The Media, or Try Consuming News Like A Grown Adult

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home.

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44 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    The media in most other countries is nearly all partisan except at some places like the BBC or theiur equivalents and even then, people will tell you they have a bias. No one bats an eye that the Guardian is left leaning or Le Figaro is right-leaning. It seems rather unique to the United States that we have decided that news reporting should be “objective” and that you can score political points by accusing a media organization of bias. If a Tory accused the Guardian of having a left bias or a French socialist accused Le Figaro of having a right bias, the response would be blank stares and no duh.

    But this seems to be an area where the United States has the worst of all worlds. The expectation of objective neutrality and then working the refs to push objective neutrality to something with a partisan lean, almost always to the right.

    Another problem is that we have journalists who fetishize their role as “objective fact-teller” and this sometimes leads to debacle like how it took until 2020 for the media to call Trump’s lies lies. Before that it was every euphemism under the sun. When journalists were called out on this, they doubled down.

    There should be more things a journalist can be in the United States than a well-paid stenographer with access to the courts (like a noble court, not like a law court) or a proudly on the outside alt-reporter (think Gawker/Jezebel) who can’t pay the bills from their writing.Report

  2. Greginak
    Ignored
    says:

    Yeah, good stuff. “the media” has always been lazy at best. People want to complain but not do better. There are tons of subject matter experts out there with good info or just some generic all purpose pundit who knows nothing. People want to complain about culture wars then fling viscous invective (Jesse Kelly, etc) You want good media stop watching CNN and read smart people.Report

  3. Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    I think you missed the mark a bit with this article. I don’t hear people complain about the media *they* consume, but the material other people consume. (There are some restrictions placed on media outlets too, but I think that’s a more minor complaint.)

    I think the most overlooked aspect of all this is the material from the non-news outlets. It’s odd that the three network morning shows have the same political leaning. It’s odd that all the late-night TV shows have the same leaning, and all the major Hollywood studios have the same leaning, and most of the checkout stand magazines have the same leaning. It’s a real problem that they all, across those media, lean the same. And those are all bigger media platforms. There’s a balance in cable news (although still two to one in the big three) and radio (there are about as many NPR stations as right-wing stations) but those are all modest outlets. There’s no point in comparing Twitter and Parler.

    I can generally find the information I want. It’s pretty easy compared to twenty or even ten years ago. But in a democracy, you pay the price for the other guy’s ignorance, and even moreso in lawless moments.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to Pinky
      Ignored
      says:

      I think the most overlooked aspect of all this is the material from the non-news outlets. It’s odd that the three network morning shows have the same political leaning. It’s odd that all the late-night TV shows have the same leaning, and all the major Hollywood studios have the same leaning, and most of the checkout stand magazines have the same leaning.

      No, actually, that’s not odd at all. It strikes me as funny how a lot of conservatives are sure there’s some sort of inbuilt psychological thing that makes women and men likely to choose different jobs, because they think differently. Except they don’t. But you know who does think differently?

      Conservatives and liberals.

      Acting is a skill that requires people to think in specific ways. It requires empathy and mental simulation of a character that doesn’t even exist. It requires trying to piece of motives of someone else. And ultimately, it requires working off of other people in a very social way.

      And…conservatives are often bad at this, and don’t enjoy it. It’s the sort of voluntary self-sorting that conservatives often claim explains why women ‘don’t want to be engineers’. Except it’s _real_, because the sorting here is literally ‘by how people think’ and not ‘gender’.

      Now, there’s an obvious reason why conservatives don’t want to do the thing that requires empathy and imagining things from other viewpoints, but I’m not actually making that claim. Feel free to invent some other reason besides the very obvious. I’m saying it’s a thing that is true in reality, for _whatever_ reason.

      And that’s the reason that liberals own the dramatic performing arts. It’s not any sort of gatekeeping, it’s just conservatives basically don’t want to do it. And that is easy to prove. All you have to do is look somewhere that there is no possible gatekeeping: Community theatre. (1)

      I have been involved, for two decades now, in a community theatre in one of the most conservatives parts of this country…a theatre that was created by the Chamber of Commerce to try to bring tourists to town. The entire origins of this theatre is, conceptually, conservative.

      It is extremely liberal. Even the Republicans involved are socially liberal, and honestly aren’t really that fiscally conservative either…I once got in a discussion with the Fair Tax guy and _he_ suggested the government should just build housing for the homeless, and I’m like…sounds good to me!

      And him, and a few other conservatives, tend to be kinda stiff older guys…who aren’t great actors. I’m not saying that as an insult, honestly, community theatres can use all the warm bodies they get, as long as they can hit their mark and say their lines. And I can’t act _at all_. I’m saying they aren’t the people who have acting in their blood.

      No one is keeping conservatives out of community theatre. Honestly, we aren’t keeping _anyone_ out of the theatre, and there’s certainly not a political litmus test.

      Conservatives just aren’t really very good at acting, and more importantly, often don’t seem to enjoy the performing arts at all. They are keeping themselves out.

      1) I say, making an odd facial expression. Community theatre is _rife_ with weird gatekeeping, but it’s nothing as pedestrian as political viewpoint…it’s dumb grudges and rumors and nonsense. As stage manager, I’ve sat in a dozen different discussions about casting, and not once has anyone’s political views come up….or, any views. Whereas we do care that two people seem to have problems with each other and cause backstage drama.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, you can’t stop them.Report

      • Pinky in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        That makes sense about acting. Actors and other creatives can have their own production companies, but typically when you get to the level of studio head, you’ll find businessmen. Comedians run libertarian in my experience. Typically, if you’re creating, say, a morning show, you’d want different personalities and ways of thinking, and you’d consider counter-programming if two of the networks have indistinguishably left-wing shows. Reporters and authors run the gamut, although I’d guess that the ones who are willing to spend the time to get a master’s degree in journalism are going to start out more liberal, and become more liberal still through the experience.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        I still think that one of the reasons conservatives are increasingly attracted to authoritarianism and fascism and other anti-democratic forms of government is because they feel like they can’t win and enforce their view otherwise.

        I’m 40. That is not that old. For most of my childhood and 20s, social conservatives were all powerful and corporate America listened to them. Last fall, the radical Bolsheviks at (checks notes) Nabisco came out with some tweets and a marketing campaign in support of using a person’s preferred gender pronouns and in support of LBGTQ rights. Dreher had a huge meltdown over this. But in a sense, he is correct. For most of my life, it would have been unthinkable for corporations to do stuff like this. I can remember some ads from the early aughts that tried to feature samesex couples but the corporationns backed down quickly when the right-wing especially Evangelicals complained.

        They no longer have this power. Nabisco felt no need or benefit to listen to Dreher or any other right-wing person whine about how horrible those ads are. This is a huge sea change and I think it happened relatively quickly and while Trump was busy packing the Federal Courts with young reactionary firebrands from the Federalist Society. Remember the transgender bathroom ban could have cost North Carolina a lot of business and it cost them the governorship.

        There are still a lot of relatively young people who cut their political teeth on Reganism and Gingrichism. This cohort is anywhere between the ages of 39-60. The largest group is probably born between 1960-1975 or so. The post-1975 crowd tends to be more liberal but there are still plenty of reactionaries in the 1975-1985 birth crowd.

        All of this group of soon to be middle-aged or middle-aged people think that small government Reaganism and social conservatism are the bee’s knees and can remember when such positions were unassailable. Now they are going the down and Biden is already being called the first post-Reagan President. Schumer is stating that it would be nice to have a bipartisan COVID relief plan but not if it means going with something small and useless.

        But you still have tens of millions of right-wingers (it is a large country) and they are very angry that they don’t have the power that they used to. Even the Trump years probably looked illusory to them in terms of power.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        As the saying goes, fiction has a well-known left-wing bias.Report

  4. Stillwater
    Ignored
    says:

    “Media, and journalism in particular, are fine and honorable professions on the whole.”

    Honorable? Well, I’ll let that go…

    I think the problem isn’t *media* consumption, but media *consumption*. It’s the idea that media is, in actual practice now, like a Big Mac. You eat it because you love the taste, because of how it makes you feel. And when some “above the fray” type comes along to tell you that eating processed food isn’t good for you. you tell em to zip it.

    Another problem is that our consensus-based norms regarding objective reality continue to erode (thanks post-modernism!), thereby obliterating anyone’s ability to make persuasive objective arguments about what constitutes good media, or even a good media diet. There is no agreement on even the most basic aspects of a shared discourse, let alone shared facts. The center cannot not hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. That sort of thing. We’re living it.Report

  5. Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    I forgot how much Americans complain about the media until I joined Twitter not so long ago.

    I think it’s a bit like “goddamn the pusher man!” though- most addicts get to a point where they can’t stand the thing they’re addicted to.Report

  6. Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    I do take responsibility for my own information consumption. That’s how I know how terrible the news media are. The problem is that most people do not. They accept what the news media tell them, and they vote. The results speak for themselves.

    Furthermore, I really shouldn’t have to do this. I have my own job; I shouldn’t have to do journalists’ jobs for them. I should be reasonably confident that if I go to the primary sources the media are using, I won’t find a completely different story from the story the media are telling me. Yes, I can work around this by fact-checking them, but they’re supposed to do that themselves.Report

  7. Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    Also its worth noting that “the media” encompasses everything from Epoch Times and OAN to CNN and the New York Times.

    And they are not all of equal value or veracity.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      I am increasingly inclined to read the Guardian’s US edition rather than the NYT.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain
        Ignored
        says:

        I find that the Guardian’s writers really do not understand how politics works in the U.S. The Times has its problems but I will take Michelle Goldberg, Paul Krugman, Jamelle Bouie, any day of the week over most Guardian columnists.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Saul Degraw
          Ignored
          says:

          I was unclear, I guess. I meant the news reporting, not the columnists. Today there’s a piece on Biden reversing many of Trump’s actions on environmental regulation. Yes, there’s the expected slant in the text — the Guardian is pro environmental protection, a known thing. But rather than a tirade, or diversions into the peccadilloes of Zinke and Pruitt, the writers provide thorough point-by-point lists of actions taken in Trump executive orders or actions by agencies, and what Biden has done to start reversing those. Neither the NYTimes nor the WaPost would put up an article like that.Report

  8. Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    When I was a little kid, my dad had a story in the local newspaper. He was a coach at the high school and he did well at regionals or something. In the article, they talked about him, his wife, and his two kids… and they spelled my name incorrectly.

    Like, if you look at any list of “Top Boy Names of 1970’s”, there’s my name. And they got it wrong. And they didn’t get it wrong like “Jonathan” to “John”. They got it wrong like “Matthew” to “Mayhew”.

    My mom clipped the article and put it in a little frame and it featured prominently on one of our bookshelves.

    Whenever I looked at it, I re-read the paragraph where they got my name wrong.

    Then, in the 80’s, they’d do local news stories on the evils of Dungeons and Dragons. When I’d read the stories, I’d see that they got something wrong. Like, “throwing around sixteen-sided die!” wrong.

    Ah, well. I’m sure that they’re covering Israel/Palestine correctly.Report

  9. rexknobus
    Ignored
    says:

    Get the bio out of the way: I got a degree in Journalism back in the Watergate days. While I’ve done documentary films, I’ve never worked as a journalist. That said, I’ve always been relatively unable to watch television news. So shallow. so ad-driven. Good for footage during big crises, but that’s about it. But when Trump was elected, I realized that I wanted a daily feed of talking heads. Went right to PBS News. Not much ad support. Pretty decent in-depth analysis. A feeling of, if not objectivity, at least fairness. My best take on televised news? If it isn’t somewhat boring, they are doing it wrong. Stories should be long, not punchy. Graphics should be simple, not exciting. Save the networks for when the bombs are dropping or when their budget can get a camera into the action. Use PBS NewsHour, which doesn’t have much of a budget, to gather some intelligent POVs.Report

    • Damon in reply to rexknobus
      Ignored
      says:

      Oh god, but the constant BEGGING for money……Report

      • rexknobus in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        Yeah, but…it’s constant for a week every couple of months or so. Yeah, but…you just record it on your dvr/TiVO and zip through the begging. Yeah, but…they beg you for your money so they don’t have to beg Proctor & Gamble, or the RNC/DNC, or Toyota, or whoever sponsors the other guys. And yeah, as a regular viewer I actually do contribute. $25 a month. I’m lucky enough to be able to do it painlessly, and I’m glad to support what they do to that small extent. And if you pay attention, you can donate and get a cool “gift.” Win Win.Report

        • InMD in reply to rexknobus
          Ignored
          says:

          Those tote bags are to die for.Report

          • rexknobus in reply to InMD
            Ignored
            says:

            O.k., one more post and now I’ll look like a complete shill/barker for PBS. When we signed up for the monthly payment, we got the complete deeeeeluxe “Downton Abbey” set (including movie and a plaque-mounted little bell for when the Dowager Empress calls for tea). We got our giant tottering pile of tote bags from magazine subscriptions. (Has anyone ever done a doc about where all the tote bags come from?)Report

        • Damon in reply to rexknobus
          Ignored
          says:

          Well, I was referring to the radio broadcasts, so I don’t record them. Even with the donations, they still are sponsored-I hear their “advertisement” when one of the announcers says that “this program is funded by blah blah blah and listeners like you”. Sorry, if listeners are paying for it, then no “sponsors”, i.e. ads. It’s an ad if some someone from the program reads the words or a paid actor reads the words. It’s now worse than adds on tv. It’s a terrible hybrid with public radio/tv. The begging for $ AND the ads. Damon doesn’t give money to organizations to then listen to ads.Report

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