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The State of the Fourth Estate


Digby poses a question about the state of the Fourth Estate: 

There are a bunch of posts today on the subject of media narrative that are very much worth reading as a series. I’m going to link them all below.

This discussion about media narratives is incredibly important. We must not forget that a great many people are infected with these media storylines (although according to this fascinating analysis by Stirling Newberry, they are less infected than we think.) But there is one group that is almost completely controlled by it and that’s the political establishment. The blogosphere and other forms of alternative media provide some other voices, but in the main, the beltway’s relationship to the people is almost entirely constructed by the media narrative. And it’s killing Democrats….

After reading all of that the question is — how do we fix this?

Digby links to the Foser piece we discussed yesterday, along with some commentary on it, and along with Stirling Newberry’s two streams piece, and a bit of Boehlart’s Lapdogs (which we start discussing in next week’s FDL Book Salon — don’t forget Glenn will be here today at 5 pm ET…).

Digby is right — when you read all of the pieces together, it all starts to coalesce.  And the question truly is, what do we do about it?

Peter Daou has some further thoughts this morning — this time regarding the NYTimes and Calame’s disastrous attempt to justify the Clinton’s marriage piece the paper ran from Healy last week, including thoughts on other media commentary about the issue and some great links to other bloggers which really get to the heart of the whole "tabloid" versus "news" mentality and the question of the state of the Fourth Estate.

Earlier this week, Tim Rutten had a fantastic media opinion column in the LATimes, discussing the state of Iraq War coverage in the context of what the right wing wanted, and what the American public deserved.  He brought up the disastrous rant that will forever be tied to Laura Ingraham (and deservedly so, frankly), about the journalists in Iraq all reporting from the balconies of hotels in the green zone — and really gave it some much-needed whacks:

As the war ground on — and so much of the news became so inconveniently bad — the tenor of this commentary changed. More recently, there has been a drumbeat of criticism alleging that the press corps in Iraq is misleading the American people because it is either too cowardly to leave the relative safety of the Green Zone, or too culturally biased to recognize what they see when they do.

The right-wing radio personality Laura Ingraham went on the "Today" show and charged the Baghdad press corps with simply "reporting from hotel balconies about the latest IEDs going off."

If Dozier ever recovers the full use of her legs, maybe she and Laura could go for a walk and talk the whole thing over.

In the New York Post, Ralph Peters excoriated Iraq correspondents for staying "safe in their enclaves protected by hired guns, complaining that it’s too dangerous out on the streets. They’re only in Baghdad for the byline …"

One suspects he meant "dateline," but perhaps he can explain that to Douglas’ widow, when he pays a condolence call.

Best of all, though, were the comments by President Bush’s new chief domestic policy advisor, Karl Zinsmeister. As a magazine editor, he made a trip to Iraq and wrote in the National Review that "many of the journalists observable in this war theater are bursting with knee-jerk suspicions and antagonisms for the warriors all around them. A significant number are whiny and appallingly soft … and show their discomfort clearly as they hide together in the press tents, fantasizing about expensive restaurants at home and plush hotels in Kuwait City, fondling keyboards and satellite phones with pale fingers, clinging to their world of offices and tattle and chatter where they feel less ineffective, less testosterone deficient …"

If Zinsmeister’s busy schedule permits, maybe he could call on Brolan’s 17-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter and explain how real men behave. On the other hand, maybe he should stay in the White House and mislead the president. He doesn’t seem to mind.

What the right seems to want is a pliant media will to spread "the good news" as they and the Administration see it. What we on the left want is not the same — what we simply want is for them to present the truth. Unvarnished, painful though it may be — just the facts, the truth, the heart of the matter. No more tabloid fluff. No one really cares about whether Britney Spears is driving in a convertible with her baby — but we do care about the world in which that baby and all our babies will grow up.

The American public must make decisions at every election which require them to be informed — fully informed. We rely on our press corps to dig out the facts, the truth, the things that the powerful are trying to keep hidden away. Some journalists do this very, very well — and we try to highlight that when we see a good example here on FDL. But for the folks who would rather hang back on the cocktail weenie circuit, let this serve as your notice: the American public is hungry for some truth. And if you don’t provide it — real, honest to God truth, they will pass you by in favor of something else. If the choice is Pravda or Edward R. Murrow, I’d pick Murrow every time.

How to get from where we are to Murrow…well, that’s Digby’s question.  Any answers?

(This photo is a scene from the movie "His Gal Friday," with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.  If you haven’t seen it, get thee to a video rental place.  It’s still holds up and makes me laugh.)

UPDATE:  Take a read of Pach’s post here as well.  This will get your brain whirring, if nothing else has thus far.  Great stuff!

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com