when he was having trouble with the St. Paul Pioneer Press ("Gastric Distress").

He said that if you know the truth of a situation and read about it in the newspaper, the two have about as much to do with each other as green and the number seven.

That isn't to say you might not find a green seven occasionally.

Mr. Blair complains of finding only black and white ones.   He's obviously got the wrong set of kiddie number magnets.

There's a set with a green seven around here somewhere, but we've long moved beyond those plastic digits on the side of the fridge.  We now have entire words on little magnets so you can post poetry on your freezer door.  They also work well but weirdly for writing other things.  My youngest writes for his school paper, and was able to compose an entire story with these magnetic words.  When I asked him if not having the right word might affect the meaning, he shrugged and said, "It's just a news story, Dad.  It's good enough for the newspaper.  Anyway it's a lot of fun to see how crazy I can make it!"

His 4th grade teacher said he may have a future as a writer.  Looks like journalism for him.

PatCA said...

Dick,
I agree with all your points about the Iraq situation.

But Bush should have gone out and answered the specific allegations more specifically--on his website, in public, on his radio address. Instead we just got "schools, hospitals, got 'em on the run." He still should speak out, because no matter what he says or how many food packets they drop over Afghanistan, the press will still hate him. So give them hell!

PatCA said...

Dick,
I agree with all your points about the Iraq situation.

But Bush should have gone out and answered the specific allegations more specifically--on his website, in public, on his radio address. Instead we just got "schools, hospitals, got 'em on the run." He still should speak out, because no matter what he says or how many food packets they drop over Afghanistan, the press will still hate him. So give them hell!

Positroll said...

Slightly highjacking the thread for a Sarkozy update:
A Belgian newscaster has apologised for suggesting French President Nicolas Sarkozy was drunk during a news conference at last week's G8 summit.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6747801.stm

hdhouse said...

“the confusion of news and commentary,”

to me that says it all about the American media. When did news stop being news and become tabloid. When did cable or why does cable continue to get it's free ride. Why does talk radio feel exempt from factual "reporting" but continue under the guise of news/entertainment.

It was clear that in the late 1980s there was a movement to keep what you neoshits call the MSM under the leash of the FCC yet you got rid of various equal time issues so it could run rampant. It was a national strategy just as buying NPR stations off the air is by the Christian rightwing and the nearly unfettered control of multiple media outlets in DMAs by one entity.

It makes for trouble and more than anything, ignorance. With politicians telling us what they want us to hear and the media telling us what they want us to hear we can get in deep doodo. 7 years of it should prove something.

Craig Ranapia said...

PatCA:
What's interesting is that he admitted how he and his government tried to suck up to them, to no avail.

Tried to no avail? FFS, have you ever heard of Alastair Campbell? While Blair might want to play the victim here, and blatantly rewrite history to do so, the simple truth is that for most of the last decade he's been the happy beneficiary of media manipulation that Karl Rove can only dream of. I'm not inclined to let the British media off the hook either - you can't con an honest man, as they saying goes - but please...

hdhouse said...

and i just read Dick's 2:18 post.

Man. Talk about a looney. Talkin' crazy here. wow. Scary!

Fen said...

Dick's 2:18 post is on target.

And your inability to respond rationally ["neoshits"?] only confirms it.

Whats wrong with you anyway? So much hate.

PatCA said...

Yes, FFS, I have heard of Alastair Campbell, and the media crucified him until he had to resign. IOW, FFS, the media won.

The overall coverage of Blair, though, is negative, as Bush's poodle.

dick said...

Personally I think hdhouse's response is typical of those who cannot refute what I said. There are tons of backup for the stories I mentioned in my 2:18 post, almost none from the MSM but then that was the whole point. Hdhouse is scared because the almost total usurpation of the MSM by the LLL was threatened by the right wing in the 1980's and he hates that the right are winning in the one area where the LLL cannot compete, radio. He wants control of that as well so that the right cannot get any outlets at all and then he can call whatever he wants news - kinda like the controllers in 1984 by Orwell. His way of expressing that is to call anyone who does not agree with him names and then claim that the right is vicious. Pot, meet kettle!!