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The Decade the MSM Won

The mainstream media were the victors in their ideological fight against conservatism.

by
Tom Bowler

Bio

January 30, 2010 - 12:00 am
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It was the advent of low-cost, high-speed Internet access that did it. The shift from dial-up to cable started taking off at just about the start of this past decade, and the unforeseen result was that for the first time major newspapers and TV networks were in a serious fight to defend their turf. Encroachment by Internet news providers and pundits was pushing the mainstream media (MSM) into a battle over who gets to shape public opinion.

The mainstream media had won their control over the news because they owned the means of reaching vast numbers of people.  Suddenly, advances in Internet software and network technologies made it possible for just about anybody to publish to a worldwide audience. Grassroots journalism was born. With the rise of the Internet as a resource for news and information, skepticism over the accuracy and reliability of mainstream reporting grew, and by the middle of the decade bloggers and Internet news websites had cut significantly into the MSM’s influence. But from the perspective of January 2010 it’s clear. At the end of the decade the MSM had won out, successfully imposing its political will on the country.

Two huge stories signaled that the Internet had arrived as an alternative to the print and broadcast media. On January 17, 1998, a news aggregation website, the Drudge Report, published a blockbuster story. It was a story that Newsweek magazine had tried to kill:

Web Posted: 01/17/98 23:32:47 PST — NEWSWEEK KILLS STORY ON WHITE HOUSE INTERN

BLOCKBUSTER REPORT: 23-YEAR OLD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN, SEX RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT

**World Exclusive**
**Must Credit the DRUDGE REPORT**

At the last minute, at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, NEWSWEEK magazine killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation: A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the United States!

The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that reporter Michael Isikoff developed the story of his career, only to have it spiked by top NEWSWEEK suits hours before publication.

This was huge. In an earlier day, when the press made a story disappear it was gone. But now suddenly a major news magazine spiked a story, and it didn’t go away. And that wasn’t the end of the bad news for the MSM.

In September 2004, an icon of broadcast news took a direct hit, compliments of the Internet. CBS News anchor Dan Rather had aired a 60 Minutes story alleging that the Republican candidate for president, George W. Bush, had been guilty of insubordination and AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard. According to Rather, family influence had kept Bush out of trouble over it, and Rather claimed he had the documents to prove it. CBS put them on its website so everybody could get a close look at them. Bad move. Scrutiny began almost immediately. Within hours this comment appeared on the Free Republic conservative message forum, setting off a series of events that brought Dan Rather’s broadcast career to an early finish:

To: Howlin
Howlin, every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman.

In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts.

The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90′s. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn’t used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80′s used monospaced fonts.

I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old.

This should be pursued aggressively.

47 posted on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 11:59:43 PM by Buckhead

In those two stories, two MSM strategies for “shaping” public opinion had been effectively hamstrung. In the first instance, the story on Drudge, a major news magazine was caught trying to kill a story. In the second, a network news anchor had been caught fabricating a story. In each case, media partisanship had been starkly revealed. Cover up the dirt for a Democrat. Make up some dirt about a Republican.

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