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Journalism’s main purpose was to enforce the First Amendment…but has eroded it instead says former Presidential Press Secretary 11/4/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in First Amendment.
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Former Presidential Press Secretary Tony Snow gave a stunning speech at The Media Institute in which he outlined the damage Modern Journalism has inflicted on the source of its freedoms, the First Amendment. He lamented that a handful of elite news organizations has been shaping and defining not just what has counted as news, but also what has counted as acceptable opinion, chilling the vigorous political debate the First Amendment attempted to foster. He bemoaned a culture of political correctness that forbids journalists from even acknowledging views that might ruffle feathers, creating self-censorship despite a First Amendment that forbids censors. He also chided Journalism for failing to support two other First Amendment freedoms inextricably-linked to freedom of the press by treating Christianity and other religions as a menace instead of a bulwark of our social order, and by cheerleading for a McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill that was an affront both to the public’s right to free speech and its freedom to assemble in the political town square.

But most disturbing was his theory for how journalism developed its monolithic center-left ideology over the last few decades. He believes it is a symptom of one-party Democratic rule for over 60 years, when journalists found it was easiest to do their jobs by sucking-up, socializing, and empathizing with those in power. Thomas Jefferson believed that journalism’s main purpose was to serve as a “fence” to protect individuals from government encroaching on their rights. He encouraged journalists to “attack” government and for the government to defend itself on an ongoing basis — that’s not something that can happen if journalists and politicians attend the same parties, send their kids to the same schools, and develop the same ideologies. On that score alone, Modern Journalism seems unworthy of the First Amendment freedoms it has been granted. (Hat tips: The Anchoress, Ed Driscoll)

Comments»

1. Ydobon - 11/5/07

For those who share my aversion to Adobe Acrobat, the text of Tony Snow’s speech is available on this web page.

“The Washington Press Corps is the most reliable Democratic voting bloc in the nation,” is just one of many excellent points.

Steve, I’m glad you posted about this speech. It’s one of several straws currently in the wind. Not least of them is your previous article on the Harvard study on Media Bias, and the remarkable lack of MSM reaction.

I’ll cover the other items each in a separate comment.

2. Ydobon - 11/5/07

Alan D. Mutter, “perhaps the only CEO in Silicon Valley who knows how to set type one letter at a time”, at Reflections of a Newsosaur, writes about the need for a Reality Check.

Happy-talk press releases, which won’t fool even the dullest media buyer, are dangerous in two ways. First, they detract from the already weakened credibility of the industry. Second, they convey a false sense of progress to publishers, editors and ad sales people who ought to be scared as hell about the future of their industry.

Strong language, particularly considering Alan Mutter’s purview.

3. Ydobon - 11/5/07

From NewsBusters,

It appears that Editor & Publisher felt the need to get in front of some really bad news in the newspaper business.

The link is from NewsBusters instead of Editor and Publisher directly because the NewsBuster story has links to previous posts about reports of falling circulation.

4. Ydobon - 11/5/07

From McClatchy Watch, McClatchy Shares Fall Lower.

McClatchy Company (MNI) shares closed today at $16.35, down 23 cents over Thursday’s close.

The grabber is the picture at the link. I’m not an experienced stock watcher, but Alan Mutter’s “publishers, editors and ad sales people ought to be scared as hell” seems accurate.

5. Ydobon - 11/5/07

From Silicon Alley Insider, Woe Is News: AP CEO Bemoans GOOG et al; We Respond.

It’s annotated highlights of a speech by Associated Press Head Tom Curley. A sample from the speech.

Our institutional arrogance has done more to harm us than any portal.

Henry Blodget’s interspersed commentary runs out of steam about half way through, but here’s a bit of it.

Before Tom’s speech, we actually thought AP (if not newspapers) was in a decent position to survive the creative destruction that is destroying old media fortunes. Apparently we were wrong.

That’s the kind of analysis audiences are crying out for. Insightful, accurate and honest.

There’s even better in a followup comment by a user known only as Thomas. Here are the money quotes.

Business news is sickening.
Journalists and editors are drawing with crayons.

But, please, read the whole thing. Especially Thomas’ comment in its entirety.

6. Steve Boriss - 11/5/07

Ydobon, Thanks for bringing to readers’ attention these new developments. One of the many things that I found interesting was the way both Snow and the AP CEO included a call to action and tried to make things sound positive and hopeful. It did not feel as if in either case they believed their own statements of optimism.

7. Ydobon - 11/5/07

Steve Boriss wrote “It did not feel as if in either case they believed their own statements of optimism.

That’s the aspect I was too close to the forest to see. Thanks for bringing it out.

I sense that same type of attitude in Alan Mutter’s statement. Only from him it comes across as frustration. Severe frustration.

As a technical request, please show the time as well as the date of each comment on the blog.

8. Steve Boriss - 11/5/07

Ydobon, Thanks for the suggestion. I’m not sure how easy it will be for me to figure out how to add the time of comments given I’m working with a WordPress template, but I’ll look into it.

9. Ydobon - 11/5/07

Steve,

Recovering Journalist has The Chasm, first in a series on long term ad revenue forecasts.

We will see unspeakable changes in the industry over the next few years.

Technical: WordPress Template tag comment_time. It apparently uses php date formats.

If you currently have “comment_time(‘n/j/y’)”, adding ” H:i”,
“comment_time(‘n/j/y H:i’)” should give

“11/5/07 22:04”

Should this crash your blog I will change my nick and disavow all knowledge of your site.

10. Steve Boriss - 11/5/07

Ydobon, That helps, although the comment time is not visible in the template, so I’d have to add some code to the CSS override page. If you happen to know the code to add, I’ll give it a try right away.

11. Ydobon - 11/5/07

Based on the comment_time link,

<p>comment timestamp: <?php comment_time(‘n/j/y H:i’); ?></p>

It may get munged in the posting. My expertise does not lie with php.


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