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October 14, 2008

The Scandal of the Local Newsroom

Every election year, we conservatives say the same thing about the media - that their bias has never been this bad before. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I do believe this year the media has abandoned all pretense of objectivity.

In the past, media outlets were financed by political partisans and had an undeniable slant, but they were completely forthright about their political ideology - they existed to promote a particular candidate or party. Eventually, the media moved toward a practice of objectivity - reporters were trained to seek both sides of an issue in their stories in an attempt to be fair. Journalists like Edward R. Murrow and (to a lesser extent) Walter Cronkite may have been flaming moonbats, but they - for the most part - subordinated their political beliefs to their professionalism. They weren't perfect, but they didn't go overboard.

Today's journalists do not have the same respect for their profession, and their actions in this election are dishonoring one of the few professions protected in the Constitution. The MSM is no longer made up of reporters - they are now openly cheerleading the candidacy of Barack Obama, and creating anti-McCain stories out of whole cloth.

Even the normally-understated Glenn Reynolds has said the media is "outright campaigning for Obama."

I have a BA in journalism, and over time have kept in touch with a number of people who are still working in that profession. So when one of them emailed me the following about the atmosphere in today's newsrooms, I wasn't surprised at all. This person does offer some hints at the end on how to push for more fairness in your local coverage:

It's unbelievable here. I've been through a few election cycles and have gotten pretty used to the open sneering every time a Republican candidate appears on the television, but this year is unlike anything I've ever seen.

Anchors were openly cheering when the news came out that Sarah Palin's daughter was pregnant. Some of the comments were so over-the-top childish and nasty that I couldn't believe what I was hearing. They're obsessed with her. They hate her even more than they hated Bush. And they all talk openly about how "stupid" and "unqualified" she is. It's pretty much a hostile work environment for the few conservatives who work here.

I've pretty much been keeping my head down and concentrating on my work, but yesterday was the final straw for me when some snot-nosed, twenty-something liberal producer responded to a request to take a phone call from a viewer complaining about lack of election fraud coverage by saying, "Tell him it's because we hate Republicans."

I want you to post this story on your blog to get the word out. The average person doesn't understand how obnoxiously left wing, the average local newsroom staffer is. The nightly newscasts they're watching every night are being put together by producers who have nothing but disdain for the people watching.

The irony is that these people are for the most part, some of the most ignorant, unimpressive individuals that you'll ever meet. They know next to nothing. They have no expertise in any area. They just repeat shit they read on the wires. Most of them aren't even from the communities where they work. They migrate from station to station, climbing the ladder as they go.

But they do think they're both smarter than and superior to you. Especially those of you who live in rural areas.

It's time people register their dissatisfaction about these clowns. It won't change the coverage, but contacting them in the right way can be hugely disruptive to their operations.

Here's how to do it. First, have a specific complaint in mind before you call. Make sure it's a local issue so they can't duck it. Be prepared, succinct, and polite. Study up on the topic before hand. Your goal is to put them on the spot and make them answer specific questions.

Local television newsrooms are extremely busy just before their newscasts air, so time your calls accordingly for maximum disruption. Most local stations don't have a dedicated call taker, so you're likely to get routed to whomever is available. It might be a producer, an intern, or even an anchor. No matter who you get, they'll be busy and stressed out and looking to get rid of you as quickly as possible. Keep them on the line for as long as you can.

Newsroom personnel hate to be questioned on anything. They're notoriously thin-skinned about their work. What you'll find beneath the surface if you're persistent is an almost unfathomable ignorance about the stories they cover. Expose this ignorance by asking them basic information about whatever story (or lack of coverage) you're complaining about. If the issue is voter fraud, ask them to explain to you their understanding of your state's election laws. In almost all cases, they will not be able to. Follow up by politely asking them how they can accurately cover stories that they don't understand. You'll probably get a nasty, defensive reaction. Congratulations, it's working.

If they try to blow you off, ask to be routed to someone in charge like the news director, assistant news director, an executive producer, or the general manager. If they lose their cool and hang up on you, call back and try to get the GM or news director. Ask them why their newsroom staff is rude to callers and appears to feel unaccountable. Follow up with emails.

I can't stress enough to your readers how important it is to be polite and informed. If you do your homework, you'll have these people spinning in circles. You may not be able to change their coverage, but it should knock a little of the arrogance out of them and make life more difficult.
This is good advice, and I would only add one thing - make sure you get the name of the person you spoke with - the request will tick them off and you might even get them to give you a fake name. Accountability is to journalists as kryptonite is to Superman. Why do you think so many of them hate blogs with such intensity?

I decided to put this email here instead of my own blog because let's face it - I wanted more people to read it than just my parents and the few co-workers who know I blog.

I've seen many of the same things in newsrooms. One of my first assignments as a student reporter was to cover a visit to our town by Marilyn Quayle. She was giving a speech. As I waited around with the other reporters, I listened to their conversations. Many of them made fun of the decor in the building, openly mocked the supporters who showed up and generally gave off the vibe that they were too good to cover this event, if it was even worth coverage at all. When I covered a Hillary speech, many of the same reporters were there and shockingly - their demeanor was different.

I'm going to attend a rally with Sarah Palin later this week. While there, I'm going to try to spend some time watching and listening to the journalists who cover the event as well as to Palin's speech.

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posted by Slublog at 04:48 PM

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