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November 10, 2008
If This Is the Mainstream Media’s Last Hurrah, Its Successor Could Be
dean of the Capitol press corps, David Broder, last week called this
year’s presidential campaign the best one he’s ever covered, adding that
he never thought anything would beat 1960.
problem is that it felt like one-part pre-emptive eulogy, as if there
was the tinge in Broder’s words that somehow a great ride has ended –
that things will never be as good as they used to be.
isn’t an unusual sentiment from anyone working in the mainstream media.
Things today aren’t as good as they used to be, and there is a
deep-seated pessimism among people still employed in American newsrooms
that things will only keep getting worse.
Citing those dastardly scoundrels – industry circulation and profit
numbers – ex-journalist-turned-Silicon Valley CEO-turned-blogger Alan
Mutter said on his web log, Reflections of a Newsasaur, that 2008 was
the last hurrah for the mainstream media. The next time around, he
suggested, things will look more like a self-informed Town Hall
discussion than traditional campaign coverage.
god, let’s hope he’s wrong.
year’s campaign coverage was bad, hilariously bad in some ways.
Conventional wisdom that was built on more than two decades of
ill-informed assumptions just simply fell apart amid what was the worst
campaign coverage perhaps in history.
Things started as far back as when things got rolling. It was then that
the media assumed that Hillary Clinton would easily win her party’s
nomination based on name recognition and Clinton star power alone, and
that a candidate would have to do well in Iowa to have any hopes of
winning a party nomination.
turns out that – duh – ground game and strategy are more important than
headlines and media proclamations. John McCain’s fourth-place showing in
Iowa reminded us that you can flop in Iowa and win the whole shooting
match within a month.
Things finally came full circle late last weekend, with polls in
battleground states showing Barack Obama cruising to an easy, blowout
victory on Tuesday. Meanwhile, most national pundits ignored what the
polls told us about the Electoral College and instead posed national
tracking polls as if the race were a popularity contest.
most of us, this presidential campaign seemed like it lasted just
slightly less time than it’s taken for the Earth’s tectonic plates to
break apart and form today’s continents. Yet, at the end, there is the
Dean, blowing his funeral dirge for what was no doubt to him an endless
if this is the end, we should all be terrified. For its many miscues,
errors and constant fumbling, what passes as the mainstream media today
at least has a more reliable track record for accuracy that what
threatens to take its place. Our greatest fear should be that basic
journalistic practices are ignored and rejected and replaced as the
primary source for information by partisan, ideologically-fueled
proliferation of nonsense in what would replace the much-derided MSM has
enabled people to do more than find an alternative, it’s enabled people
to ignore points of view and evidence that conflict with their own
prejudices. As long as you’ve got someone who says things you want to
hear and nothing else, there’s no great motivation to go elsewhere.
Despite the many failings of the hated MSM, that’s not an improvement.
media institutions fall into irrelevance – due to a number of factors,
most of them financial – it needs to be replaced with something as
thoughtful, informative and as accurate as the American press used to
be, not whatever happens to be lying around.
alternative is that Broder’s dirge might not just be one for campaign
coverage, but for the idea of an electorate well informed enough to
practice self government.
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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