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New Rules for “The Media”

September 24, 2008

Okay, maybe I’m a little on the slow side, but it finally hit me that “the media” drives the agenda of whatever it feels like driving.   For instance, it’s pretty clear that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats nor the White House gets to say what they want without being filtered, excoriated, blessed, and/or worshiped by “the media” who is supposedly watching out for all the rest of us.  If “the media” wants to talk about it, they do, and that’s the political agenda of the day/week/month.  If they do not want want to talk about it, it isn’t on the agenda, and the rest of us aren’t any wiser for it.

[See Bernard Goldberg’s Crazies to the Left of Me; Wimps to the Right for more analysis.]

Actually, I would feel better about “the media’s” participation in such events as the current political campaigns if, in fact, they were doing any actual investigation rather than just repeating what the political parties (or the White House) release to them–which of course we can all see in real time too.  Analyzing it to death and calling it “journalism” or “reporting” is kaka.

So, in the interest of providing real value for us consumers, I suggest the following three simple–but not easy–rules for “the media” to follow from now on so that we can have some valid sense that “the media” is actually protecting us from The Man.

Number One.  No media person should ever be allowed to use the word “surprise” again.  If journalists are “surprised,” it means they haven’t done their job. Don’t tell us that “we” (the public) are surprised; the only reason WE are surprised is because YOU weren’t paying close enough attention on our behalf.

Sarah Palin’s selection by John McCain was only a “surprise” to the American people because “the media” was asleep at the wheel.  Remember when Biden was selected?  “The media” had been camping out at all the potential nominees’ houses to see who was showing the obvious signs of prepping to be the next Vice King. Where were they for Palin?  Clearly, no–and I mean NO–journalist had embedded themselves with the McCain crowd well enough to discern that they should probably be watching planes in and out of Alaska.  “The media” should be embarrassed with itself rather than making the rest of the country back peddle along with them.  They screwed up and the rest of us are forced to listen to all their we-don’t-know-who-she-is babble.  Whose fault is that?  Oh yeah, Alaska is a big secret none of us know about.  Shhhh…be vewy, vewy quiet.

Number Two.  No media person ever gets to talk about “the media” in the third person again.  From now on they must say, “we” or “I” or “us.” Somehow, individuals within “the media” have convinced themselves that they personally aren’t included if they talk about “the media.”  How lovely for them.  And while they are at it, they should quit making the rest of us accomplices too.  It’s not:  “America wants to know.”  Try:  “I want to know.”  Or, “We ‘surprised’ journalists want to know.”  The rest of us can figure out whether we care or not.

Number Three.  Anyone being interviewed by a member of the media can no longer talk about “the media” in third person.  They must use second person pronouns:  “you” and, well, “you.” In speaking with Matt Lauer the day after the Palin-daughter-is-pregnant “bombshell,” Dr. Phil McGraw said that he wished it could happen (but probably wouldn’t) that “the media” would let the Bristol Palin pregnancy story alone so that she should focus on the important issues in her life without the white hot light of “the media” pounding on her.  How great would it have been–and how refreshing!!–if Dr. Phil would have had the guts to say, “If you, Matt, and the Today Show, and all your journalist buddies would get off her back, maybe maybe Bristol could get on with her life in a half-way normal way.”  Even Dr. Phil–Mr. Personal Responsibility–has bought into the idea that the media guy he’s looking at isn’t actually responsible for anything; it’s that big, ugly, irresponsible machine behind him that’s got its mechanical fingers around Lauer’s multi-million-dollar throat.

I know that in a free society, “the media” is supposed to be helping hold politicians accountable.  But who is keeping an eye on “the media”?  Oh yeah.  The rest of us.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Marjie Smith permalink
    October 20, 2008 2:32 pm

    As a former member of the media, I couldn’t agree more. I found out the business about what interests “us” interests “our viewers,” long ago when I’d pitch a story that the primarily male editors (at that time) didn’t find interesting. You might be “surprised” to find out that Canada just held an election and returned, with a much broader margin, a Conservative government with no mention that I can see in the local news. I would think, given the proximity, the trading relationship and the perception of Canada as a liberal country, that the political trends there would be worth mentioning.

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