Saturday, March 14, 2009

The problem with journalism...

Well, I know I'm supposed to be working on my comps. But I added my favorite media critic, NYU's Jay Rosen, to my Twitter feed since I was using him as a source for my paper, and the constant links of awesomeness just keep flowing. (If you're on twitter, follow @jayrosen_nyu)

Today, he commented:

Dozens of subjects I converse with pro journalists easily about, despite large disagreements. Two where it breaks down: "hype" and... Bush.

For in the minds of most pro journalists, "hype" is their opponent. They battle it. To me hype is their industry. They produce cycles of it.

With Bush and the press I'm on the other side of the moon from (many, not all) pro journalists for reasons Greenwald cites

Greenwald points out that Jon Stewart's critique of Cramer and CNBC (videos posted below) is nothing new, and that Cramer's response was basically the same one that much of the media has given in the last few years.

My papers this week have of course been focused on critiquing journalism and discussing the role that the Web serves in journalism. And one of those points is that Greenwald is absolutely effing right. This is BASIC journalism.

My first course in j-school drilled into my head that journalism is about verification. In blog-land, we verify by posting links. In the mainstream media, where most of our primary sources come from, they verify by quoting someone. If you think that your job ends when you've regurgitated Hank Paulson or Dick Cheney or "Sir" Allen Stanford's words, then you're not alone in mainstream journalism--Greenwald's post proves that.

But we demand more. We want interviewers who press the point, and why do we only get that from a guy whose show is on Comedy Central, and why is this being pointed out to us by bloggers?

Greenwald says:

It's fine to praise Jon Stewart for the great interview he conducted and to mock and scoff at Jim Cramer and CNBC. That's absolutely warranted. But just as was true for Judy Miller (and her still-celebrated cohort, Michael Gordon), Jim Cramer isn't an aberration. What he did and the excuses he offered are ones that are embraced as gospel to this day by most of our establishment press corps, and to know that this is true, just look at what they do and say about their roles. But at least Cramer wants to appear to be contrite for the complicit role he played in disseminating incredibly destructive and false claims from the politically powerful. That stands in stark contrast to David Gregory, Charlie Gibson, Brian Williams, David Ignatius and most of their friends, who continue to be defiantly and pompously proud of the exact same role they play.

Read his whole post, it's an excellent overview of what was wrong with the coverage leading up to the war, and what is wrong with the media still. I don't want the coverage to be uncritical of Obama any more than I wanted it to be uncritical of Bush.

Our problem so often is that we individualize. It was Judy Miller, not the norms and routines of professional journalism. It was Bernie Madoff, not a culture of capitalism that encouraged greed and dodging rules and said that so long as you're making money, anything you do is right. It was a few prison guards, not a culture that dehumanized the enemy.

When are we going to realize that these problems are systemic and cultural, not individual? There aren't a few "bad guys" who can be punished and the system returned to order.