Sunday, February 27, 2005

Press vs. Media

The Ombudsman at the Washington Post ran this editorial in today's paper on Newspapers and how essential they are/aren't. Below is my response I sent to him:

I think you hit the nail on the head in a comment you made in passing - " The attacks on the mainstream media..." - I'm not referring to the attacks but rather the phrase, "mainstream media." At some point, the Washington Post ceased being part of the "press," and became part of the media. Press organizations were concerned with reporting the news as best they could. Media organizations are concerned with ratings and ad revenue first and foremost because they are businesses that, if they don't stay in business and turn a profit, anger their shareholders. The focus on ratings led ABC to nearly cut Nightline a few years back and they have cut the staff, and it leads to vapid stories like the Lacy Petersen trial getting thousands of times more coverage than the decline of the dollar. When the "press" became the "media," lots of hard core news-reading folks like myself became disenchanted. "Media" organizations are easy to accuse of bias because they need to frame coverage in the way most likely to generate money, rather than be objective. If the tax cut plans of George Bush benefitted major corporations while the plans of John Kerry did not, is it any wonder that NBC (GE), ABC (Disney), CBS (Viacom), CNN (Time Warner), MSNBC (GE/Microsoft), or large newspaper organizations like the Washington Post or Gannett all had coverage perceived as being slanted in favor of Bush? It would have hurt their bottom lines to have had John Kerry (or Al Gore) win, or at least not helped as much as had Bush win. Take the latest scandal of the John Guckert/Gannon case. If, during the Clinton administration, a gay prostitute who had run gay porn sites had gotten daily access to white house briefings and gotten early access to top secret material in order to promote the president's agenda in the "media," you would have been all over that story like white on rice. Since it's under the Bush administration most major media outlets haven't touched it. The AP has had a story. MSNBC covered it, but netiher CBS nor ABC have. The LA Times finally ran a story last week but I haven't seen any coverage in the Post or the New York times or any of the other major dailies. Most coverage is from minor dailies across the country. Democratic Senators and Congressmen/women have called for investigations, etc., which we know means nothing since they have no authority as the minority party to actually do anything, but it should be newsworthy when there is a probable link to the Valerie Plame affair. Instead we get great stories on how African-American Oscar nominees bring more African Americans to the movie theaters. Or some such. Media vs. News. That's the problem.