Saturday, July 26, 2008


I've been struggling with the term "mainstream media" (ablogviated as MSM) for the last few days. It's used different ways, and the assumption is always that we know what is meant.

Maybe the writers are like Justice Potter Stewart, who couldn't define pornography "but I know it when I see it..."

From leeward we have enraged pundits accusing the MSM of being soft on John McCain, the latest being CBS News for editing out an answer that was just plain wrong and substituting another from the same interview. Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting likes to use the term "corporate media", which I think would be an accurate view of their MSM definition.

Windward, McCain has dusted off the 'liberal MSM is out to get me' chestnut, claiming that Barack Obama gets more coverage. The Fox News echochamber and friends have joined in, which is stunning, since Fox is stabled with the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in Rupert Murdoch's media barn. That's pretty mainstream.

Buying and selling out

I think the answer is less sinister in some ways, more in others. Pack journalism is alive and well in the media business. At the top of the mass media pyramid, a half-dozen papers compete with broadcast television, Reuters and the Associated Press. They want a scoop, but they're always looking over their shoulders at competitor's stories. It's competition: 'you snooze, you lose.' Watch the few minutes of actual news Fox slips into and between its opinion shows and you'll see they're part of the pack.

I suppose that's about as close as you're likely to get to a definition of MSM: a dozen or so media giants competing with each other. Other sources have to get their attention for other stories to be heard. The insidious part: how do you suppose smaller newspapers decide which national and international stories to feature and/or run? A partial answer is that wire services like the AP helpfully send out advisories of what's going to be on the front page of, say, the New York Times.

Islands in the stream

Saipan causes an interesting eddy in the mainstream. While the local newspapers seem to follow AP's Top Stories, an artificially large number of people seem to get their outside news from Fox. CNN and MSNBC are soporific and the local cable demi-gods only choose to give us week-old network news. (The Aussies on channel 53 are actually quite refreshing.)

That's not a bad thing for those who have access to the internet. We're able, forced actually, to go out and find the stories that interest us. Still, I miss having the opportunity to shake my fist at people like Katie "Legs" Couric.

Diss me Kate

Couric is still in trouble, desperately trying to keep her job and to haul CBS News out of last place in the network news pageant. Her latest ploy? Painting herself as a victim of sexism. There were lots of sources, but I picked this article because I love the term 'newsreader': a sardonic Brit reminder of what makes her worth $15 million.

Yes I'm biased. Network news is fast food: headlines and sound bites. That's fine for pointing me toward a subject I might actually want to learn about elsewhere, otherwise just show me some interviews. Oh, and please don't edit the answers to change their meaning.

A little cutting room

Yes that was our Katie. Still, I have to give her points for asking a question I wanted answered. In the same interview, Couric asked McCain You have said, quote, "I know how to win wars." Which war, Sen. McCain, are you referring to?. Zing.

Equal rights

Obama got a few good questions too, particularly about the 'surge'. An example: But yet you're saying … given what you know now, you still wouldn't support it … so I'm just trying to understand this..

Non sequitur

Dealing with the media is more difficult than bathing a leper
--Mother Teresa


bigsoxfan said...

I prefer a good rumor to the network news anyday. I'm admittidly a serious news junky, but not exactly in withdrawal out here in the wilderness of Mongolia, thanks to the internet. I do not miss, one little bit, the networks. I do miss the Weather Channel girls, but that is another sordid tale. Even the internet news tends to run in the same cycles. Ie. If it bleeds, it leads. Although, I abhor their politics, the la times is worthwile and surpisingly to me anyway, balanced in their reporting. Although, I would chew my mouse off rather than read more than one editorial a day. Der Spiegel is a decent source of world news, although at the moment they seem only a genuflection away from electing Obama president. Reuters is ok, but a bit low on substance. The new reporter for the trashbin seems to be doing a bang up job for less than a week on island. I wonder if they will pick her to cover Angelo V.s arrest in Hawaii for smoking the ganja. Funny how rumors get twisted, I’ve also read it was Tim V who was busted. Interesting to find out which version is correct.

Lil' Hammerhead said...

Hahahahaha! That was a great question Couric asked of McCain. How did he answer that one? :}

Anonymous said...

Saipan's own ABC affiliate, Channel 7
do not forget about them, very current.

cactus said...

I recall Pat Buchanan saying one time that his own complaints about the "liberal media" were basically like a basketball coach "working the refs" -- i.e., feigning outrage at minor or nonexistent wrongs, in hopes of catching a break in the future.

KAP said...

That's a great point and I've seen it work that way. Then again, it's most likely to work on someone who feels guilty because he/she suspects it might be true.

I forgot about Channel 7 because it's weak on my cable for some reason. I don't like most of their programming except for the occasional live game, so it's never been worth complaining about.