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Sun Jul 24, 2016, 08:08 AM

Nice try, Professor!

It's finally dawning on some members of the Fourth Estate that they're culpable for much of the havoc that the Mangled-Apricot-Hellbeast (AKA Drumpf) has wreaked over the past year. True, there are some who have been consistent in telling us that this short-fingered vulgarian has no clothes -- and I apologize for that mental image -- but they have been and continue to be marginalized.

Eleven days ago, well before the RNC dumpster fire in Cleveland, the Columbia Journalism Review published an article written by David Mindich, a professor of media studies, journalism, and digital arts at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont and former assignment editor for CNN: "For journalists covering Trump, a Murrow moment." He references Edward R. Murrow, the CBS News journalist who exposed Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950:
“This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent—or for those who approve,” he said. “We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”


After months of holding back, modern-day journalists are acting a lot like Murrow, pushing explicitly against Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. To be sure, these modern-day Murrow moments carry less impact: Long gone are the days in which a vast majority of eyeballs were tuned to the big-three television news programs. But we nonetheless are witnessing a change from existing practice of steadfast detachment, and the context in which journalists are reacting is not unlike that of Murrow: The candidate’s comments fall outside acceptable societal norms, and critical journalists are not alone in speaking up.

Yeah, professor. A handful of critical journalists have been speaking up. But the Drumpf still scores front-page headlines and top-story newscasts every time his stubby, little fingers tap out a Tweet. I guess old habits are hard to break. Instead of focusing our attention on the blatant racism, sexism, xenophobia and unvarnished hatred contained within the Republican Party's platform, they point us to the shiny objects: Melania's cribbing a few lines from FLOTUS Michelle Obama's speech eight years ago; Raphael Cruz's non-endorsement.

The good professor waxes nostalgic about the good old days:

The American journalistic goals of detachment and objectivity are long held. Until the mid-19th century, most newspapers were directly funded by political parties. As that started to change and the commercial model began to emerge, newspapers started to shed their partisan baggage. For much of the last 150 years the trade-off was a good one: Journalists would avoid taking sides, and they would be given access to newsmakers—and news consumers—from both parties.

Yeah. Right!

Today, instead of political parties directly funding newspapers, we have that power concentrated into a handful of massive corporations, who are totally committed to their financial reports' bottom line, and a return-on-investment for their shareholders. Responsible journalism -- with solid commitment to the concepts of accuracy, objectivity and balance -- has been supplanted by infotainment, and an obsession with ratings with their correlated advertising revenue streams. These same corporate entities are major donors to candidates and PACs, thanks to SCOTUS for Citizens United. Not quite full-circle, but pretty close.

Still, it's an interesting read, especially since he mentions Steven Colbert's diagram on The Late Show. I imagine Mr. Murrow must be up to 500 RPM in his grave by now. In classic pedantry, Mindich cites:
...a theoretical construction of objectivity by a leading journalism historian, Daniel Hallin, who sees the world of political discourse as falling into three concentric spheres: consensus, legitimate controversy, and deviance.

We call them "bubbles" in the real world, professor.

Let's see how the coverage of the DNC unfolds next week, shall we?

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Arrow 7 replies Author Time Post
Reply Nice try, Professor! (Original post)
Fritz Walter Jul 2016 OP
rjsquirrel Jul 2016 #1
Chiquitita Jul 2016 #2
rjsquirrel Jul 2016 #3
Fritz Walter Jul 2016 #6
Fritz Walter Jul 2016 #5
Chiquitita Jul 2016 #7
lapfog_1 Jul 2016 #4

Response to Fritz Walter (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2016, 08:19 AM

1. Whut?


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Response to Fritz Walter (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2016, 08:32 AM

2. I see your point

About criticizing the content. But I don't think it's useful to bash profs who are weighing in. In exactly what register is everyone required to write? It's not pedantry just because it says "concentric circles".

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Response to Chiquitita (Reply #2)

Sun Jul 24, 2016, 08:59 AM

3. Also hate the conceit that


academics don't live in the "real world."

As a biologist working on mass extinctions and climate change I beg to differ. My world is more "real" than anyone glued to reality TV knows. And it's sick and dying, while in your "real world" people are obsessed with whether Taylor Swift dissed the Kardashians.

Kneejerk anti-intellectualism is a right wing thing.

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Response to rjsquirrel (Reply #3)

Sun Jul 24, 2016, 11:48 AM

6. Anti-intellectualism?

First, I commend you on your research on mass extinctions and climate change. And I appreciate the fact that you hold "reality TV" in the same low regard as I do. Indeed, I cut the cable 10 months ago because I was tired of paying over $100/month for the mindless stream of pseudo-celebrity gossip. And it got Fox News and other right-wing things out of my house.

In my little, pragmatic corner of the world, I'm doing what I can to change things. Politically, socially and even ecologically. Although I could spend my hard-earned money on more frivolous possessions and experiences, I'm retrofitting my 79-year-old house to get as close to Net-Zero energy as possible, including installation of solar photovoltaic panels. In the interest of brevity, I won't list the other ways I'm trying to reduce my carbon footprint, but suffice it to say that I'm trying to do my bit to make the world a better place.

As I alluded to in another reply, I consider constructively challenging academic authorities to be a valuable process. We're already seeing back-sliding in science education -- home-schooling, creation-science curricula, deletion of evolution or climate-change from textbooks by school boards, to mention a few. By posing questions that can sometimes be uncomfortable, do we not enhance learning? If my original post came across as less-than-constructive, I blame my caffeine addiction -- I was only on my first cup of coffee when I wrote it. Your patience and tolerance of my chemical dependency is appreciated.

Thanks for all that you do to make our world better!

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Response to Chiquitita (Reply #2)

Sun Jul 24, 2016, 11:23 AM

5. It's been a while since I sat in a classroom

But I vaguely recall that it was the brightest and best students who would challenge the professors about ideas rather than transferring verbatim the words on the blackboard (see, it really has been a couple of decades since I've been in a classroom), into their spiral notebooks for regurgitation come exam time. Sure, sometimes those students were a pain-in-the-ass, but they kept the faculty on their toes.

It was the writer's selective recall about external influences on reporters' -- and assignment editors' -- objectivity that I found troubling. And "balance" went out the window when the Reagan-appointed FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. Funny that Professor Mindich didn't mention that, either.

And it was "concentric spheres."

Thanks for your feedback!

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Response to Fritz Walter (Reply #5)

Sun Jul 24, 2016, 03:01 PM

7. Oops

About 'spheres'! I'm just touchy about the accusation of obscurantism. Mentioning the FCC change would have been key, and agreed regarding the importance of keeping faculty on their toes--in which case I hope you commented directly on the article if you could. And as a side note, since I'm a Prof, lots of institutions still use chalkboards--the private and elite ones mostly. It's the state schools that got the dumb white boards and smart boards (and all the throwaway stuff) that entails.

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Response to Fritz Walter (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2016, 09:36 AM

4. There are no journalists on TV anymore (and hardly any on the internet or newspapers).

If they were journalists, they wouldn't be working for the entertain divisions of their respective networks.

As such, they try to generate ratings... which means that they will cover every outrageous thing out of any candidates mouth, they will tear down anyone with a lead because the closer the race the better the story covering the "close election".

Don't expect to see any more Murrows on our news outlets. It is simply not going to happen with the current system.

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