“Poly Styrene died. Having made an enormous contribution to British art and sound – at a desperate time when so many of us needed her, Poly Styrene’s death was all but ignored by the British television news media, who instead rained hours and hours of blubbering praise onto Kate Middleton – a woman about whom nothing is known on a personal level. The message is clear: What you achieve in life means nothing compared to what you are born into. Is this Syria??”
FIRST AND WRONG
Every time I think I can’t have more contempt for our corporate news media than I already have, they do something to prove me wrong… again.
Today, it was more important to be “first” with the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision story than it was to get the story right. Being “first” means putting the story on the air mere seconds before your competition. Maybe a minute or two. That’s why they got it wrong: they aired their “Breaking News” before actually reading the whole decision.
I get why FOX News prematurely called the 2000 election for Bush over Gore. The FOX producer that night was Bush’s cousin (yup, that’s right), and he was on the phone all night with Bush campaign officials. They were managing the election news together. But today’s fiasco? This was just two media corporations racing to be a few seconds ahead of each other for no other reason but to say they were first.
Free-Dumb of Speech?
Rupert Murdoch falls victim to his own game. The media mogul has recently fallen under intense scrutiny throughout different media mediums for the alleged phone hacking and illegal behavior of his company, News Corporation.
On July 15, 2011, an apologetic Murdoch pleaded in court to the parliament committee in London that he was not aware of the illegal actions being committed by his company. His son James, who took often charge of the defense rebuttals, agreed that they were just as shocked to discover their News of the World tabloid had been responsible for phone hacking victims of 9/11, as well as celebrities, and politicians. In one instance explained by Andrea McCrary on her blog Capricious Ramblings she explained the mysterious hacking of a murdered school girl in order to get a news story. This really leads me to wonder to what extent NewsCorp and other other news outlets like it would go in order to get a story.
It is reported that New Corp. was paying off confidential, large settlement amounts to victims of phone hackings as well as paying the legal fees of private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, who was accused of hacking the phone lines of the royal family staff members back in 2007. Yet, Mr. Murdoch denies any knowledge of these payoffs.
None of these acts surprise me. Personally, the fact that Rupert Murdoch and his company run a tabloid magazine and own Fox News, two media sources that are known for releasing subjective material, puts his integrity into question automatically. Tabloids are known to use shifty sources like paparazzi, he-say-she-say, and undercover analysts in order to get their information, while Fox News is notorious for twisting truths and broadcasting opinionated news. If you ask me, the man that oversees such companies is likely to share similar values.
What I do find interesting however, is the way different media sources are telling the same tale. When reading up on the event, I chose to view a few articles all from different news sources. I felt the New York Times would be a good place to start because it not only stands as a widely respected newspaper, but it is also now one of Murdoch’s biggest rivalries since his purchased The Wall Street Journal.
The Times did a good job of hiding its opinion, as it should, but the article made sure to reveal the skeptical facts in the case, as well as depict courtroom behavior to allow one to formulate his/her own opinion.
For starters, the article began by noting the hearing to be one of “riveting theater,” poking fun at the foam-pie-to-the-face stunt that was pulled on Murdoch and perhaps also in reference to the theatrical ‘acting’ that was performed by the Murdochs as they apologized and denied knowledge of illegal activity. It went on telling of the large payoffs the Murdoch’s knew nothing about, Mr. Murdoch’s long pauses to answer questions, James Murdoch’s quick attempt to answer questions when his father wavered, and ending the piece with a quote from Mr. Murdoch saying, “…I don’t remember what I said.” The Times kept to the facts, but not without some cynicism imbedded in the language and structure or the article.
In opposition, FoxNews.com used a more supportive dialect of their head boss, proclaiming that Murdoch “endured three-hour grilling,” during the hearing while he “escaped attempts to tar him with individual blame for the scandal that has rocked his empire.” Furthermore, they did not take the foam-pie-to-the-face stunt as a lightly as The Times. Instead of “riveting theater,” FoxNews.com tells of a prankster’s attempt as Murdoch’s wife sprang to his aid. Also, it shares the positive statements made by the Murdochs as opposed to the clueless ones such as when James Murdoch insisted, “these actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to.” Lastly, the end of the article assures that “Rupert Murdoch is eager to stop the crisis from spreading…” clearly affirming their support for him.
The Times and FoxNews.com are prime examples of two major sources of media outlets that release propaganda in order to sway the listener or viewers opinions without providing objectivity to a story. Murdoch’s phone scandal will affect the world’s media outlets more than one would think. Dictators and tyrants alike can use this media event to combat those who support free press by claiming that “free speech” countries don’t actually abide by their ideals. This leads one to think that any and every country, regardless of system of government, can fall to corruption and espionage. In this case free press isn’t entirely “free” for that matter. One can put a price on gathering information illegally or not.
BECAUSE DRE THE PROPHET SAYS SO!!!!
Can I please quit society?
All the time, I hear news stories along these lines:
Bob and Mary Huntington razed six acres of what used to be a forest. Now, they are surprised that wild animals are having the audacity to show up in their yard. Naturally, they called the government who quickly came and murdered everything that wasn’t a cute fluffy bunny.
I seriously hate urban sprawl. And even more than I hate urban sprawl, I hate people who act so darn surprised that animals are going to show up to what used to be their home. Yeah, lady, if you build a house on top of a bear cave, expect to see some fucking bears in your yard. Maybe instead of building a brand new house in what used to be a forest, you could have bought that already existing house in the city even though you won’t get to look out over four acres of useless lawn and you won’t have a private lake.
Right now, there’s a story up about people getting disgruntled that an abandoned house in the suburbs is filled with cockroaches. An abandoned house. Nobody is living there. But apparently, the bugs still can’t have it. Can I please quit society?
Dear National Media,
If you go to the Bush Intercontinental Airport today, you can smell smoke.
It’s from the fires ravaging through Texas.
I have only one thing to ask: as you mindlessly throw terror towards a small Cat. 1 Hurricane and an Earthquake up on the East Coast, what are you doing to bring attention to the families that are watching their homes go up in flames?? For many of them, watching their livelihoods disappear?
Or are we just not as interesting because we, unlike the East Coast, usually have sensible emergency plans? Because we, unlike the East Coast, don’t have the White House, and New York City?
It’s cool. Let one of the most important domestic cities go up in flames. Houston doesn’t need your attention. We’ll keep the oil we refine to ourselves—hell, we’ll keep it in the coast. If we bring it on shore, it might just go up into flames.
Ignore us as we make a record of August with the 1st through 24th being consecutive days of triple degree weather. Ignore us as we go through an unprecedented drought.
Freak out about a flood up north, while we beg the fates for a hurricane. We know hurricanes. We can deal with those. Those are easy.
Texas is burning, oh News Media. And its real. And you don’t have to make shit up in order for it to sound news worthy. If you don’t believe me, come on over and step outside.
It’s Texas burning.
On Compassion Fatigue, Somalia, and portrayal of crises in Africa
That column, posted to South Africa’s Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader page today, is by Sandra Banjac, who has spent nearly 18 months in South Africa working on issues of media coverage of gender, violence, portrayal of children, and other equality issues through her position at Media Monitoring Africa.
The argument is clear, and I can’t reiterate it any better than the original, so it is best if you just tuck in and read it through. Read it twice, the arguments speak for themselves and deserve the attention. I know Sandra better than I know most, and still I think even the unacquainted observer will see that this isn’t just the writing of someone crunching through a report. She cares, and she knows this stuff, and has a long and growing resume filled with examples of her adept understanding and analysis of media portrayals of human issues (be they inequalities, violence, societal, or personal).
Turning to Sandra’s call to action, and if we’re going to be self-analytical, we need to look at why these issues persist (speaking for people who work and study news media). Sandra is beyond well-versed in the ways human crises are portrayed in news media (she has written extensively on Human Trafficking in Europe, portrayals of violence in African news media, Gender Portrayals in the news media in South Africa, and more) and her argument, while based on a 1990s-era study, is as salient nowadays as it was 20 years back.
So why is it still ‘the norm’ to cover crises through victimhood, and not empowerment? Why do we use the same constructs when we know as soon as the ink has been placed on the page that these approaches are exploitative? Why, when we know that they amplify power structures, that they are ineffective over the long term in inspiring action and lead again to more and more shocking and exploitative imagery?
This is a small percentage of Sandra’s work over the years (and year and a half focused acutely on Africa) and nearly all of it shows to greater and lesser degrees that for the news media, there is a better way to do the jobs journalists purport to do. From a Western or Northern perspective it is easy to try and explain out the reasons media use the constructs they do - financial restrictions, deadlines, media markets - they are tired and well-worn.
There is always a way to do things a bit better, and I’m proud to know someone challenging the media to do just that. Now it’s time to get on to the hard work of improving.
Get to it.
The Trust Deficit
“Trust me,” risks becoming one of the most hollow phrases in the English language.
Numerous studies have indicated that Americans’ faith in our institutions is deteriorating. Indeed, last week’s announcement that the nation’s mood had sunk to its lowest level in more than two years underscores the public’s waning belief that government can handle a seemingly overwhelming array of challenges.
Regrettably, elected officials have too often given us reason to think this way. Shortly after the 2010 elections, for example, a poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org and Knowledge Networks found that voters were “substantially misinformed” about a host of key issues during the campaign. A striking 90% of participants said they encountered some form of misleading or false information; and more than half (56%) said it happened frequently.
But politicians are hardly the only ones attempting to delude the public. It’s not uncommon for the media to catch businesspeople, entertainers, athletes or even religious leaders playing fast-and-loose with the truth. Providing, of course, we believe the media; which apparently many of us do not.
According to findings by Gallup, fewer than one-in-four people have confidence in newspapers or television news. A survey by market research firm Vision Critical reports that even fewer put their trust in social media. Among respondents in the United States, Britain and Canada, only 16% believe what is said on social networks, and just 13% take bloggers and online reviewers at their word.
Troubling as our suspicions of institutions may be, perhaps more disquieting is evidence that we are beginning to distrust each other. In her column in theEconomix blog last week, New York Times economics reporter Charlotte Rampell – citing a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development – noted that slightly less than half of all Americans trust others. That is a lower percentage (48.7%) of almost every other developed nation.
Source: New York Times/O.E.C.D.
One reason, suggests Rampell, is a converse relationship between levels of income inequality and trust. As the former rises, the latter falls. This idea is already on display across the Middle East, where such inequality is chronic. Despite various promises of change and reform from their leaders, citizens there continue to protest, and die.
But income inequality is on the rise here as well. According to data from the Congressional Budget Office, the gap in after-tax income between this nation’s richest one percent and both the middle and poorest sectors of the country more than tripled between 1979 and 2007 – the widest it’s been in nearly 70 years.
Moreover, the Gini index, a standard global gauge of income inequality, shows that inequities in the U.S. have already surpassed those in Egypt and Tunisia.
The higher the index number, the greater the income inequality
Granted, differences in income are just one reason Americans find trust harder to come by. In an age of ostensibly unlimited information, it’s tough to hide misrepresentations for very long. Just look at how quickly Senator Jon Kyl’s distortion of Planned Parenthood spending went viral (thanks in large part to Stephen Colbert). And the media – mainstream and alternative – were all over errors in Paul Ryan’s and Barack Obama’s respective budgets.
Still, as businesses and organizations increasingly rely on social media to reach out to consumers who no longer buy into traditional marketing and public relations, will current economic trends confirm Vision Critical’s findings? If so, what are the options?