So I took this morning off. I gues I could do some kind of long, self-pitying rant but I'm not minded to.
I have been watching the Aaron Sorkin HBO series The Newsroom. Taken in the proper light, it's amusing as hell. Just as The West Wing was the Clinton White House re-imagined as a kind of second (third?) Camelot, with all the nasty bits papered over and and the lecher-in-chief changed from a horny Arkansan* political hack with indifferent impulse control to a noble, thoughtful Yankee† professor concealing a tragic affliction, The Newsroom is the crappy, slanted networks as liberals wish they were, right down to the demented capitalist ownership, the crusty old-time liberal in charge of the news division and the properly-tamed Republican anchor. Today, I snickered my way through oh-if-only unhistory retelling the NBC editing of Zimmerman's 911 call (caught, apologized for in the same hour-long news show and played in full for the viewing audience, as opposed to the real-world days of intransigent denial) and the media's mistelling of the cause of the Benghazi embassy murders papered over as "...we knew we were probably wrong, but in the aftermath of [Main Dramatic Story Arc Thing], we felt we had no choice."
It's hilarious but dangerous, Winston Smith's job at the Ministry Of Truth played for profit, busily scribbling over the common memories of what actually happened in the real world with an appealingly-packaged fantasy. If you know what's going on and what really went on, you can laugh at it; if it's tapping into your selection bias and preconceived notions, well-- Not so good. There's more truthiness than truth in this drama.
For the record, they are spot-on in the small details of how newsrooms work -- including the appalling youth of most of the people actually doing the legwork and finding stories to begin with, the isolation of most of the faces who sell you the news from the mess of unearthing it, the incredible pressure of time to gather news and the even greater pressure to report it in a minute-thirty or less of screen time. The drinking, the long hours, they get that. The noble motives? No. Forget it. People get the job with motives they think are noble but once on the job they don't even have time to scratch where it itches, let alone look to the big picture. Bias in news mostly sneaks in unexamined from those very young staffers, in which pitched stories make it to air, and in what news that the directors and senior producers in News departments think will draw the most attention.
The news media like to tell themselves that they are in the business of informing you. Maybe they are. A lot of the staffers would like to be and honestly try to be. The organizations who employ them are in the business of helping to sell you soap and new cars, prescription drugs and pet food. You are not the consumer: you are the product they sell to advertisers.
And so I watch The Newroom and snicker. That show has something to sell, too -- and it's not news.
* No offense to natives of that state, but you've got to admit that like Hoosiers and Sooners, there's a certain reputation for unsophistication that comes with the territory, however undeserved it so often is.
† With respect to my Southern friends who use the word to mean anyone from a state on the winning side in the Late Civil Unpleasantness Between And Among The States And Feds, I mean here "Yankee" in the Northern sense of fine old eccentric New England (Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, possibly Rhode Island) plus the set of Mass., Conn., New York, New Jersey, Delaware and similar festering hellholes so sacred to our media elite. --With all due apologies to the inhabitants of the latter.
6 months ago