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David Poland

By David Poland

The Search For Truth In The Media

There has been a lot of whining out there recently about the media being “suckered” into offering both sides of various political stories… as though the job of a journalist was to take sides, even when neither side offers tangible proof.

Journalism – especially entertainment journalism, but not just, as you see when Dan Rather nooses his neck by embracing one source too myopically – is in a difficult time. The internet screams for speed, but getting it right takes time… time no one seems to feel they can afford anymore… because often times the truth is nowhere to be found in the immediate, no matter how close people are to the center of a story. On top of that, journalists have stopped asking the key question about sources who deliver surprises on a plate… “Why is this information coming my way?”

The most simple and powerful tenant of All The President’s Men has been terribly bastardized. “Follow the money!” Journalism now follows the money as though it was just the literal money. The genius of that phrase is, like Sun Tzu, that it is so much more. “The Money” is the motive, not the cash flow.

And the media is so self-absorbed and foolish these days that the guys laying out the trail for us to follow have become so overt as to be laughable.

In recent weeks, Michael Eisner has shown exactly how he’s lasted so long. First, he stretched his muscles by setting his own exit date from Disney. Then he went about naming his successor. Then the company got behind the successor as “the only internal candidate.” Meanwhile, the opposition just kept screaming that Eisner had to go and go now. Why?

And it is no small irony that George W. Bush has moved ahead in the presidential race in much the same way. There was a great stat from a Wall Street Journal reporter that a few months back Americans were polled and only 12% – only 30% of Democrats – were truly enraged at Bush. You can’t sell people on rage… they have to feel it on their own. And the rage is disproportionately on the coasts. And in the media. Forget about arguing whether the rage is appropriate. That’s not the point. Perhaps they should do a poll to see how many Americans are truly enraged by the media and the power alleys on the coasts. I bet that number is bigger than the one against Bush. (And inverted, I’m sure the contempt of the power alleys towards “Middle America” is double that number as well.)

There is nothing wrong with reporting rumors about Miramax and Disney or MGM or whatever controversy of the moment… God, how Chris McGurk played the media in order to play both Sony and Time-Warner in the MGM/Sony deal! But the media’s arrogant addition to the story is that we think we figured something out, that we know something, when a rumor comes our way. DUH! 95% of the time, we are hearing the rumors because someone wants us to hear the rumors. And hearing a rumor, true or not, does not free us from having to do our ultimate job… trying to figure out how likely the information we are gathering is to being true and what it really means in context.

I heard that Alexander was being moved later into November six weeks ago. But it was not for sure… there was no date… the editing was still moving along… and there were also rumors – which I disregarded utterly – that the movie was moving to 2005. No story there. And if I ran it, what was the journalistic value… besides me getting a “scoop.”

But getting back to the original issue here… the idea of balance as a negative is a horrible journalistic notion. It seems to me that the core of bad “balanced coverage” is that there is now too much coverage and not enough news. We have all so embraced the minutiae that the idea of perspective, which is critical to finding anything close to truth, is a memory. Everyone is pitching their idea of the story and the reporter is left laying out everyone’s nonfactual facts and never having a chance to find that perspective… that truth.

A little information has always been a dangerous thing.

9 Responses to “The Search For Truth In The Media”

  1. Dan R% says:

    Is there really any reason why someone would get into journalism today as a career choice? I’ve often thought about going to school to do just that, but the picture you paint is bleak. Does anyone honestly think it’s going to get better before it gets worse?

  2. bicycle bob says:

    all we have heard about from the media is “hatred for bush”. and the truth is maybe its true in NY and LA. but not in the rest of the country. They keep pushing their agenda. And they haven’t realized that people aren’t tuning in anymore.
    And this CBS-Rather forgery thing is just in the beginning stages. This is the new Watergate. its going to being down cbs and in turn hrt the other two networks.

  3. SRCputt says:

    The CBS-Rather forgery thing will have no lasting damage. No one really cares. While a couple of documents were forged, the base idea of the story is still true: Bush used connections to avoid Vietnam by joining the National Guard, and then did not fully honor his commitment.

  4. Eric says:

    Paul Krugman, an economist who writes an op-ed column twice a week for the New York Times, published a book a while back called “The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century.” He’s pretty upset about the direction in which America is headed.
    He’s particularly bothered that the media is so neutered by worries over bias, as if neither side in an argument could ever be flawed. Statements can’t be challenged, only reported. Here’s a favorite quote:
    “Journalists find it very hard to deal with blatantly false arguments; by inclination and training, they always try to see two sides to an issue… if Bush said that the world was flat, the headline on the news analysis would read ‘Shape of Earth: Views Differ.'”

  5. BrotherhoodOfSteel says:

    Living in the middle of the country, let me point out, that we arent all for Bush. We LOATHE and DESPISE the man, but do not go thinking we are all down with that clown or his asshole followers.
    That’s right I said it! I love how people like Drudge and FOX News and even MSNBC are trying to make a story out of this Rather deal. When easily, I mean easily, Britney faking her marriage a BIGGER story.
    No one cares. They just want to think that we ALL CARE, but it just doesnt work that way. The same goes for polling this year. They just have to believe these polls as being somehow held in any light other than being about as accurate as Steve Young’s NFL picks. This thing will be close, but the media just want to create a perception it is not. Drives me crazy, but that’s our MEDIA here in the US.
    A bunch of BIASED TOWARDS THE TRUTH people. Pick a candidate, I dont care. However do not push aside the hell going on in Iraq just because it might get you a favourable look in the Administrations eyes.

  6. Krillian says:

    This is why has become one of my favorite websites. The entertainment industry could use its equivalent. I guess Dave sees himself in that way, with some of the commentary on MCN and THB.
    As for this election, it’s been one of the biggest sideshow attractions ever without actual substance being combed over. We had a month of swift boat vets. We’re having two weeks now on Dan Rather and the forgeries. Bring on the debate so Karl Rove can’t distract us anymore!

  7. brotherhoodofSTEEL says:

    No, bring on the VICE-PRESIDENT debates. That one will be, interesting! Hopefully when John Edwards comes out. They will play Brock Lesnar’s former theme, and some tool from CNN will say, “Well Dick Channey, here comes the PAIN!”
    Sorry. Personal 1 percenter reference, but if anyone gets it! It should be somewhat decent.

  8. bicycle bob says:

    if u think edwards is gonna rip cheney ur living ina dream world. usually it takes ideas and thoughts and firm positions to win debates. edwards has none of these. ur gonna be in a for a rude awakening. hes gonna be taught a lesson

  9. BrotherhoodOfSteel says:

    Bob, you never cease to amaze me with your stellar typing abilities as well as your inability to understand you are backing two of the biggest bunch of scumbags to adapt into human beings.
    Cheney has no positions outside of ones that are clearly becoming more and more obvious to people in his own party, that they are wrong. Edwards will know what to do. Trial lawyer versus a piece of shit. Im going with the Trial Lawyer of the piece of shit.
    But hey, Nixon’s supporters that he came across great during that debate with Kennedy back in 60. I guess we all know how that turned out.

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