Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another chapter in the sad story of our Establishment press

One of the most urgent tasks for a Democratic administration if we're lucky enough to get one in 2009 should be making legal and regulatory changes to restore an environment where a more responsible mainstream media could grow. Changes such as limiting corporate conglomerate control of newspapers and re-establishing something like the Fairness Doctrine.

Media Matters' Eric Boehlert gives an excellent example of the decay of American journalism in his account of ABC's Nightline and its now almost non-existent coverage of the Iraq War in ABC's Nightline walks away from Iraq 11/27/07:

What's so distressing is that television's wholesale withdrawal from covering the war comes at a time when Americans, week after week and month after month, tell pollsters that the "situation in Iraq" is the story they follow most closely, according to the Pew Research Center's weekly News Interest Index. According to Pew, for the week of September 16-21, nearly a third of the public (32 percent) followed news about the situation in Iraq very closely." That figure was virtually unchanged in Pew's most recent survey, for the week of November 11-16.
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Yet what percentage of their total news coverage do television outlets devote to the situation in Iraq? Less than 5 percent. That disconnect between what news consumers are clamoring for (i.e. substance from Iraq) and what news professionals are providing (i.e. everything but) is astonishing.

What's obvious is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to find news about the war on television. If the U.S. military action inside Afghanistan is often referred to as "The Forgotten War," due to the lack of media attention it receives, what has Iraq become -- "The Forgotten War II"? (my emphasis)
It would seem that the most basic market considerations - what kind of news to consumers want to see? - would be driving increasing coverage of the Iraq War, not less. Advocates of unlimited corporate control of media outlets would claim that the market knows best. But in this case, you really have to wonder if the market's demands aren't being tempered by other considerations, such as administration pressure. Though it would be a mistake to underestimate the ability of brilliant corporate leaders to make dumb mistakes, as the still-unfolding subprime mortgage debacle reminds us daily.

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