Moving day approaches
: Here’s the deal: I’m going to double-publish for a few days but then cut off to www.buzzmachine.com; go there and bookmark now, if you’d be so kind. I’ll leave the old stuff on Blogspot for any old links to old posts. The archive pages will be at buzzmachine. I hope this works!
Media bias? That assumes media efficiency
: There’s been a zeppelin’s worth of hot air being manufactured lately about the alleged media bias; this weekend’s warm wind brought with it Andrew Sullivan weighing in on Bernard Goldberg’s bitter ex-employee expose.
As a practitioner of both old and new media, I’m amused by all the bluster on the topic.
I don’t buy the contention that there is concerted media bias for one simple reason: The media are not that well-organized.
To believe that there is media bias, you have to believe that the media are well-managed and that reporters and editors take management well. Both assumptions are laughably wrong.
In my 30 years in the business (ouch, that hurts to calculate; I started very young), I’ve worked for allegedly liberal and conservative publishers — Time Inc., TV Guide and News Corp., the San Franciscso Examiner and Hearst, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, most of them usually accused of leaning right (my present company excepted from analysis).
And I have to say that only once — once — have I ever seen an attempt to influence my work or those around me politically. That one incident occurred on behalf of Whittaker Chambers and Richard Nixon, hardly left-wing heroes. And the motivation wasn’t really political; it was personal. When I started criticizing TV for People magazine, I gave a glowing review to the miniseries Concealed Enemies about the Alger Hiss case. In it, I said that Hiss-hunter Chambers came off like doughy dope. The then-top editor in Time Inc. — whose mentor at Time happened to be none other than Chambers — with the help of his right-hand henchman, tried to rewrite my review entirely, making it a negative review (though they’d never seen the show) and inserting right-wing bias aplenty. I threatened to quit and my editor, the sainted Pat Ryan, stood by me. The boss backed down and I won. Bias erased. When I created Entertainment Weekly at the same company, some of the same players (all gone now) tried to get us to be nicer to entertainment product just as Time Inc. became Time Warner, an entertainment company. This time, I did quit, But that wasn’t political (beyond corporate politics, that is).
My point is that journalistic integrity — or bias — is the product of the consciences of individuals far more than of the conspiracies of institutions. Individual writers and editors have to look at themselves in the mirror in the morning and make their own judgments, some good, some bad. And it is not easy to tell these people what to do; I know, I’ve been a top editor at some of these companies; reporters are stubborn passive aggressives, every one. Beyond that, if you are a media executive and you tried to inject bias, you stand the immediate risk of exposure, for reporters are also gossips by nature.
I’ve not read Goldberg’s book but I have to wonder (a) why he didn’t cause a stink at the time and (b) why it took so long to cause it.
So I find all this as boring and out-of-touch as an Oliver Stone movie. There is no great media bias conspiracy any more than there is a government conspiracy to hush-up UFOs; the government isn’t that well-organized, either.
The truth is that everyone — reporters, editors, executives, newsmakers, and most especially readers — has a perspective (a nicer word than bias) and inevitably view the world through or around that perspective. That is not bias. That is the free give-and-take of democracy and individual expression.
So just as I decry the PC fundamendalists, I decry the MB (media bias) inquisitors; they all assume that we, the audience, we the people, are too stupid to be able to judge on our own what is true and what is sensible and what we believe. That is a bias shared by the media and anti-media alike, by left and right alike; that is an undemocratic and essentially insulting bias.
But I have some hope that Blogdom is inching us past that, for on blogs, individuals’ perspectives are easy to spot (I certainly know where Sullivan stands) and the accusations of bias or stupidity or just sloppiness in the media are less sweeping and more detailed (and even joyous as a blogger cuts apart the latest dispatch from this columnist or that). Blogdom is a disorganized collection of individuals keeping watch on the media and each other and so far, it works pretty well.
But I know it won’t be long before someone accuses us all of left-wing or right-wing blog bias.
(And just to prove that I have absolutely no bias, I won’t make a single Presidential pretzel joke today. Not one. Besides, Tim Blair has plenty already.)
The stripped-down business model
: Off topic: The Donkey leads us to news that an Internet company coming out of bankruptcy plans to buy Howard Stern’s favorite strip club, Scores, and make it national. Now that’s a business.