Friday, September 16, 2016

We demand to know

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville and Shareblue has been saying for months the national media are garbage. She backs up her words by looking at the media's coverage of Hillary Clinton's recent bout with pneumonia. McEwen asks a few questions:

1. Is the story newsworthy?

2. If so, do we do a straightforward report of facts? Or do we put those facts in a frame?

3. What additional context should be provided for balance?

4. How much coverage do we give it?
Here, the answers appear to have been: Yes; use existing false frame of “transparency”; provide very little to no balance by way of comparison with her opponents’ lack of transparency on medical records; and A LOT.

Those are not the only possible answers to those questions, though the media frequently pretend that they are.

There was no requirement—by any standard—that the media were obliged to cover this story in the way that they did nor as intensely as they did.

That was a choice. And it is a choice that gets made, over and over, in order to create the news and shape it in a very particular way.
McEwen comments on how the media works:
The corporate media create a narrative about Hillary Clinton; they repeat that narrative ad infinitum; they do a poll about that narrative; they report on the poll finding that the narrative has penetrated the public consciousness. Then they step away and summarily erase their role in creating the original narrative, retroactively justifying their creation of a false frame under the auspices of “this is what the public thinks,” as though “the public” came to that conclusion in a vacuum.
No surprise then that trust in media has dropped to a new low.

Brian Beutler of the New Republic also looks at the way news media frames stories. Why doesn't the media have dozens of stories about how Trump lies brazenly? Why so silent on Trump's racism? Why is Clinton's comment about Trump supporters being "deplorable" (or see above about her health) getting so much more attention?

Is it because the media wants to avoid value judgments? Perhaps they're skittish about partisanship? Or the problem is a misguided attempt to maintain balance – by helping out Trump the underdog? Beutler has another explanation:
The press is not a pro-democracy trade, it is a pro-media trade. By and large, it doesn’t act as a guardian of civic norms and liberal institutions—except when press freedoms and access itself are at stake. Much like an advocacy group or lobbying firm will reserve value judgments for issues that directly touch upon the things they’re invested in, reporters and media organizations are far more concerned with things like transparency, the treatment of reporters, and first-in-line access to information of public interest, than they are with other forms of democratic accountability.
Here are examples of how that plays out:

* Clinton is dinged on transparency when the issue is her private email server and when she didn't immediately disclose the pneumonia. The media demands it be allowed to know.

* Trump is dinged when his campaign manager allegedly batters a reporter.

* Trump is dinged when he feuded with the Khan family (whose son died in battle). But it wasn't because they are a Gold Star family, but because Trump may have offended people who would now choose to vote against him.

* Trump is given a pass when he talks about his wall on the Mexican border because there are no press freedom issues in the debate. Same thing when the issue is Trump shredding others constitutional rights.

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