Thursday, August 11, 2011

State of the Media

Salon.com has Glen Greenwald, who I read eagerly every time a new piece appears, but when you look at their home page you find such headlines as, “I wish politics was baseball,” “A cake album becomes a book,” and “Am I a cuckold?” Joan Walsh runs the place and is a regular “guest expert” on Hardball and The Last Word, which may tell you something about the state of our media.

For instance, a piece under the headline, “The best friend Obama ever had?” begins with a sentence which is so transparently wrong that it is hard to believe that anyone would read the rest of the article,

Barack Obama's approval rating is holding steady below 50 percent -- sometimes well below 50 percent -- and there's reason to doubt…

How can his rating be “holding steady below 50 percent” while being “well below 50 percent” some of the time? Given that behavior, it is not holding steady but is “fluctuating below 50 percent,” not “holding steady below 50 percent.” Since the writer doesn’t even know that difference, why am I interested in reading his opinion on anything? Answer: I’m not, and I did not read the article. So I don’t know who Obama’s best friend is.

Huffington Post has… Well, they don’t have anybody, because all of their authors work for free and you get what you pay for. In this case you mostly get people who cannot get published elsewhere or who everybody else has fired. At least they dropped the flashing yellow backgrounds.

They do have a “Media Director,” Howard Fineman, whose job is to appear every day on Hardball or The Last Word, and sometimes on both. He ran out of anything to say about two years ago, so now all he does is tell Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell how wonderful they are and recite how many phone conversations he has had with unnamed people in high places, and recite what they purportedly told him.

Our local paper is much the same, with writers devoted to “cutesy” openings that “personalize” the piece and, unfortunately, disguise the subject matter, sometimes for several paragraphs. The sports writers used to be exempt from that, but editors have browbeaten them into it as well, so now I’m reading the sports page and can be several paragraphs into an article and not even know which sport is involved, much less what the article is about.

One paper still does it right. Here’s an opening paragraph from an item in the San Francisco Chronicle,

An 85-year-old woman and her live-in caregiver have died from injuries they suffered during a late-night fire Sunday in a Pacific Heights mansion, authorities said Wednesday.

What happened? Who did it happen to? Where did it happen? When did it happen? All succinctly answered in the first paragraph. Details follow, but as you read the article, you know precisely what you are reading about; you know the basic facts. Unlike my local paper today where, four paragraphs into a story, I’m wondering, “Am I reading about an event? And if so, what was the event?” Pathetic.

1 comment:

bruce said...

maybe you can have a late-in-life career as a journalism instructor. Oops, sorry, no patience...

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