Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Media Bias Rant

I read USAToday. There, I said it. Yes, it can be McNews, but it is also a pretty quick read that's like a snapshot of the country and the world on that day. Almost....

USAToday used to have a television news column. It reported various bits and news about the behind-the-scenes, corporate world of television news. They replaced it some months ago with a column by Peter Johnson. Johnson's bias makes the column unpalatable.

For example, ever since Phil Donahue returned to television with his new MSNBC talk show (just cancelled today), Johnson has had article after article on the man and his every effort to stay afloat. You'd almost never know that Donahue has been consistently in last place, given how much ink Johnson wastes on him. Connie Chung, who is also a distant second, got some mention when she first went on. But the only way you ever hear of the show and the man who owns that time slot -- Bill O'Reilly -- is a side-swipe comment always in reference to the other two! For example: "Chung, who is struggling against the number one O'Reilly, who just got record ratings, is trying new strategies to find and keep viewers."

In a recent Life section cover story on the changes at CNN, he was forced to talk about FoxNews. But every mention of Fox came with an adjective that demeaned, slanted or tarnished the network. CNN was being forced, against the will of the hard-working, unbiased, real-news journalists to try to emulate the "conservative" Fox. It was all awful and terrible, and all Fox's fault in the bad way.

Today's column is yet more of the same. He reports on the "media debate" over whether or not major news outlets were late to the anti-war protest party. He mentions the New York Times, CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN, but -- surprise, surprise -- leaves out Fox!

He does point out that early coverage of the war was largely from a political point of view, leaving out "average man" reporting until protests ramped up, except when the average man was a soldier about to leave on duty. The timidity of politicians to stand against the rock-sure Bush led the reporters' take, helping them to incorrectly see all protest as dead aborning.

But it's all the high-minded kind of analysis that more and more Americans are finding irrelevant. Johnson completely skips over the effect of blogging, where blog readers have been aware of dissent for quite some time. We've also been aware that the touchpoint for organising protest was the ANSWER-birthed protests. And that link still doesn't merit much mention in the major news outlets. A furious debate has been raging across numerous points of view, allowing some of the widest expression of views you can hope to find, far wider than anything you'll ever see in the dead tree and broadcast media. But for Johnson, it might as well be nonexistent.

Johnson is still enamored of the old guard, and it shows. Painfully so. I wish his column would go, so USAToday can return to the regular news items I miss so much. Opinion I can find elsewhere, and certainly more up-to-date, informed opinion than his.

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