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The so-called “national conversation” has been neither. Have top news stories been determined by a “20-person protection racket” within a few square blocks in New York? 9/21/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in National conversation.
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Each day for decades, mainstream news outlets have presented Americans with a strikingly similar set of news stories and angles, referring to them as “the national conversation.” Has it been just a remarkable coincidence that all news outlets spontaneously and instantly agreed these were the top stories? Obviously not, and Ed Driscoll shines light on the dark side of this phenomenon that involves as few as 20 people within a few square blocks of each other in New York. Each evening the NY Times (lately in collaboration with the Washington Post) selects the top stories based on its center-left politics. Their lead is followed so tightly by the 3 TV networks that former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg has put it, “If the New York Times went on strike tomorrow morning, they’d have to cancel the CBS, NBC, and ABC evening newscasts tomorrow night.”

What do the TV networks (and most other newspapers) get out of mindlessly following the Times’ lead? Driscoll supports the contention of Chicagoboyz’s Shannon Love that this mainstream news outlet consensus provides outlets with protection from being singled-out for criticism and also projects a sometimes-false illusion of accuracy. In Love’s analogy, if every clock in town chimed at the same time, we would assume that all were correct, but a single clock chiming at a different time would cause us to lose faith in the accuracy of all of them. So apparently, it’s not just the “national conversation” that has been neither. All too many in our self-styled “fiercely-independent and courageous” press may be neither, too.

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1. Don - 9/23/07

Despite Halberstam’s unvarnished liberalism his book The Powers That Be offers great insight into the symbiotic relationship politicians and mass media. Prior to the massificaton of politics both the Presidency and Washington DC seemed distant and relatively unimportant to a vast majority of Americans. Prior to mass media’s invention of the press conference a handful of reporters simply submitted written questions to President Hoover who might deign to answer them within a few days.

The Presidency, Washington DC, and mass media itself became infinitely more powerful after radio enabled FDR’s dramatic voice to enter the living rooms of middle America. Ordinary people who in an earlier era might live their whole lives without ever hearing a President speak could now listen to that great voice. With mass media’s help FDR soon developed a direct emotional connection with Americans. Mass media’s stature grew while formerly omnipotent state party organizations became less necessary to FDR.

In the decades following FDR mass media reigned supreme in politics. Until the Inet began to seriously challenge its dominant position.


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