Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fox for Progressives

So as you may or may not know, I've become addicted to Rachel Maddow. Not watching her yet? Here's a taste:

In any case, though I love Rachel (and to a lesser extent, Olbermann), I must admit that this ain't journalism and it isn't a step forward for the journalistic profession as such.

It's punditry, of course, just like FOX News. The dangerous thing about it, just like the dangerous thing about the blogosphere, is that it leads you to think everyone is thinking like you.

I watch Rachel for the laughs, and because she is in fact quite bright and backs up her sources. Because she's a young, smart, liberal woman who's an out lesbian with her own prime-time news commentary show, and that makes me happy.

I don't believe in "objective" journalism. I believe in transparency. I believe that it's impossible to hide your opinion, to pretend that you don't have a horse in the race. If you're a human being, you're going to have an opinion, you're going to be swayed one way or another. It's just not possible. And thus I think that it's better to be out in the open about it.

Still, I get my news from NPR, which of any American news outlet seems to come the closest to the "objective" ideal. That doesn't mean they don't call out bullshit when they see it--listen to the hilarity when actual lipstick was applied to an actual pig. Even objectivity doesn't mean some sort of mythic balance between two sides.

It should mean finding the truth.

Anyway, I appreciate Rachel Maddow because she usually has backup for her sources, and her opinions are clearly that--opinions.

My dream media landscape would include much more public funding for NPR and PBS, enough to make them truly competitive news sources. Because not-for-profit news is the only way we're going to get truly disinterested (at least financially--the reporters and producers will always be human and thus never truly disinterested) news. Then MSNBC and FOX and whoever else wants to get into the game can put out whatever kind of news and commentary they want, because there would be something to check it against.

Of course, the calls of liberal bias on NPR wouldn't stop, not when Republicans have found it such an effective campaign strategy. But a recent study (Kull, Ramsay and Lewis, "Misperceptions, The Media, and the Iraq War") found that NPR and PBS consumers had the fewest misperceptions about the Iraq war--and that having those misperceptions contributed to the likelihood of supporting the war, and of voting for Bush.

Anyway, that's my dream.

Most of you regular readers know that I'm working on my master's in journalism. Yet very little of what I do currently is actually journalism. I blog. I write op-eds for Global Comment. I write about comic books, movies, and pop music. Very little of that is real journalism. I suppose that when I do an actual interview with a comics writer (like this one) that might count, but I don't really flatter myself that it has a huge effect on the world.

Not to denigrate the impact of art--I think art and music, literature and film can have a huge impact on the world, and it's one of the reasons that I return over and over again to writing fiction. Willow Wilson's AIR and Brian Wood's DMZ, Warren Ellis's BLACK SUMMER and Alan Moore's V FOR VENDETTA and WATCHMEN all could conceivably change people's minds about political issues, and for that comics are as valid as any other format. But when I'm writing about them? At best I'm a critic, at worst a glorified fangirl.

I'd love to do real journalism when I get out of school. Love to go write for one of the heavy magazines and do long, in-depth investigative pieces that require months of work at a time.

But it ain't what I do now.

And it ain't what Rachel Maddow is doing, either. Or Keith Olbermann or Chris Matthews or Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity or Brit Hume. At least not most of the time.