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March 08, 2005

Don't Bother Reading the Piece on Media Bias in The New Yorker

It's long, boring, tells you nothing you didn't know, and furthermore is defensive to a fault.

One of the author's tricks -- used multiple times -- is to present the silliest possible examples of conservatives' complaints about the media as represenatative of our real objections. For example:

During a day I spent there last month, Ann Marie Lipinski, the Tribune’s editor-in-chief, handed me a copy of a large, ostentatiously grand, and dignified color photograph of President Reagan’s funeral service that the paper had run, showing President Bush speaking from the pulpit of the Washington National Cathedral to a big audience. She asked me if I could figure out what someone might find objectionable about it; I tried for a minute and gave up. “Think!” Lipinski said. “Keep trying. You’re not being paranoid enough here.” I thought some more, and I still couldn’t figure it out. “So, Don Wycliff, our public editor”—whose job is to deal directly with reader complaints—“received five phone calls saying that the Arab sitting in the front row”—indeed, there was a man in a burnous visible in the audience—“is sitting with his legs crossed so that his foot is pointing at Bush, which is a sign of disrespect in the Middle East. These readers interpreted the photo to mean that the Tribune is anti-Bush. Do you know any editor who, upon seeing that picture, in a million years—I mean, look at that picture! There’s a sweep, a unity. It’s a newsworthy photo, and also beautiful. The notion that we’re sitting here looking for that kind of detail is so beyond any evil imagining of mine! I don’t want to suggest that’s the daily level of complaint, but not a week goes by that we don’t get something like that.”

Or:

Jim Kelly, the managing editor, told me that he’d bumped into a reader who complained about a Time cover with a photograph of Osama bin Laden, and then a smaller photograph in the corner, to advertise a different story, about Al Gore. In the picture Gore was smiling—at the Bush Administration’s misfortune in failing to find bin Laden, the reader thought. “This is so wacky to me,” Kelly said. “But it’s weirdly compelling to listen to."

No mention of something that tends to demonstrate serious press bias, like Rathergate.

Don't bother reading it. Spend your time reading the AAR from Fallujah.

If there's one interesting thing about the piece -- and here I strain to conjure something up -- it's that it might indicate where the press is in the famous "five steps" of dealing with loss. In this case, loss of credibility, prestige, and, perhaps most important, power.

Although prestige is neck-and-neck with power. Credibility is distant third.

For a long time they were in denial; in fact, most of them still are.

Then came anger. Again, many are still angry; not everyone proceeds through the steps at the same pace.

For many in the press, we now seem to be at the bargaining phase ("What if we cover religion better? What if we cover NASCAR?") and, to go by the sad-sack liberal reporters interviewd in the New Yorker piece, the first stages of depression.

Eventually -- like, maybe, in 2057 -- we might get to acceptance.


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posted by Ace at 01:58 PM

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