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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Media Calvins 

Good post now on Liberal Oasis Giving Up On The Public about what kind of media coverage could be generated about the substantive points raised in the convention speeches.
Years ago, I read a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin is supposed to do a school report on bats. He complains to Hobbes "Bats? But I don't know anything about bats. How can they expect me to do a report on something I know nothing about?" And Hobbes mutters "Well, I suppose research is out of the question?"
It strikes me that a number of the high-profile American media types today are Calvins -- they are not particularly knowledgeable about anything, and they feel that having to research anything. like ABM treaties and assault weapons, is really beneath them.
And the reporters have been able to get away with this by what I call "Gonzo Journalism" - stories and chit-chat about  personalities and staged events and "he said, she said" pseudo-controversies and "breaking news" like fires and police chases -- like Jon Stewart's candidates' wives stories.  The TV reporters fake it with fast skims of newspaper stories.  But the newspaper reporters are using uncredited  news agency stories as tje basis for their own output.  Its positively  incestous -- the high- profile reporters skim other reporters' stories for their own research, or get an intern to look up a few clippings.
The only place you now see American journalists doing actual research is for feature magazine stories -- places like Newsweek and Time and Atlantic, and Harpers, and the New York Review of Books, and The New Yorker - and for 60 Minutes.   In an average week, the total output is maybe five or six real "stories".
At least in Canada, we have CBC and CTV programs like The Fifth Estate and Passionate Eye and a few other news programs where actual research is the basis of the stories they do. And the Globe does a consistently good job on its feature stories.
Isn't it funny -- when Turner first started CNN, it was supposed to be a financial disaster, but instead its success has spawned innumerable other all-news stations and TalkRadio and CSPAN and all that -- so we have more American news on today than ever before and yet so much of it is just Gonzo.


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