In which threemae bemoans the grim future of the media…

Yes, folks, the media is headed to hell in a hand basket, and I’ll tell you why.

First off: “Campaign Finance Reform.” This well intentioned effort butts up against three indisputable and unchangeable facts. First, there are rich people. Second, these rich people will have opinions. Third, the fact that these people are rich and of course think that their opinions are better than everyone else’s opinion means that they will attempt to use that money to change others opinions to be in line with their own. Nothing will change this.

This will lead to the creation of “faux-media” a la the NRA’s new radio network. Since people cannot spend their money directly to purchase the usual model of a political add, they will find some alternate way to spend their money to do the same thing. See Air America (started via liberal investors), Fox News (run by conservative investors), and any other number of promising upstarts. Since these media organizations are funded by ideologues and often created expressly for the purpose of portraying a particular view, the people running these stations will feel no pressure to present a balanced and unbiased look at the news. Sure, bias may be impossible to eliminate, but The New York Times, The Economist, and Wall Street Journal are both sources that currently exist that do a pretty good job of it (at least on the news pages).

Unfortunately, people will view biased news sources as more and more acceptable. See Michael Moore’s new “documentary.” Yes, the film may have value and raise good points, but it will never be all that it could have been as a documentary because its creator set out to present a single view point rather than a balanced one which objectively and fairly approaches the evidence. Even worse, people support this as the, “evolution of the documentary.” I think that this is mainly due to the fact that most people in film and documentary are liberal. Not saying that this in of itself is a bad thing, but they are siding with Moore because of which specific side he supports. If Foxnews had produced a similar documentary, it would be decried, but supporting Moore’s film as a documentary lowers the standards. Eventually, someone from the right will slide in an equally biased film as a “documentary” and it will continue to lower standards of fairness, objectivity, and worst of all, accuracy.

Sure, unbiased news sources will continue to exist, but more and more individuals will pay attention to side-specific sources rather than neutral ones. It will become harder and harder to get a true understanding of the world because these “news” sources will present only ideological spin rather than objective analysis. The nation will become more polarized, more ideological, and the media will fail to fill its role in society as a critical observer of either side.

In short, reverse these well intentioned but failed attempts at campaign finance reform, strengthen standards and ideals of future journalists, and keep an open mind.

Can I give you two out of three? I’m not really all that impressed by the NYT on any issue outside of local news. Certainly not on the national or state level.

I also think that Christian Science Monitor is still pretty good at news, too.
Other than that, I agree with all you’ve said.

Well, I don’t. First off, it’s easy for The Economist to appear unbiased in its reportage of U.S. news; it’s a British publication. And its stories about goings-on in the rest of the world are no more or less biased or informative than articles from the Associated Press.
Secondly, while laments on the demise of “objectivity and fairness” appear to be high-minded criticism to the unitiated, the truth is that BOTH of those have always been arbitrary and artificial goals for any media, anywhere. The First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution guarantees a free press. Nowhere does it include an admonition or expectation that the press hold itself to any kind of standard.
And why should it? The First Amendment was not written to protect the fair dissemination of news, because such a thing as we know it didn’t exist in the 18th Century. The Amendment existed to protect editorialists’ right to criticize the government; in short, to express their opinions freely. As “opinionated” as the U.S. media may appear now, it is still a far, far cry from how it was for almost our entire national history up to WWII, when newspapers were often shills for local power structures or political parties. The important thing to remember about this is that probably neither state of being would be regarded as contrary to the intent of the Amendment by the founding fathers. In their minds it was less important whether the media was avidly one-sided of stately objective, then that the citizens themselves decided which tack to take and not the government.

Also, Michael Moore has never claimed to be a journalist of any kind. So why should he care about maintaining even a facade of objectivity? He freely admits he is NOT objective, which makes him more honest than many other sources of information these days.

Lizard’s right - the concept of “objective” and “unbiased” reporting is not only impossible, it’s a very recent notion. Newspapers used to unabashedly sway one way or the other, and if you found one newspaper’s editorials too liberal or too conservative, you switched to the other newspaper. No one pretended it was any different. The consolidation of the media is the scary part, then. Because the media may skew a little more toward the center but they aren’t perfect, and with so many more cities only having one daily paper, that element of choice is gone completely.

Documentaries aren’t, and never were, expected to have a neutral point of view. If the issue’s a fairly neutral one, it doesn’t matter, but a documentarian always expresses a particular point of view, and is supposed to do so. If you feel that Michael Moore is particularly deceptive, then don’t watch his movies. But expecting him to hold to some standard of neutrality or balance is silly and unfair. The only difference now is the popularity of what he’s doing, and maybe the element of his own personality that he puts into his work. Documentaries aren’t, and never were, balanced. If you expect fairness, then you’re asking to be manipulated.

The right should be putting out documentaries of their own (and I’m sure they are, but for whatever reason, they haven’t caught on the same way. I dunno why . . . Ann Coulter’s a hell of a lot more photogenic than Michael Moore.) It’s not up to the filmmaker to try to play the impartial judge. You get to choose what to watch or read, and what to believe. You have the power!

Since Rupe Murdoch started the Fox Network in 1986, it’s tough to blame that one on McCain-Feingold. And Rev. Sun Myung Moon founded the Washington Times even earlier, back in 1982.

Now, what were you saying?

I’ll certainly grant you that this isn’t as bad as a suspension of the 1st Amendment, and I’ll shy away from brining whether people have a constitutional right to spend as much money as they damn well please on a campaign to focus solely on the practical implications of CFR.

The point is that just becuase that is the way the media existed back then doesn’t mean that we haven’t made a lot of progress since then in what the media has become. No, no one is being muzzled entirely, but considering how people take such a lack of interest in politics anyway, should we have to depend upon them to privately cultivate a number of sources from every part of the political spectrum to stay informed, or wouldn’t it be better if people were more likely simply to listen or to read media that maintained some semblance of fairness?

Gahhhhh…

Somebody find me an example of somebody making this arguement before Moore. Find it! It’s an arguement of political convenience that will eventually backfire when documentary film makers beyond Moore allow their goals to slip.

Unless dictionary.com is a product of some vast conspiracy to paint Moore’s film in a negative light, I think that we can view them as a relatively unbiased source. Here’s what they have to say:

I don’t know that much about the WashingtonTimes, so I’m not going to respond to it, but your right, Fox did exist before CFR, but that doesn’t mean it or channels like it will not proliferate afterwards because of CFR. How long has the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Act been in place, just over a year? And already one policy group has created a “news” source to get around it. As we go further along, I assure you that it will only get worse. I feel that you know exactly what I was saying.

Finally, why did posters like Elucidator argue so strongly for CFR? To reduce the influence of money on politics, or at least balance out the playing field. But before, while all of the partisan rhetoric was contained within 30 second ad-spots between the real news, now the campaigning will be insidious and unseperable. It would be great if everyone in the United States could be intelligent, critical thinkers that analyze the news from a number of sources with varying biases, but it just won’t be the case. People will find news-sources that match their own ideological beliefs and be less likely to be exposed to more criticals assesments of the same news items.

Imagine the outrage any of us would have felt five years ago if we discovered that a political organization paid a newspaper to put particular emphasis on the grey areas of a candidate they opposed, or take a particulr spin on a factual issue, or just give certain topics more coverage than they would otherwise warrant; a type of news “Product Placement”? Well, get ready to wake up to that on a continual basis.