Friday, September 10, 2010

Apparently It's News If The Media Says It Is

Perhaps I wouldn’t recognize news if it walked up to me on the street and whacked me in the butt with a two-by-four. Perhaps my understanding of what it is to be a “reporter” differs too greatly from the norm. And maybe I’m just disgusted at what gets reported and what passes for “news” these days.

Some idiot with a 50-person congregation in Florida says he’s going to burn a bunch of copies of the Koran (Qur’an, if you prefer) tomorrow, on the 9th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks (“nine-year anniversary”, as too many semi-literate news announcers will say). This is news? National news? Lead-story, top headline NATIONAL news? Now, he’s decided to back off - or, maybe not. He's waffling.

This whole story is two lines on some blog in Gainesville, Florida, as far as I’m concerned. Where is the judgment of these "news organizations"?

Once the Secretary of State of the United States got drawn into the controversy, and heads of foreign nations joined the fray, it was news, all right. And the only reason it got to that point, if you ask me, is because the people who decide what news is have no real compass about this stuff.

I fully expect my many friends in the media to push back at me on this. But to me, it’s like that horrible excuse for a human being at some tiny “church” in Kansas who leads his moronic band of sycophants to funerals of soldiers killed in action, and parades around with gay-hate signs. Giving people like this the kind of national media exposure they get is just as sick as the stunts they’re pulling.

Does the cleric in Gainesville have a right to burn the Koran? Absolutely, just as I have a right to loudly belch or fart in the middle of a meal at a nice restaurant. Only a person with a pathological need for attention would do so, though. And that’s what these bible-thumpers are: pathological persons.

But in the news game today, it’s most definitely monkey see, monkey do. If NBC picks it up, ABC, NBC, Fox, HAVE to run it, lest the (nonexistent) “comparative news sampler” think they missed the story. It has nothing to do with judgment; it has everything to do with mindless, blind “competition”, and it’s all internally driven.

Some whack-job at a tiny “church” in Florida threatens to burn the Koran and this becomes the number-one national news story in America? And continues to lead the news cycle when he backs down? And then waffles?

How sick we are.


  1. Some whack-job at a tiny “church” in Florida threatens to burn the Koran and this becomes the number-one national news story in America?

    Template, my man.

    No Wacko Secular/Lefty, no matter their crimes, will EVER get this sort of treatment. Only wacky "Christians" do.

  2. Remember the Madison guy back in the 80s who was going to burn a puppy on the steps of the city-county building to protest the war in Nicaragua?

    He was big news locally, but fortunately this was before the age of Instant Cable News or else the satellite trucks would be on his lawn and the President would be urging him not to burn the puppy.

  3. Dad29’s fictitious “template” presumes a monolithic media industry (another bit of fiction) and brushes off that inconvenient truth, human nature.

    Clues to the answer of why this sort of thing occurs may be found in the marketing tenets: It is contrast and motion that catches the eye. The grotesque and the bizarre will attract attention nicely, if a pretty mom, a cute baby and a dog cannot be in the picture.

    If what passes these days for the news industry uses anything resembling a template, it is surely designed to accommodate the offal found at the extremes of human behavior. And it does not play favorites.

    New York’s disgraced former governor, Democrat Eliot Spitzer, got caught in the spotlight and was pinned there for months. Former Democratic Sen. John Edwards’ infidelity to his ailing wife was not avoided by the headline writers.

    If “wacky Christians” seem to be much in the news, it is probably because they are in abundance and their doings are as fascinating to watch as a barn fire.

    To name a very few: Billy Sunday, Father Coughlin, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Oral Roberts, Al Sharpton (of Tawana Brawley fame) … and lesser lights such as President Obama’s former preacher, Jeremiah Wright; and Sarah Palin’s Kenyan witch-hunting pastor Thomas Muthee all had their day in the sun – purely because they were so weird. Dr. Terry Jones (as seen on Fox News), who thought it was OK to burn some other religion’s holy book, fits right in.

    The press (how quaint that term sounds) trolls the bottom because that is where to find the stuff readers want. What that it were not so. If the catch of the day tends to wear a particular political label, well, that’s what is in the water.

  4. Hieronymous,

    I liked your "trolling" and "catch of the day" metaphors. Reminded me of what happens when you dump a chum bucket over the side in shark infested waters: ye olde feeding frenzy!

    The Town Crank

  5. T!,

    For what it's worth, I was reading what Jerry Pournelle had to say about this Florida Quran thing. According to Pournelle, the Quran isn't really the Quran unlesss it's written in the original Arabic. A translation simply doesn't qualify. Thus there is no blasphemy. There's certainly intent to insult, but no blasphemy.

    Just a funny sidelight to this whole affair.

    The Town Crank

  6. Former Democratic Sen. John Edwards’ infidelity to his ailing wife was not avoided by the headline writers.

    Not during his CAMPAIGN. It was ignored, despite all the evidence, until after he was defeated.

  7. And, while we're at it:

    Were FDR's, and Kennedy's, and LBJ's, and Clinton's serial infidelity problems mentioned? Johnson's drunken-driving? His blatantly illegal radio-station deals?

    Sorta, kinda, and MUCH after-the-fact (except for one, just ONE stained dress.)

    You proved my point: the MSM Press is blatantly one-sided, has been for years. Decades, actually.

  8. If memory serves, the Madison puppy stunt took place on the steps of the Memorial Union, and by serendipity it occurred in roughly the same news week that a crazy person jumped into Chief the polar bear's pen at the Henry Vilas Zoo, (resulting in the lamentable death of Chief by gunfire from a Madison police officer), which was the same week Monona police rescued a hoarder from her home, passable only through little cave pathways. If I recall, she worked at a local meat-packing plant stacking cold cuts. Now, you have to admit, THAT was a great news week. Also, there were no blogs for Our Father of the Predictable to blame it all on the media.

  9. UNRELATED, but pertinent to "news" selection.

    Last Thursday, Enbridge was forced to shut down its trans-Wisconsin petroleum pipeline from Superior to Romeoville, IL.

    So what?

    Here's so what: that was the LAST pipeline feeding Chicago refineries: BP, Ex/Mob, and Citgo. The other (Enbridge) line has been shut down for several weeks for repairs.

    Result? ZERO refining in Chicago since Thursday, causing a 14 cents/gal price increase in 2 days, and the possibility (faint, but real) of zero gasoline in Chi/Mke/Mad/GreenBay by the end of this week.

    News coverage? Zero online in the Milwaukee paper. Zero, to my knowledge, on TV in the Mke market. Zero on radio (620 and 1130.)

    Who cares about gasoline drying up? Not the news media.

  10. Dear old Dad29. Reaching back to news coverage of FDR for an example of print media bias says more about you than it does about whatever point you are trying to make.

    The press never showed FDR from the waist down, either, because of his paralysis. Was it bias or deference? You write as if you were there, so your eyewitness experience would be of interest.

    JFK did get a pass on his philandering. Another of the Kennedy brothers was cut far less slack for his misbehavior.

    Republican Joe McCarthy got away with being a profligate drunk. Democrat Wilbur Mills wasn't so fortunate.

    This sort of thing still happens.

    Golfin' John Boehner (him of the orange hue because of his obsession with tanning booths) has yet to be called to account for his chronic drunkenness, even though he's a Washington punch line for it ("Everybody's blood alcohol level spikes when he walks into the cloakroom"). And why did Mitch McConnell get expelled from the U.S. Army after only 10 days? You can look it up, but you don't see the "liberal media" making hay with the answer.

    The fact that coverage of the peccadilloes of politicians (call it news, if you please) has never been evenhanded actually disproves your contention that the press works from a politically freighted template of some sort. The term "liberal media" evokes images of a monolithic industry. There is no such thing; never has been.

    Ummm ... OK, there's one exception: When it comes to attacking the "liberal" bogeyman, one media company - owned by an Australian and a Saudi prince - does work from a sort of template designed to control the American political right, and is always on message. Do those billionaire boys Rupert and Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal have your best interests at heart? You betcha.


    BTW ... If you go to the Internets and search the words enbridge chicago refineries you can read about the pipeline problem to your heart's content. Just because you didn't see it in the local newspaper doesn't mean the story was ignored. The news business isn't a monolith, you know.