Thursday, January 13, 2011

Signs of Hope

I believe the national electronic media….a/k/a “the drive-by media”; “state-controlled media”; “lame-stream media” , are beginning, slowly, to realize that feeding the beast should be done with a modicum of consideration about the beast’s diet. Feeding the beast is what those who gather, produce, edit, and report news call the process of getting news on the air.

This past week, for the first time ever, a couple national news outlets have stopped referring to the Westboro Baptist Church by name, and are now using descriptive language which names neither the organization nor its misguided leader, Phred Phelps. Reports on NBC Nightly News and CNN don’t name the church. A report run by ABC News, generated by Arizona affiliate station KGUN-TV (Kay-Gun Nine News!!!!!!!!!!!!!, as they refer to themselves), uses the name of the church when talking about the law the Arizona legislature quickly passed to put a muzzle on WBC, Phelps, and their ilk.

Publicity is what Phred and his band of gay-haters crave, and for too long they’ve had a free ride with the media covering everything they show up at. Phred knows this is the stuff that keeps the money rollin’ in, and is clever enough to capitalize on the media’s default position, which I’ve said many times is “excess.”

When I was a news anchor at a Madison talk station, two of the talk show hosts would put Phred on for a half-hour or more at least once a month. I asked one of them why he kept booking Phelps (implying that Phred’s schtick was getting predictable and he never said anything new or different), and his reply was “this is the kind of stuff that gets the Madison liberals all wound up.” My next question: “If so, how come nobody ever calls in while you have Phred on?”

Maybe the day is dawning when those who are feeding the beast have come to realize that publicizing crazy people and their followers simply because they make for unusual audio and video might not be the best idea.

News organizations have a right to put on whatever they want to call “news”, just as ESPN has a right (well, pays for the right) to televise the 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.

At least ESPN admits it’s entertainment.

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