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Tilting at Windmills

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July 28, 2010

HALPERIN ON 'THE MEDIA SPIRAL'.... At first blush, Mark Halperin's latest piece in Time deals with subjects I'm not inclined to read more about: O.J. Simpson's criminal trial and the media's handling of the Shirley Sherrod story. But there are actually some noteworthy observations in the piece, with real merit. (via Adam Serwer)

[T]he coverage of both sagas -- Simpson's, literally, for years; Sherrod's for the better part of a week -- was insanely overblown. The Sherrod story is a reminder -- much like the 2004 assault on John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- that the old media are often swayed by controversies pushed by the conservative new media. In many quarters of the old media, there is concern about not appearing liberally biased, so stories emanating from the right are given more weight and less scrutiny.

Additionally, the conservative new media, particularly Fox News Channel and talk radio, are commercially successful, so the implicit logic followed by old-media decisionmakers is that if something is gaining currency in those precincts, it is a phenomenon that must be given attention. Most dangerously, conservative new media will often produce content that is so provocative and incendiary that the old media find it irresistible.

So the news-and-information conveyor belt moves stories like the Sherrod case from Point A to Point Z without any of the standards or norms of traditional journalism, not only resulting in grievous harm to the apparently blameless, such as Sherrod, but also crowding out news about virtually anything else.

I take issue, from time to time, with Halperin's coverage of the political world, but on this, he couldn't be more right. It's an observation that usually goes overlooked, which makes it all the more encouraging that it's coming from Halperin -- who enjoys enormous credibility with the political media establishment.

He concludes that last week's obsession was a "low point" for political reporting, which should lead the media to "start climbing out of the pit."

Halperin doesn't explicitly call himself out on this -- The Page was complicit with last week's coverage -- and the piece brushes past the racial component of both stories. Nevertheless, he deserves a lot of credit for making plain how that conveyor belt operates, and highlighting why it's not working.

Here's hoping Halperin's piece is taken seriously by his colleagues.

Steve Benen 1:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Comments

we've had a lot of journalistic self-criticism for "low points" in the past decade, and it hasn't made a dime's worth of difference. at the end of the day, the same people are in the same jobs making the same judgements.

and mark halperin is an example - notice, as you did, the absence of self-criticism - of why nothing changes. if you can't honestly self-criticize, your performance is going to stay the same.

Posted by: howard on July 28, 2010 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Benen: I take issue, from time to time, with Halperin's coverage of the political world, but on this, he couldn't be more right.

Of course he's right. As you say, he has tons and tons of first-hand experience.

Posted by: cr on July 28, 2010 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

This post really flies in the face of a link (http://www.theygaveusarepublic.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=6245) you had yesterday talking about the real purpose of conservative "journalism." And that is to create a parallel universe where attacking the government and forwarding an agenda is the mission, not putting out "the facts" or being "objective."

The "old media" carries the right-wing nonsense to get in on the RATINGS, and NOTHING more... the people in charge of the "old media" are trying to make money after all....and you get that through ratings. And crowding out REAL news is THE WHOLE POINT.

Posted by: r_m on July 28, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Halperin wrote: "... the old media are often swayed by controversies pushed by the conservative new media."

No.

Both the "old media" and the so-called "conservative new media" are owned by a handful of giant corporations (e.g. Halperin's employer, Time-Warner).

Those corporations use their near-totalitarian control of virtually all the "news" available to most Americans to propagandize the American people in furtherance of the ruthless, relentless, rapacious, reactionary class warfare by the ultra-rich corporate oligarchy against everyone else.

The phony "conservative" media targets an audience of brainwashed Ditto-Heads.

The so-called "mainstream" media works in close collaboration with the "conservative" media to legitimize the same basic propaganda for a wider audience.

The "old media" is not "swayed" by the "conservative new media" -- they are both serving the same corporate masters, and reading from the same script, the only difference is that their style of propaganda is tailored for different target audiences.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 28, 2010 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any person who comes to this site who didn't know what Halperin said at least 15-20 years ago. Does anyone not think 'concern' in this context translates to 'cowardice'.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on July 28, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Halperin, as is his custom, is superficial and dumb and wrong. O.J. was deservedly a big story, and it was nothing like the Sherrod story.

One can argue that O.J. was over-reported (I wouldn't, but one can), but the O.J. case actually happened.

Sherrod, however, was a made-up story. The stuff the media reported didn't happen. When the racist and defamatory roots of that story were uncovered, that phenomenon got wide coverage, and that coverage was entirely appropriate.

Halperin, when gauging newsworthiness, doesn't take truth or falsity into account. He should.

Posted by: politicalfootball on July 28, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I'd give Halperin a smidgeon of credit if he had not been part of the "Obama's an elitist!" crowd during the '08 campaign. Halperin made his droll observation of Obama's elitism while sipping green tea on the Morning Joke set.

Yes, the "old media" takes their marching orders from the RWNJ media. That's been the case since Whitewater. It ain't gonna change any time soon.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on July 28, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

While I think it would be an improvement if the MSM were to stop parroting all of the sludge the wingnuts spewed out it would also reinforce the wingnut meme about the MSM ignoring them. I think the MSM would also need to go on the offense with respect to calling out the nonsense for what it is. I don't think just ignoring the nonsense is enough in 2010.

Posted by: rramos01 on July 28, 2010 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

It's an observation that usually goes overlooked, which makes it all the more encouraging that it's coming from Halperin -- who enjoys enormous credibility with the political media establishment.

Of course, Joe Conason and Al Franken, among others, documented the rancid Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance of the right wing propaganda machine nearly a decade ago -- which is doubtless why the so-called "liberal media" pays hardly any attention to them.

Posted by: Gregory on July 28, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Well, except that Halperin sees it as an institutional problem rather than as a political issue. I wonder, does he think it's just happenstance that it's the right wing noise machine is doing the race-baiting? And not, e.g., those librul fascists?

Posted by: MattF on July 28, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Other than Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert, I haven't watched TV in years. Mainstream news magazines? Time, Newsweek. I probably haven't read those in decades. I no longer get a daily newspaper. I get all my news via the internet.

And why, inquiring minds ask, have I abandoned TV news, mainstream publications, newspapers? Because one by one they become useless to me. They stopped reporting the story that needed to be told. It was becoming the sensationalist feeding frenzy that Halperin describes. Republicans would lie, would manipulate, would decieve, and the media just reported it as a valid point of view, a possible fact.

But recently I've been wondering about the lost audience--because I'm not alone, I know. As moderates and liberals tune out of the MSM, it leaves more and more conservatives in the audience determined to suppress the liberal voice. I wonder if I started turning on Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman daily, if others did the same, would that increase their ratings and start to increase advertiser pressure for more of the same?

Posted by: PTate in MN on July 28, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

PTate: I wonder if I started turning on Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman daily, if others did the same, would that increase their ratings and start to increase advertiser pressure for more of the same?

How would they know? Nielsen never calls me. Although I wonder sometimes if that new cable thingy they hooked up recently tells them what I watch. You know, like the cards you use to get sale prices at the supermarket keep track of what you buy.

Posted by: cr on July 28, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kudos to SecularAnimist. Brilliant and concise.

Posted by: Keeping Track on July 28, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

politicalfootball is 100% correct about OJ and Sherrod no be anything a like.

OJ, a famous athlete murders his white and then is pursued on TV by police. That a fricken big deal. Race wasn't an issue until months after the trial started.

Sherrod was unknown and the story was a fabrication, complete opposite of the truth from 20+ year old edited video from a know conservative hack.
Race was the only component.

Halperin is trying to equate the media frenzy of OJ to Sherrod which is pure non-sense. For the most part the OJ reporting by the majors was journalism, sources, verification, and accuracy.

Sherrod was the complete opposite, the only commonality is the frenzy, which could be said about the BP leak, Michael Jackson, or Mel Gibson, none of which are comparable to Sherrod.

Sherrod was a complete breakdown of all media standards, unlike anything I have ever seen.

Halperin's profession was responsible and trying to pass it off as 'everyone was in the frenzy zone' is pretty damn coward like. Making his point, pointless.

"Low Point", to that I say you ain't seen nothing yet. Wait till all this corporate money gets into the 2012 Presidential Campaign, we will miss the gentle swift-boaters I promise you.

Posted by: ScottW714 on July 28, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Wait a second -- so the guy who once said, "[Drudge] rocks our world," is now complaining about poor fact checking and the rightwing noise machine?

He can't be fucking serious.

This asshole admitted that he and others in the "old media" (of which he was a part as the head of ABC's news division) took their assignments from that slimeball site. He is in absolutely no place to complain since HE is one of the ones who created the monster -- it's absurd that he's now bitching about it getting out of control.

Maybe if he had done his job as a journalist, instead of being one of the many asshats who have become lazy in pursuit of ratings and promotions, we wouldn't have this problem.

Posted by: Mark D on July 28, 2010 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'm to lazy to google it; someone said TeeVee is chewing gum for the eyes (mind?)

We are tribal creatures, and tend to hang with like minded folk. I'm comfortable with Amy Goodman and Thom Hartman, while others find solace with a daily dose of Glen and Rush. Chacun a son gout.

Posted by: DAY on July 28, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and what Secular Alarmist said. Well done, sir or ma'am.

**tips hat**

Posted by: Mark D on July 28, 2010 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Ratings is a cheap excuse for not telling the truth. So is "the 24 hour news cycle"-is there only 6 hours worth of true things to relate? No, the end result, no matter how the marionettes may rationalize it, is that most of the news media is dispersing propaganda of varying flavors, for the benefit of the corporatist oligarchy. What to do? Maybe class-action suits on behalf of the consumers of news. Make the liars pay. Then they might re-hire their fact-checkers, if they ever had any.

Posted by: Keeping Track on July 28, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

politicalfootball on July 28, 2010 at 1:29 PM points out a very unpleasant attitude which adopts pretend news as equal to actual double murder . This is all in a row of events that presently broadcast a senate candidate as an optometrist without noting his certification is homemade .
etc etc etc
Ted Frier had his usual insight , yesterday , intact with his parsing of the RWNJ corporate media on balance to what significance it contributes to the American experience . In other words masturbation feels especially good the closer you get to being the individual who is defining by funding the onanism that is for todays media what is ambition .

Posted by: FRP on July 28, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Not reading Halperin's piece: does he mention Tiger Woods? That would be the overblown African-American storyline trifecta.

I am floored that Halerpin is aware of this pattern. Completely floored. He deals in it himself -- frequently, and by choice. Yet it's like he thinks he's a clerk in some faceless beaurocracy: "Between you and me, Comrade, I agree the policies make no sense. But they're the policies! Not up to us to change them!"

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on July 28, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

What SecularAnimist said.

I kind of know what the distinction is that Halperin's making between his version of 'old' and 'new' media but it too me a second to figure it out.

Both 'new' and 'old' (as defined by him) are tradition broadcast media. The U.S. government allowed for the conglomeration of this tradition media such that single corporations could own huge swaths of it -- something that would have been illegal in an earlier age. Then the tilt of this media -- not surprisingly -- began reflecting the interest of its owners such that right-wing radio began to flourish.

It's ownership that defined the market and not the other way around. In any case, another 'benefit' of deregulation.

Posted by: leo on July 28, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kudos, Leo. After final consolidation, the Chairman of the Board becomes Big Brother, and the Bush experiment in newspeak becomes standard speech.

Posted by: Keeping Track on July 28, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

scottw714: Sherrod was unknown and the story was a fabrication, complete opposite of the truth from 20+ year old edited video from a know conservative hack.

The story was partial, not fabricated, and the video was recent, not 20+ years old.

Meanwhile, Shirley Sharrod is a committed Marxist who thinks that white people invented slavery, and Charles Sharrod's rhetoric is racist and incindiary. The Pigford settlement (for which the Sharrods' work seems to have been admirable) is a disaster, looking like a lot of frauds. Not on the scale of sugar and ethanol subsidies or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the longer the story lasts, the more it reflects badly on the Obama administration.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 28, 2010 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

for a center-right view with links, read this:

http://www.gaypatriot.net/2010/07/27/my-apology-to-shirley-sherrod-withdrawn/

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 28, 2010 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Here's hoping Halperin's piece is taken seriously by his colleagues? Hell, here's hoping Halperin's piece is taken seriously by Halperin.

The guy periodically has episodes of insightful introspective self-awareness which he promptly sublimates into lectures to his colleagues. But they are few and far between and invariably seem to be followed by a particularly egregious and sustained episode of specious asshattery.

Posted by: Steve (Not That One) on July 28, 2010 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

EJ Dionne has a similar, though stronger commentary on the insane influence that the new conservative media has ahd on what is supposed to be the 'real media' amd 'real jounralists.' He says that the bending over backwards to avaoid a liberal label has led to total disregard for the most basic journalism standards of fact checking and verification - http://wp.me/pNmlT-jF

Posted by: Dan H on July 28, 2010 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

MatthewRMarler is a deliberate malicious liar.

As everyone well knows who has had the misfortune to read his rubbish on this site over the years.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 28, 2010 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

secularanimist, i was just about to say that as low as matthewrmarler has been over the years, his 5:15 is even lower, a piece of stupidity worthy of jeffrey lord.

what a stupid shmuck matthewrmarler is: not a single of his 5:15 comments has anything approximating intelligence behind it.

Posted by: howard on July 28, 2010 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Which is a lie? that Sharrods did good work on Pigford? That Shirley Sharrod is a committed Marxist? That Charles Sharrod's rhetoric is incindiary? that the video is recent? That some of the claims in Pigford are fraudulent? That Shirley Sharrod has attributed slavery solely to whites? These statements are all in the record.

[you are coming dangerously close to being banned for trolling by repeatedly pushing false talking points on this issue. Consider this your only warning - mod.]

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 28, 2010 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

I think that my respect for you, Secular Animist, howard, and mod, has been snuffed out. for what it's worth, goodbye.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 28, 2010 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

[draws self up righteously] I think that my respect for you, Secular Animist, howard, and mod, has been snuffed out. [chokes back sobs, takes deep breath bravely] for what it's worth, goodbye.

oh, come on, matty. last time you huffed out of here you just came back spreading the same bullshit under a bunch of fake names. "respect" is something you've never shown anyone on this blog.

Posted by: on July 30, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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