Saturday, December 04, 2004

Res ipsa loquitur

The Blue-State media arrogance is in its full glory in this New York Times opinion piece by Frank Rich. Rich bemoans attempts by the news media to reach out to the Red-State citizens, which he calls "the NASCARization of news."
If Democrats want to run around like fools trying to persuade voters in red America that they are kissing cousins to Billy Graham, Minnie Pearl and Li'l Abner, that's their problem. Pandering, after all, is what politicians do, especially politicians as desperate as the Democrats. But when TV news organizations start repositioning themselves to pander to Nascar dads and "moral values" voters, it's a problem for everyone.

There's a war on. TV remains by far the most prevalent source of news for Americans. We need honest information to help us navigate, not bunkum skewed to flatter one segment of the country, whatever that segment might be. Yet here's how Jeff Zucker, the NBC president, summed up the attributes of Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw's successor, to Peter Johnson of USA Today: "No one understands this Nascar nation more than Brian."

. . .

You know red is de rigueur when ABC undertakes the lunatic task of trying to repackage the last surviving evening news anchor, the heretofore aggressively urbane Peter Jennings, as a sentimental populist. In a new spot for "World News Tonight," Mr. Jennings tells us that "this is a really hopeful nation, and I think there's a great beauty in that." This homily is not only factually inaccurate - most Americans continue to tell pollsters that the nation is on the wrong track - but is also accompanied by a tinkling music-box piano and a montage leaning on such Kodak tableaus as a fishing cove, a small-town front porch and a weather-beaten man driving a car with a flag decal. Mr. Jennings is a smart newsman, but his just-folks incarnation is about as persuasive as Teresa Heinz Kerry's chow-down photo op at Wendy's.

If the Nascarization of news were only about merchandising, it would be a source of laughter more than concern. But the insidious leak of the branding into the product itself has already begun. Last Sunday morning both NBC's "Meet the Press" and ABC's "This Week" had roundtable discussions about - what else? - the "moral values" fallout of the election. Each show assembled a bevy of religious and quasi-religious leaders and each included a liberal or two. But though much of the "values" debate centered on abortion and gay marriage, neither panel contained a woman, let alone an openly gay cleric. Allowing such ostentatiously blue interlopers into the "values" club might frighten the horses - or at least the hunting dogs.

Well, if he's suggesting that the courting of Red-State voters is laughably transparent, he's right. You can't just slap a seed-cap on. Red-Staters can smell inauthenticity. That's why John Kerry lost in the heartland. But then Rich calls the shift in news coverage "creepy," as if even addressing the Red States gives him the willies.

Of course Rich gets around to bloggers eventually, but discounts them, saying that if bloggers really are providing news, they're probably being bankrolled by a major news organization.
The idea, largely but not exclusively fomented by the right, that TV news might somehow soon be supplanted by blogging as a mass medium may remain a populist fantasy until Americans are able to receive blogs by iPod. (At which point they become talk radio.) The dense text in the best blogs often requires as much of a reader's time and concentration as high-end print journalism, itself facing declining circulation. Since blogging doesn't generate big (if any) profits, there's no budget for its "citizen reporters" to reliably blanket catastrophic and far-flung breaking news. (There are no bloggers among the 36 journalists thus far killed in the Iraq war.) Bloggers can fact-check documents (as in the Rather case), opine, organize, talk back, leak early exit polls and publish multimedia outings of the seemingly endless supply of closeted gay Republican officials. But if bloggers are actually doing front-line reporting rather than commenting upon the news in a danger zone like Falluja, chances are that they are underwritten by a day job on the payroll of a major news organization.

Oh, look. He even manages to sneak in a reference to closeted gay Republicans.

Anyway, read the whole thing. If I had come across this anywhere else, I might have thought it was a parody of the arrogance of the media elites. It certainly works like one.


At 2:10 AM, Blogger Jib said...

Ha. Great minds think alike. That article was up in my web browser all day, but I ultimately decided that Rich was just too easy a target.

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Drew said...

Just when you think they're through displaying their post-election foolishness, along comes something like this.

But at least they've dropped the charade. This kind of rhetoric will only speak to an ever-decreasing number of like-minded individuals.


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