Friday, June 29, 2007

Another reason I don't rely on the MSM as my sole information source

After moving to an area where I can't pick up the local Catholic radio stations in my car, I started switching between NPR, Family Life/Moody Radio, and a conservative AM talk station. I still like NPR for such shows as Car Talk, but their semiregular features on the casualties in Iraq ("Eight more soldiers died today...let's get back to our expose on the NCOs who lost limbs and do sweeps of their suburban homes every night, and some widows of the soliders who weren't so lucky as to come home scarred") got tedious after the first week of consecutive daily stories. I don't mean to belittle the situation our veterans and soliders' spouses are in, and maybe they just happened to have a multi-part feature--which is entirely legitimate by itself--when I started listening, but after a point it's not representative or accurate reporting, it's just this summer's substitute for shark attack stories--not newsworthily unusual, just seasonally relevant and necessary for coverage so competing news sources don't seem to be more (in a word) hip; when everyone's saying the same things, it's not even news anymore. Not even news analysis.

I said as much once, and the response I got was to the effect of "Yes, we should be hearing more about how Halliburton contractors are getting rich off the Iraqis."

I appreciate sarcasm, but I had to roll my eyes. Maybe it qualifies as human interest if not world news, but when the only human interest stories are what didn't fit in the world news section, it's no wonder that faithful viewers, readers, listeners tend to see one side of the news as the whole of what's going on in the world. Yes, Halliburton is a different viable news topic, but it still falls under the same category that few reporters seem able or willing to escape: Things We're Screwing Up In The War. Hello? A war's bigger than the sacrifices we're making, whether they're made for a good cause, an honest error, a serious lack of judgment or malicious deception. A war's bigger than any profiteering opportunities that accompany it. A war's even bigger than the problems with waging it and securing the peace afterwards.

A war is more than all these things, but if you can cover all of them in some proportion then I'd say you're doing pretty well; if you cover one side of all of them then I'd say you're not, no matter how broad your coverage otherwise is.

Sure, good news doesn't sell as well, but people like some relief from bad news. When something goes right, tell them, and then move on. Don't push an agenda, whether it's one you planned from your own personal philosophies for educating the world or whether it grew organically out of competition with other newspapers or TV networks. In fact, actively try to avoid agendas. You don't have to lie to persuade people to fall in line on your side of the national debate, you only have to emphasize the favorable facts; more insidious yet, when you emphasize certain subsets of the facts, people will tend to think of those few things as the entirety of public concern.

Is it any wonder that Americans are thought of as provincial? That in the week of 9/11 many Americans went running to globes and atlases to find out where Afghanistan is? That "progressives" often criticize "fundamentalists" for essentially not picking up on the latest European secular fads (think about that high school caliber of thinking the next time they claim to be freethinkers)?

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