Saturday, April 08, 2006

OLD Media - Creating, Not Reporting, the News

In the course of a week, two phenomenal stories showcased a major problem with reporting in America: the tendency of news outlets to manufacture the news, rather than merely report it.

First of all, there was NBC's NASCAR sting as reported by Michelle Malkin. NBC planned to send several muslim-looking men to a NASCAR Race in an attempt to generate hostile reactions from the race fans, and catch all the fun on camera. Sports Illustrated online summarized the whole scheme:

NASCAR said NBC confirmed it was sending Muslim-looking men to a race, along with a camera crew to film fans' reactions. The NBC crew was "apparently on site in Martinsville, Va., walked around and no one bothered them," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Wednesday. "It is outrageous that a news organization of NBC's stature would stoop to the level of going out to create news instead of reporting news," Poston said.

While that story was intriguing enough, the New York Post's gossip columnist, Jared Paul Stern, is the subject of a federal investigation for extorting money, as the New York Times reports:

The New York Post is cooperating with a federal investigation into whether a longtime contributor for the Page Six gossip column — the avidly read daily log of wrongdoing, double-dealing and sexual indiscretions by celebrities both minor and major — tried to extort money from a California billionaire, according to a spokesman for the newspaper.

Several people involved in the investigation said the reporter, Jared Paul Stern, had been captured on a video recording demanding a $100,000 payment and a monthly stipend of $10,000 from Ronald W. Burkle in return for keeping negative information about him out of the paper. . .But while the accusations against Mr. Stern are serious, it is the specter — raised by at least three people who say they know what is on the tapes — that Mr. Stern implicated several celebrities and New York power figures in an undisclosed, symbiotic relationship with Page Six that prompted an extraordinary day of full-throated and at times gleeful gossip among those who love, hate and avidly read the column.

Stern allegedly received solicited and received payments from A-list celebrities and socialites to control the tone of coverage on Page 6; those who paid him allegedly received favorable coverage in the widely read gossip column.

These anecdotes, extreme as they may be, illustrate an alarming trend of the media to become the news, rather than report it. THese are not the only examples, though. In 2004, an embedded reporter fed some harsh questions to soldiers during Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's visit to the Middle East; and of course, the inane behavior of Helen Thomas makes her the archetype for journalists becoming the event, rather than reporting on the event.

Two trends should give news editors/managers pause before they send their minions out to generate, rather than report the news: trust of journalists is at an all time low; and judging by the reduced circulation of many top newspapers and media outlets in recent years, demand for this contrived tripe is not increasing anyone's bottom line.

No wonder so many people are reading blogs these days.

1 comment:

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