It Just Doesn't Matter! It Just Doesn't Matter!

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Looking at this Center for the Study of Popular Culture complaint about the bias of NPR's "On the Media" program, a possibly career-restricting thought occurred to me—In a journalism culture where scarcity is being replaced by fantastic bounty, whining about or even calmly dissecting the political bias of supposedly authoritative news sources feels more and more, to me at least, like a cop-out.

Oh sure, the bastards are biased—especially On the Media! (In my one interaction with the show, they spent most of the time trying to get me to 'fess up that I and the project I was working on, were, indeed, politically conservative.) But the point is that NPR, PBS, CBS, CNN, even the hallowed New York Times … these organizations no longer run our lives, or even dictate the journalism agenda. The L.A. Times is losing readers hand over foot, and yet many of its critics are acting like Spring Street still has the power to elect governors, or ensure that certain stories never see the light of day. Far as I can reckon, there are no more barriers to publishing or broadcasting any story anymore, and though some days it may look like every major news outlet has the same agenda (some gal just ditched her wedding!), the reality is that there are several competing political and journalistic worldviews going head-to-head every day across every medium. If there's a story that needs covering, well, cover it! If you don't like the paper, well, start your own damned paper!

In fairness to David Horowitz (did I actually just say that?), he has created his own outlets where he can flog his hobby-horses until there's nothing left but the bones of Noam Chomsky. And of course, round-the-clock media dissection is a wonderful by-product of the New Era, bringing distributed intelligence to bear on what was once more of a priesthood, or at least a snobby guild. But just like the evil MSM has been slow to react to the realities of media bounty, so to some degree have its tormentors, by acting like the politics of a public radio media show even matter. NPR leans left! The Wall Street Journal leans right! Stand up, sit down, fight fight fight!

NEXT: Bring Back the Birch and the Cat o' Nine Tails

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  1. While I agree in general (LA times, etc), I think you are missing the point on NPR/public radio. I don’t care which way they lean (or even if the don’t lean at all) I just don’t want to pay for it!

  2. Anvil — I agree, and linked affirmatively to a Jack Shafer column making that argument a day or two back.

  3. Damn, you two beat me to my point. Though I thought I’d mention that PBS, from the sound of things, knows its in hot water, and supposedly this is the reason why they created a show for the Wall Street Journal and for Tucker Carlson. As for NPR, it actually kind of depresses me that they are one of the finest providers of news out there, but that a) I have to pay for it, and b) they are so leftist slanted. But I wonder what would happen if they ever went fully off the government dime? Would they just become another Pacifica, and go even farther left? Could government support actually moderate their natural inclinations?

    None of these are reasons not to privatize NPR, mind you, I just wonder what would happen to NPR next.

  4. Weirdly enough, the media analysis show I find to be the best and most balanced is FOX News Watch. The intelligent debate and discussion on that show stands in sharp contrast to the right-wing populism of most shows on FOX News. Even Cal Thomas makes sense sometimes. And in Jim Pinkerton they even have someone approximating a libertarian.

    I agree with Matt’s point though. NPR is biased to the left — On the Media almost humorously so — but whining about the Liberal Media is so stale. Can’t the sides just call a truce? Conservatives can stop bitching about NPR and liberals can stop bitching about FOX News. With all the energy Brent Bozell has put into his MRC, he could be running his own network by now.

  5. Would they just become another Pacifica, and go even farther left? Could government support actually moderate their natural inclinations?

    I don’t know. In its heart, I think NPR truly considers itself objective and even-handed. A lot of people at CNN, FOX, the New York Times, and CBS truly feel that way about their own outfits too. Pacifica does not. I don’t think NPR would suddenly abandon its desire to be objective if they were cut loose, and that would keep it from wandering off too far into Pacifica territory.

  6. Complaining about media bias now is like flogging a dead parrot – it just isn’t any fun anymore.

  7. While I agree with the premise that the MSMs have declining control I would like to see the blogosphere do much more CREATION and REPORTING of original news stories. Way too often they’re just putting their own differing viewpoints on the same story-of-the-day from the AP or UPI feeds. (Runaway Bride indeed. How many sites have been blathering about the same story?)

    The capability is certainly there, although then they run many of the same costs and risks (legal liability) as the established news sources. But after all, wasn’t Drudge’s jumpstart to fame that he ran a little story about an intern that none of the MSMs would touch?

  8. Yeah that Fox News Watch show is weirdly not bad. It noticably departs from the usual format on Fox: republican news anchor with big hair agrees with republican hack about how totally awesome republican politician/idea is.

  9. Any time that Meatballs is referenced, the weekend will be just fine….

  10. I LOVE FOX NEWS.

  11. Complaining about media bias now is like flogging a dead parrot – it just isn’t any fun anymore.

    It’s not dead, it’s pining for the fjords.

  12. and all all the while they’re really pining for the fnords…

  13. I agree Matt, don’t get mad, get even. If you ignore them and assume that they are axiomatic and start your own alternatives, you do a lot more damage to the mainstream media than you do by whinning about bias that they have no incentive or desire to change.

  14. PBS and NPR really provide the best in-depth news, IMO, even though it leans further to the left then the Tower of Piza (or was it Pizza?:) Maybe it has a lot to do with less commercial breaks providing more time to deliver the news. I don’t listen to OTM, just the news and maybe some Prairie Home Companion or Car Talk when working around the house and no game is on.

    I would be inclined to donate to NPR during their donation drives, but as it is, I feel I would be double billed. If they were to get off the gov’t tit, I would feel more inclined to send some cash. But, if they had to add commercial breaks like regular broadcasting, then they would likely lose their appeal and become CNN, ABC, CBS, etc, etc…

    In the meantime, there are bigger fish to fry, end the war on drugs, farm bill, medicare, no child left behind, religous tax exempts, etc, etc…

  15. “(some gal just ditched her wedding!), ”

    I still cannot fathom how that could even
    be *local* news, much less national news . . .

  16. Pining for fnords is fine enough, but I’m still thinking about Matt’s metaphor ‘hand over foot’. :?)

  17. I’ve never met a phor I didn’t want to mix!

  18. Sweet Mother of God! I had no idea that Bob Edwards earned that much!

    http://www.current.org/rad/rad021aftra.html

    (Scroll down about halfway down the page…)

  19. You can flog a dead parrot and not worry, but you really do have to put a stake through a vampire’s heart to kill it.

  20. I generally agree with the idea that complaining about media bias is, like, totally antediluvian and stuff.

    For me, the point is that media are just a bunch of people, telling me stuff, and I know that, and I know they’re telling me stuff for a reason, so I know they’re biased, so what’s the big deal?

    I felt that way when Jon Stewart got all aggro on Crossfire. I wanted to say that people more or less know that it’s a two guys having a fight and telling me stuff, for their own reasons, and I don’t take it seriously, and figure that most people, at some level, don’t either.

    Not that I actually watch Crossfire.

  21. Hmmm, mentioning Pacifica makes me think of something… With all the focus on NPR, why don’t people complain more about Pacifica? Perhaps others may have different experiences, but everywhere I’ve lived it airs on a university’s student radio station- which is most certainly on the public dime, even considering that some have pledge drives. And it’s far more openly biased than NPR.

  22. You need to have actually heard of something before you can complain about it, probably.

  23. Much of the carping about media bias comes from sources who aren’t exactly unbiased themselves. For example, I like Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit site, but I get very tired of his continual carping about the “dishonest” coverage of the Iraq War by the NYT and the BBC. In the case of the former, he may have a point, but overall it strikes me as simply whining that the MSM doesn’t cover the war the way he wants them to. He seems to get a lot of his information on Iraq from Matt Drudge and Jim Dunnigan, and they’re as “dishonest” in their way (and a lot less accountable) as the MSM.

    There are lots of things to fault the MSM for – I find their science, technology and environmental reporting to be mediocre to abysmal – but ranting about “bias” or “dishonesty” serves no purpose. It’s the 21st Century, folks – we’ve got information sources coming out of our ears! Who cares what they say on TV or in the papers – look it up for yourself!

  24. Horseshit, Mark. The MSM heads for liberal rant-land frequently whenever the subject of blogs come up. I say as long as the MSM pretends to be what they’re not it’s still useful to call them on it.

  25. I flipped by Crossfire the other day and I’m glad to see they stopped having journalists on, if that is what you really want to call Begala, Snake, Novak, and Chip. They went straight to the hacks without even having to pay for 4 semi full time people. They can now just call people up and ask them to repeat verbatim their talking points. Nobody has to think, their doesn’t have to be a real debate, and CNN probably saved over $200K. It worked out for everyone.

  26. “Complaining about media bias now is like flogging a dead parrot – it just isn’t any fun anymore.”

    Sarnath beat me to this, but anyone who doesn’t see the hilariousness of flogging a dead parrot just has absolutely no sense of humor:

    “Mr. Praline : ‘ELLO POLLAAAAAAAY! POLL-EE! POLLY PARROT! WAKE UP!’

    (He bangs its head against the store counter, horribly hard.)

    ‘TESTIIIING! TESTIIIING! THIS IS YOUR NINE-O’ CLOCK ALARM CALL!’

    (He does it again, harder.)”

    http://orangecow.org/pythonet/pet-shop.html

    🙂

    Mark

    P.S. “Owner : Y-yeah, restin.’ Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, isn’t it, eh? Beautiful plumage!”

    God, those guys were good!

  27. Cool, resolved. The dead horse of any media institution’s bias is flogged into nonexistence.

    OK, what next… I guess, now, we stop complaining about how much of our money government spends?

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