Saturday, January 19, 2013

For To Many in Today's Media - Truth is a Relative Thing

  "The 24-hour news networks need Journalists to cover the 'nuances;' of every major story. Nuances, incidentally, that are the by-product of television news producers who have agendas and personalities of their own to project and propagate....." 

Matthew's Weekend Commentary
"Journalist Are A-holes"
By Matthew N.

The novel is coming along. If by 'coming along' I mean to say that writing it is like pulling teeth. I hadn't realized that it would have been this difficult to tell a story you've rehearsed inside your own head for nearly a decade, but apparently it is.

I was recently complaining about this to a journalist friend of mine (he writes for one of the New York dailies, but not one of the Big Three) who said something along the lines of "Now you know what we journalists have to contend with...".

Two things:

1. He is (in a backhanded fashion) probably admitting that professional journalists, much like someone writing a novel, make shit up as they go along, and that they sometimes, too, have trouble inventing and arranging the bullshit they make up, putting it into some sort of coherent package. In other words, he means to say that Modern Journalism is much like writing fiction. This would explain much about the Modern Press which can apparently devote oceans of ink and express the deepest puzzlement over trivial matters (what they expect the First lady to wear at the Inaugural, this Notre Dame football player and the fake leukemia girlfriend, Justin Bieber smoking a blunt, nothing but gun control with fake statistics and outright lies in every line), whilst ignoring the really important stuff, like, say, the perilous state of the American Economy, the return of Islamofascism in the Middle East, Barack Obama's massive health-care related tax increases, and regal proclamations about getting what he wants on the Debt Ceiling, Taxes, Spending Cuts, etc. without regard to Constitutional methods and requirements.

 I've often been told, and have even read this in various places (most notably Orwell), that one of the stock tricks of the seasoned newspaper reporter is an ability to present news when there really isn't any. This exercise requires a bit of exaggeration, a dash of improvisation, a healthy dose of hyperbole, and in many cases, a huge, hulking heaping of creative license. In other words, on a 'slow news day' the trick is to manage to fill the newspaper with complete crap, a highly-stylized and often fictionalized reportage. Mrs. Smith's cat-in-the-tree becomes "Firemen respond to three-alarmer, rescue pet" with a heart-warming photo of a frightened kitty wrapped in a fireman's arms.  

If this friend of mine, say, weren't busy telling people about things they really don't need to know about, and making things up to fill pages, and instead did his job -- which is to give you a blow-by-blow of the world's events, as and how they happen. Shit, the stuff almost writes itself, I would imagine! -- then perhaps he'd be better rested and less frustrated. Workaday Journalism, usually, isn't all that hard a job, one thinks: Shit Happens, after all. You just need to be there in order to be able to tell others the how and why.

I hear this person complain about how hard it is to be him, when he has a by-line, a paycheck, and a staff of assistants to gather information for him (usually by surfing the internet! They're not even going out and getting the news first-hand, anymore).  

2. I always knew this particular person was a bit of a pretentious asshole, and this simply confirmed it.

He was expressing an idea which seems to be prevalent among our Journalistic class, or at least the few of them that I actually know, that what they do is noble, unappreciated, unfathomable to the common man, and that the rewards and accolades they receive for it are simply inadequate. They are beings set above the rest of us for their ability to write balanced sentences and possession of an iPhone full of 'sources' that, truthfully, probably lie to them as often as the Journalists lie to us. This school of thought holds that Journalism -- far from being a rather simple matter of garnering information, and putting it together in a compact, easy-to-understand, contextual form to be mass-produced for the general public -- is instead an art form, practiced by ethereal figures (after all, they studied English and went to J-school) of massively greater intelligence and importance. And they demand to be treated accordingly.

One can see where that mindset might spring from when you stop to consider the opportunities for Journalists today. Long ago, someone labored for his local daily, or perhaps got a plum assignment later in their career at Time, Life, Rolling Stone, or what have you, and became semi-famous in the same way that Snooki is, only with less (alleged) prostitution.

Nowadays, many Journalists are personalities-cum-celebrities. The 24-hour news networks need Journalists to cover the 'nuances;' of every major story. Nuances, incidentally, that are the by-product of television news producers who have agendas and personalities of their own to project and propagate. They tend to pick Journalists who agree with them to stick on television, so, one usually only gets one carefully-selected-and- presented side of every story. And because Journalists typically embellish their tales with their own opinions, "fake-but-accurate facts", sometimes malice, a financial and social need to preach to a certain choir, and a dash of political correctness, you do, indeed, get a work of fiction which someone, somewhere, could invariably become proud of to the point of considering it 'artistry'.

Like they're Michelangelo or Thomas Hardy, or something?

Personally, what passes for Journalism these days reminds me much of a toddler who has managed to get his hands into the back of his diaper, removed a turd from the crack of his little butt, and waddles up the hallway towards you offering it up in his little, chubby, shit-covered hands as if it were the Crown Jewels, with one of those giggle-y, coo-ey smiles that only a baby can manage.

 For an example of what I mean, tune into MSNBC or CNN and sample the weak fare. Most of those people give you the simultaneous impressions that a) even they don't believe a damned word they're saying; it's simply what the paycheck and the face time require them to say, or so that they can be recognized as semi-famous in restaurants, and b) what they say often has a strange detachment from reality, as if they inhabit some other physical reality than the rest of us. This explains why anything said by a Jonathan Capehart, Mike Barnicle, or Eleanor Clift hardly ever makes any sense.

It's a form of abstract art that only they get, and we pay for, I suppose. That in the process of producing this 'art' the Journalists fail at their primary function of creating an informed public, doesn't really matter; Modern Journalism (in it's present state) doesn't require such a trivial, external reason to continue for it has itself. In other words, it has become Art for Art's sake.

 So, I guess, in a way, I should be jealous. My Journalist friend produces a work of fiction every damned day, while I have struggled mightily to produce something like seven or eight chapters in a month. Then again, it's his job, and has been for nearly 25 years, so why should I be surprised that he's both good at it and proud of it? It's paid his bills, gotten his children braces, put new boobs on his wife, and a BMW in his driveway, and given him a sort of minor fame in some quarters.

If you asked him if it ever bothered him that he may be propagating myths, or outright fabricating
news in order to sell newspapers, he'd probably hit you with the same rhetorical club that he has hit me over the head with -- unashamedly -- in arguments for years :

The Truth is a relative thing.

Crossposted @ The Lunatic's Asylum  
Matthew is a friend and contributor to DMF
Please stop by and give him a shout at the above link

1 comment:

  1. You can also measure the importance of a story by whether it's reported or not.