I'm not sure whether to be relieved or annoyed at finding something I really HAD to blog about, something dear and relevant and essential to what I try to do, with a delicious sauce of irony ladled over top. It's no doubt telling that the only place anyone could be rewarded for publishing a succinct article about how to detect bullshit in the Mainstream Media is likely Cracked.com.
But here it is, 6 Subtle Ways The News Media Disguises Bullshit As Fact. I found it on digg. and the thing that tipped the balance from amused apathy to actual writing was that one of the "examples" cited chose to respond there. The article itself is an amusing retelling of Journalism 101. To the author, a mildly lucrative five finger exercise that brought them, if fortunate, the price of a case of better than average beer. Who - including the author- would think it's impact would be taken seriously by one of the offended parties?
But that's the magic of our new media, and the direct interaction between writer and reader. The real fun comes when the emperor insists that he is too wearing clothes!
The number one example given us by was one that is, one of the great cardinal sins of journalism: Guessing the motives instead of reporting the facts.
To illustrate, the author picked two particularly unsubtle examples.
How Can This Be Used For Evil?
Let's take a look at the same event, as reported in two different outlets:
The first headline presents what Obama actually did. It's factually true; Obama did in fact pledge to press ahead on goals. Then you have the second, which gives him a motive and adds a backstory: the Democrat party is "beleaguered" and his supposed pledge to press ahead on goals is just an attempt to boost a political party.
Now, some may say that the first one is just blindly repeating the politician's talking points, but the second is flat out mind reading. For a more ridiculous example, a newspaper in California sent a Freedom of Information Act Request to several tech companies to find out how many minorities they have working there. A few companies (including giants like Apple, Google and Yahoo!) refused the request. Headline?
Damn! When's the next Klan meeting, Steve Jobs?
You can read more from C. Coville at her site Bloodslides.Livejournal.com.
Well, needless to say, this article was fairly popular on digg, no doubt due to "diggerals" who keep trying to impose their damned elitist "critical thinking," "science" and "evidence" on god-fearing real Americans.
There was a need to respond to such obvious misrepresentation of the craft of an honest reporter, thought the typist of the latter article, thinking he was being unfairly mocked.
Perhaps this new media stuff is working out after all. Or perhaps irony isn't any deader than it ever was. I did, indeed laugh out loud.
This is a perfect illustration of the great unwritten commandment of journalism. "Never buy the slant of the rag you work for." Why?
Dude, are you a journalist, or an editorialist? A journalist is paid to be able to tell the difference between shit and shinola. An editorialist is one who's paid far, far better to to conceal the distinction, or better yet, imply that only commies, paedophiles and anti-Semites think there is any difference.
You see, the distinction is one of integrity. You may have to take a paycheck from someone like Hearst, Murdoch or Conrad Black in order to keep enough whiskey in your cupboard - but for the journalist, the whisky is the medication required to do the job, while for the editorialist, it's the reward at the end of the day for having done it.