The News Media Are out of Whack

Article excerpt

Everybody does it. George Bush did. Same with Bill Clinton. Everybody loves to bash the media.

Bush wanted us to think he didn't like the media, especially the hated TV Sunday talk shows. Yet he gave a medal to David Brinkley, the host of a Sunday talk show. It wasn't the first time a president said one thing and did another.

And in a Rolling Stone interview Clinton had some unkind things to say about the media.

The general public likes to denounce the "liberal" media. Of course, there are those who will point out that most reporters work for owners who are not "liberal." So some charge that the media are really "conservative."

The media do not help things much by being smug.

If some charge the media are "liberal" and others charge the media are "conservative," the media's representatives often say, "See, we must be doing something right."

Others say it is Kill The Messenger Syndrome at work. Nobody likes the bearer of bad news, which is often the media's job.

For a variety of reasons then, reporters are easy to hate.

What's going on here?

There may be yet another reason media-bashing is so popular. Consider this:

The British Empire took years to develop. Because people had to fight and die for the empire, a relatively democratic information system was needed, one that would keep profits and recruits coming. The BBC radio network and Reuters (which was a business information as well as a news system) did just fine.

Then came the American Empire, which some called an era (because empire had become a dirty word).

Following the American penchant for efficiency, information was left to the firm. (You can bet that companies doing business in a country know what's going on there, even if the media are focused elsewhere.)

And we had the rise of commercial TV, which has become a marketing and entertainment vehicle, to which news has been appended. Its specialty is a few well-paid people who look pretty and look the other way - and whose news judgment is, at best, underdeveloped. (How many plastic police lines must we see, after all?)

Often the best TV types had a newspaper background, and they all looked over their shoulders at The New York Times.

Today the Cold War is over. Information has been privatized, while news has become increasingly entertainment. It is not a system that serves the nation well.

There have long been supermarket tabloids. …