I hear you and Fogiv got in a tussle. In the diary in question I commented at great enough length to feel the desire to expand my comments a bit further. I’ve copied my first ramble below and I’ll add a little more here as well.
If the two of you were other people I’d tell you to take it outside, but the tiny tempest is illustrative of points worth pondering, as they apply not just to you two but to all of us. Because you are a public voice of some stature and because Fogiv is a bright and engaged citizen you both represent groups that are fundamental to our ability to function as a culture. The faults I would like to point out are less about you than they are about us, so please take my commentary with that intent.
We have come to a point in American news media where a notable media figure is enraged by a single comment of an anonymous blogger, and enraged because he did the same thing he accused the blogger of – not doing his homework. What does that tell us?
As we work through what news media looks like in the coming decades we have to look back to see how we got to where we are. Everyone watched Walter Cronkite in that era (78% of us watched I Love Lucy), today Glenn Beck is seen as a leader in television political commentary because 1% (now 0.5%) of us watch him. What was virtually a sole source for news and information has become a niche.
So, with the veneer of Public Servant stripped away leaving little more than the same competitive motives of every business, is it any surprise that there is open questioning of the line between journalistic integrity and financial success? Are you, Keith, any more or less guilty than any of us of drawing direct assumptions about the actions of the FOX employees based on your read of the motivations of the executive staff? Am I, because from my perspective the motivations of Murdoch seem to shine through the words and actions of his team? Either all of the individuals at FOX involved in reporting the Tea Party were knowingly and cynically Astroturfing the whole thing for their cynical benefit, or they were not. Is it at the same time ridiculous to question the motivations of MSNBC executives and wonder aloud about the machinations they might construct to address their financial goals? Those questions are no more or less offensive to you than your statements about FOX are to anyone there, and likewise they are questions that at least have to be asked.
Your response to Fogiv does nothing to help you answer any such questions.
Instead of climbing on a soapbox and attempting to refute by proclamation, you could have engaged Fogiv as a person. You could have taken a moment to understand that behind each of these anonymous voices here is a person who is likely to understand at some level what I have said above. That all of us Out Here beyond the studio are capable of perceiving the complex position of you and your employer, and while not all of us are unsympathetic each one of us still wonders how our traditional news media can balance the business model they are faced with against the challenges of providing honest and unbiased content.
I don’t believe Fogiv accepts the idea that you and your colleagues are knowingly and willingly plotting to spin the news to your employers’ advantage. I don’t. But we all see you and your peers and we wonder where MSNBC and FOX are going to be in one and five and ten years. We wonder if corporate logic will dictate continued sharpening of ideological messaging and widening of divides. We wonder how the need to maintain dwindling and/or demographically-specific audiences will change the executive motivations, the hiring practices, the programming. We wonder whether anything resembling journalistic integrity will survive the shifting marketing requirements of the companies who pay for sets and studios and staff. If the answer to that is “no” – and that is a possibility – then we must wonder whether that line has gotten crossed yesterday or whether it will be today.
So, Keith, you had and still have a chance to be part of that conversation. Your ability to speak with us from inside the curious creature we are watching evolve could help us all understand where you and it are going. Together we might even help you see that path yourself.
My original comment:
I don’t think you did a thing wrong. (0 / 0)
You prefaced your comment as unfounded and it was contextual. If you were a conspiracy theorist and the group you were engaging with were tinfoiled and you were agreeing with them because your mom confirmed it at the cleaners then you all would be open to dismissal. But you are demonstrably not that sort of person and the group is not that sort of group (though there are leaners in Left Blogistan ;~).
I know the source of that rumor as well as you, and as far as these things go it’s a source you can put some amount of weight into beyond the lady-at-the-cleaners level at least. Yes, I’ve never confirmed this person’s employment but I’ve talked with him or her for several years and the person works in the media industry or is obsessively good at pretending. Yes, the person is much more cynical intrinsically than I am, but as everyone can I am more than capable of factoring in such biases. No, I wouldn’t take that one person’s word that there is any sort of Casablancian conspiracy going on at MSNBC, but yes, I can see how the motivations of a pressured top brass could trickle down to effect the tendencies of their employees (and a savvy executive team knows that and plays it. I would).
All that I have said above is, in the end, basic journalism. Every source is questionable (even when you have the tape) and each has to be taken in context. Every person who performs the act of Reporting – professionally or not – is saddled with the burden of presenting with appropriate verity the information they have gathered.
For those who are doing it professionally, it is a measure or their art to do this part well. Before making declarative statements about something you heard a few words of from an unknown source you spend a little time – say at least a solid hour – seeing what is behind that disconnected piece of data. You correlate it with other words the person has said and the contexts he has said them in. Then you decide whether it is sound and wise to stake the value of your word on the information, and what level of factuality to associate it with.
Keith, this is where you lost this argument. You found your outrage and exclamation about someone else who based an opinion on a few random words… on a few random words. If you had looked only a small bit as deeply at Fogiv as he has at his source you would have a more nuanced reaction. I, for one, would have been fascinated to hear those thoughts from you. But, if I may, that, sir, is your albatross. By nature I see you as someone who leans towards snap reactions, in fact that has likely been the strength of your recent career. You quickly voice common thoughts while others are still putting them into words. Our media landscape has become full of such voices, however, speaking from both sides of the aisle.
Perhaps, just perhaps, we are evolving a bit beyond that, however slowly. It just may be that there will be more attention for restrained voices in the post-“Introducing: Sarah Palin!” era. Maybe there was an appetite that was eager for a Sarah and Glenn and Rush and Bill, and to some extent their Left-handed counterparts, but those sort of appetites are usually followed by gorging and regret.
We’ll see how that all works out, but in the smallness of the events that lead me to write all these words I have to call this as your foul, Keith. You’ve found yourself Pot and Kettled and it would serve you better to understand that.