Monday, July 07, 2008

Tabloid Treasures

I read the New York Times because it's not a tabloid. Conservatives complain that the Times is too liberal. Well, except in the area of the 2nd amendment, the Times either matches my values or is just a bit to the right. I don't consider it too liberal at all. It seems pretty middle of the road to me.

My mom was complaining the other day about how much she hates the news because it seems to salacious. She started by echoing the recent conservative complaints that as soon as the news from Iraq started getting good the media stopped covering the war. She was also amazed watching BBC America the other night at the amount of coverage the situation in Zimbabwe was getting on that network--not just of the election but of the humanitarian crisis, which American Media seems to be ignoring (I suggested she read the Christian Science Monitor, which always has the best African coverage among American outlets).

Her complaint about the mainstream news media having less media coverage of the war since the violence fell may be true, but if so it has less to do with a conspiracy to undermine the President than it does with the simple truth that good news isn't news. The old axiom is "if it bleeds, it leads." If there were spectacular battles in which we were beating an opposing army then it would get a lot of press. For proof we only need look at the first few weeks of the war, when we were pressing on toward Baghdad and the press were falling all over themselves to praise the President and the good job our troops were doing. More complex, to be sure, was news coverage of the house-to-house fighting by U.S. Marines in Falujah. There was a hue and cry when news reports showed soldiers shooting a wounded Iraqi insurgent. On the hole, however, the news coverage showed the Marines in a positive light and, more importantly, a victorious state.

Conservatives are always making these complaints. Any news story, no matter how true, that is either critical of President Bush or simply doesn't bang the drum loudly enough is castigated as being "liberally biased."

But the salaciousness complaint is absolutely true. Most news organizations play the tabloid card to some extent or other. They love gossip, scandal, and spectacular tragedies. Everybody (except the Times) seems to be trying to out-Post the Post. Is today's lead story the bombing in Pakistan as you'd expect? the G-8 summit? The elections? No. It's the fact that Alex Rodriguez and his wife might be getting divorced because he is allegedly having an affair with Madonna--and talk about a cougar! The rags love this kind of crap. In the long run it serves the conservative agenda much more than it does the liberal agenda, because stuff that distracts from real news, stuff that plays to people's lusts instead of prompting them to question and criticize their government, ultimately serves the conservative purpose of maintaining the status quo.


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