Media

Media Loves Big Government

Reporters seek out stories about government saving the day

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SharylAttkisson.com

Reporter Sharyl Attkisson's story sounds familiar to me: A major network got tired of her reports criticizing government. She no longer works there.

The CBS correspondent reported on Fast and Furious, the shifting explanation for the Benghazi, Libya, attacks, and the bungled rollout of the Obamacare website. "But as time went on, it was harder to get stories on," she says. 

"There are people who simply would rather just avoid the headache of going after powers that be because of the pushback that comes with it, which has become very organized and well-financed," she says on my TV show this week. 

I left ABC for similar reasons. When I began consumer reporting, I assumed advertisers would censor me, since sponsors who paid my bosses wouldn't want criticism. But never in 30 years was a story killed because of advertiser pressure. Not once. (I hear that's changed since, and big advertisers, such as car dealers, do persuade news directors to kill stories.)

"I do a lot of reporting on corporate interests and so on, so there's pressure from that end," says Attkisson, but "there's a competing pressure on the ideological end." Right. Ideology affects more stories than "corporate interests."

My ABC bosses leaned left. They liked stories about weird external threats from which government can swoop in to rescue you. 

They are much less fond of complex stories in which problems are solved subtly by the dynamism of the free market. The invisible hand, after all, is invisible. It works its magic in a million places and makes adjustments every minute. That's hard for reporters to see—especially when they're not looking for it.

Often, when it comes to news that happens slowly, the media get it utterly wrong. I suspect we get it wrong now about things like global warming, genetically modified foods, almost any story related to science or statistics, or, heck, basic math. Math threatens many reporters. 

Combine all that with the news proverb "If it bleeds, it leads," and you get some very misleading, scary reporting. 

That's why it's good that there's a new media organization called Retro Report that reveals media hype of the past. It archives stories like the purported "crack babies" epidemic, Tawana Brawley's being "attacked by six white men," the rise of "super-predator" teenagers, and other disasters that didn't happen—but did have big effects on public policy, as politicians rushed to fight the imaginary menaces. 

I believed in many similar stories when I was a young reporter. You would have, too. We interviewed scientists who sounded alarmed. They had data that proved coffee causes pancreatic cancer and cellphones cause brain cancer. 

Of course, other scientists were skeptical, but they were harder to interview than the crusading scientists. What was in it for the calm, reasonable ones? What would they gain by taking time from their own research to try to educate stupid reporters? Plus, if they were quoted, they'd make enemies. It's easier just to avoid the media.

So we reporters talked to the activists and trusted them. They were like us. They wore blue jeans and said they wanted to protect people. The scientists who were skeptical about the latest scare, on the other hand, were often funded by business. They wore suits. Why trust them?

And they were boring, the ultimate crime in media. Company lawyers had told them "be cautious" when talking to reporters. Caution is poison to us. A scientist saying we don't really have good evidence that coffee causes cancer is just not as interesting as one saying, "Coffee may kill you!" 

Plus, politicians were always ready with some proposed regulatory "solution." That's easy to report on, too. Just go to the politician's press conference. Then we feel we've done our job. 

But all we've really done is spread the hype pushed by the big-government establishment. They fool us again and again. Attkisson and I rejected the hype. Are there others at CBS or ABC? Or at PBS, NPR, or NBC? I hope so.

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37 responses to “Media Loves Big Government

  1. The media is statist and government loving because it’s part of it. They don’t call it The Fourth Estate for no reason.

  2. Benghazi, Libya, attacks, and the bungled rollout of the Obamacare website.

    All covered ad nauseum at the time. Sorry, Sharyl, it isn’t “news” just because some angry wingnuts want to score TEAM points. Ask Lara Logan how her attempt at Benghazi news went in her effort to placate the rightwing nutjobs. 60 Minutes had to issue an apology and suspend her.

    1. Palin’s Buttplug|6.25.14 @ 12:12PM|#
      “Benghazi, Libya, attacks, and the bungled rollout of the Obamacare website.
      All covered ad nauseum at the time.”

      And lied about then and since.
      Thanks, turd, for proving the point.

    2. Hodor.

      1. the new derp?

    3. Re: Peter Caca,

      All covered ad nauseum at the time.

      The media saying “Some ambassador died out there in I-can’t-find-the-damned-place-in-a-map because of this video Susan Rice mentioned in some Sunday shows, so let’s move on, nothing to see here” is not the same as covering the story ad nauseam.

    4. Snippets of truth entering your brain has been proven to cause ad nauseum (mathematically induce nauseum). Stossel did a report on it back when he worked for ABC. Fortunately, government came up with a solution….you’re soaking in it?.

  3. I have such trouble with Atkisson. On the one hand, she’s an invaluable investigative reporter, as noted above. On the other hand, she’s an extreme vaccine conspiracy theorist, and has written multiple articles completely devoid of scientific fact that the anti-vax community tends to cite a whole lot when it comes to defending their own idiocy.

    1. Everyone has a blind spot. You just judge her articles by each one’s merit. Just because she is a nut about that subject doesn’t mean she is wrong about Obama.

      1. Oh, I agree. Like I said, she’s an invaluable investigative reporter. Just have trouble with her as a person as a result.

        1. (as a result of the vaccine stuff, not as a result of the investigative reporting. In case that wasn’t obvious)

    2. I have met parents devastated by the effects of vaccines on their kids. Thousands of them support web sites.

      One was a woman whose baby went into insatiable screaming hysterics the night she got the shot. The woman took the baby in to the pediatrician next morning. Pediatrician told her he’d had the same complaints from about a dozen others and that he would immediately report a bad batch to the pharmaceutical company.

      The next day, the Feds came in and shut down his practice, boarded it up.

      Best protection is a good immune system. Nothin’ beats it. Even the theory of vaccines ends up in a more vulnerable body.

      1. All of Andrew’s cockstrong anti-skeptic rhetoric seemed to disappear in smoke. It’s a lot easier to hold an indefensible position if you simply ignore the counterarguments and repeatedly assure yourself that all who disagree are wacko kooks. Or wacko birds.

        Wonder how Andrew feels about government mandate. I for one love it when self styled libertarians grant an exception to state skepticism when the subject is the CDC and contagious diseases. To ignore the potential for side effects, widespread immune suppression, and other unintended consequences, as well as the possibility–er, likelihood–that government will try to force vaccines for diseases for which chances of infection are virtually nil (i.e. potential side effects for no benefit, all under a government mandate) is nothing short of fucking communist.

        I can call the gigantic wart on my cock an ice cream cone, but it’s still a wart.

        1. “To ignore the potential for side effects, widespread immune suppression, and other unintended consequences, as well as the possibility-”

          I for one love it when self-styled libertarians post lies about stuff.

          1. You’re right. Nothing but big, fat lies. http://www.historyofvaccines.o…..rse-events

            Keep that head buried 5 ft under the sand, Sevo. Then you’ll never have to deal with tough things like the facts. Master that process, and you’ll be ready to join the ranks of your fellow commies on center stage in Washington. God speed.

            Now go do your homework, little boy.

  4. Most journalist would say this is a feature, not a bug. The media, for whatever reason, is dominated by TOP MEN thinking. Maybe they’re just smart enough to believe in their own superiority, but not smart enough to understand markets and decentralized problem solving. Maybe they’re just intellectualy lazy. Whatever the cause, they are determined to “change the world” and will turn on anyone who doesn’t advance their chosen agenda.

    1. The media loves power. I didn’t fully realize this until I saw how they treated George W. Bush after he left office. Now, they hated Bush’s politics and did everything they could to destroy him while in office. Yet, they kiss his ass at every opportunity now that he has left office. Why? Because since he no longer can run for office, his politics no longer matter. All that is left is the din of the power he once held. Strip away the politics and the media just can’t resist the attraction of even someone who used to have a lot of power.

      The media generally favors Democrats. They do that for a variety of reasons. But the biggest reason is that the Democrats most overtly stand for the power of government. And the media loves that more than anything else. If you start looking at them in that light, most of what the media does starts to make sense.

      1. I think this is about right. Most of the folks in the media view themselves as courtiers. A reasonably intelligent politician will indulge their delusion because it makes them easier to use.

        1. Imagine also your job is to fill a certain amount of space on a page. Now, you can scrounge around, spend a lot of time finding a story which may not meet your editor’s approval.
          Or you can take that press release right there, alter it enough to look like you’ve written something and give your editor something that no one in power is going to gripe about. All in, oh, 5 minutes.
          Which would you do?

          1. I can’t entirely buy this explanation. If it were the case, they’d occaisionally regurgitate a press release that didn’t involve ever-expanding government.

    2. ” Maybe they’re just smart enough to believe in their own superiority, but not smart enough to understand markets and decentralized problem solving.”

      In college I tutored a lot of journalism majors in basic math and science, what little they were required to take. The vast majority are not smart enough to understand markets or decentralized problem solving. In fact, there is a long list of things they are not smart enough to understand.

      1. Does that list correspond to the list of stuff the cover on a regular basis?

  5. Have I mentioned I like Stossel?

  6. OT: people make money off Suarez bite:

    http://www.espnfc.com/fifa-wor…..arezs-bite

  7. Shorter version: “Reporters are lazy, stupid asshats.”

  8. Did anyone else note the GLEE last night on the CNN team covering the primary results. They were chiming in about how the establishment has shut down the insurgents within their ranks and ‘the establishment strikes back’ etc. Sure, they were trying to sound even handed, but that they couldn’t stop their smiles entirely.

    Though, on the other hand, Dana Bash wasn’t smiling. Seemed like she got sent to Buttfuck MS for the week on the chance she’d get to cover a big upset, and it didn’t happen.

  9. sigh…you are all so young, dumb and full of cum (I presume).

    Look, young idiots–the media gets its money from corporations. The more $ the corps make, the more ads the corps buy in the media. You are smart to understand that, right?

    The american federal govt was formed over 200 years with the EXPRESS, WRITTEN intention and goal of suppressing democracy in order to allow the rich to get richer, to protect the wealth of the rich. Period.

    Now that you hopefully understand what the american govt was created to do, do you now see why the media likes the fed govt?

    You stupid fucking little twerps. If only you were half as educated as you think you are…

    1. You came here to spout off leftoid dogma, as if we haven’t already been hearing this bullshit all our lives?

      It’s a damn good thing this country wasn’t a democracy, or it would have went the way of every other democracy a long time ago: the progressive looting of all by all, in order to pay for unaffordable welfare benefits, eventually leading to the collapse of that government and society.

      Look at history, you pretentious dilettante. It’s the same old story on repeat; libertarians are people who think it doesn’t have to be that way.

      1. Was that even ‘leftoid’ dogma? Corps make money and thus buy advertising? WTF does that mean? Maybe some convoluted attempt at exposing crony capitalism. There may be a point mutation occurring in our trolls.

        1. straffinrun|6.26.14 @ 12:39AM|#
          “Was that even ‘leftoid’ dogma? Corps make money and thus buy advertising? WTF does that mean? Maybe some convoluted attempt at exposing crony capitalism. There may be a point mutation occurring in our trolls”

          Pretty sure it was brain-dead left; it means ‘profits are evul!’

    2. Shrike….what’s up numbnuts.

    3. You stupid fucking little twerps. If only you were half as educated as you think you are…

      Yet, ten times as smart as “unperson”.

  10. Why am I getting a message that I am leaving “Too many comments”? It happened on the first comment I made today?

    1. Evidently that was one too many.

  11. They’re comfortable with Big Government because they wish that revolving door to keep spinning.
    Every major DC based reporter/editor/anchor sees himself behind that podium in the WH Briefing Room.

  12. “That’s why it’s good that there’s a new media organization called Retro Report that reveals media hype of the past.”

    Each video begins with the big Old English “T” of the NY Times and says Retro Report is presented by the NY Times. That means it should be regarded with the same scrutiny as the paper. That’s not so good. At the very least, there are probably major omissions.

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