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Is modern journalism mostly about giving readers a status symbol? More about feeling smarter then everyone else than seeking truth? 5/3/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in ConsumerNeeds, ScandalJournalism.
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In his new book “Media Madness,” James Bowman makes a fascinating link between the core reader benefits of news and the scandal-obsessed journalism of today. He writes that a key motivator for consumer newspaper purchases is the vanity of knowing more than others do. Since we tend to assume that the privileged rich, powerful, and famous have access to knowledge the rest of us don’t, much of modern journalism has devolved into the questionable and narrow practice of digging out the “hidden truths” allegedly known only to elites.

The problem with this line of thinking among readers and the journalists who pander to it is that it fosters an unhelpful cynical attitude among the public that makes our country more difficult to govern. It has spawned what The Guardian’s Martin Kettle has called “punk journalism,” which “smacks of something bordering on journalistic fascism, in which all elected politicians are contemptible, all judges are disreputable, and only journalists are capable of telling the truth.” This scandal-obsessed journalism also tends to distort news by focusing on these allegedly “hidden” stories instead of those that are more visible and provide more representative perspectives. Might modern journalism’s failure to show us the world as it truly is be the greatest scandal of all?

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1. conservatism_IS_compassion - 5/4/08

Journalism’s rule of “Man Bites Dog” not “Dog Bites Man” insures that journalism is unrepresentative of what normally happens in society. In fact, it makes a photographic negative image of society – black where society is white, white where it is actually black.

If you wanted to send a spacecraft to another star, with only frozen embryos to populate a new colony on a distant planet, you might wish to convey your culture and society in some documentary form. You could think of using encyclopedias and history books to do that. But no amount of newspapers would suffice to do that because of what newspapers systematically do not report, and what the systematically do report


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