Ed Driscoll

Conflating Punditry And Reporting

Several of the recent posts here have focused on the surprisingly brief life and quiet death of objectivity in the legacy mass media. Or as Victor Davis Hanson wrote in the last days of the 2008 presidential election, “Sometime in 2008, journalism as we knew it died, and advocacy media took its place.”

The replacement is a curiously schizophrenic beast; blending punditry and journalism; turning every newspaper into the Washington Times without the conservative op-eds, every network news department into Fox News without the pro-American populism. Regarding the latter trend, last month Robert Stacy McCain wrote:

The rise of Fox News as the No. 1 cable news outlet has resulted in ideological counterprograming. [emphasis in original–Ed] The success of a conservative news network has had an effect that might be best understood by reference to Newton’s third law of motion. At first, there was the “equal effect” — chastened by Fox’s success, most networks sought to rein in their traditional liberal bias. But then, after the 2004 election, the “opposite effect” kicked in. Network executives figured, “Hey, Fox already has a monopoly on conservative viewers. Let’s let our freak flags fly and give liberals what they really want.” I really noticed this phenomenon during the 2006 campaign, when the media (a) pretended that the contributions Jack Abramoff’s clients made to Democrats were meaningless, and (b) presented Mark Foley as the GOP poster boy. The existence of Fox News provides a ready-made excuse for liberals in the media to think of their bias as “balancing” Fox.

But half of the time those on the inside either don’t know what’s changed, or if they do, won’t admit it publicly. (Occasionally a voice in these institutions will come clean and then a successor will forget the earlier admission–or more painfully, his own.)

All of which helps to set the stage for this post by Glenn Reynolds: “Paul Mulshine Blows It.”

Update: Don’t miss the extended comment by Jay Rosen regarding Mulshine’s column, on Fausta Wertz’s blog. Jay writes (amongst other things):

We are quite well informed about why the newspaper business is collapsing. The immediate cause: readers are moving to the Net but for various reasons the advertising isn’t. Newspapers are stuck with huge capital structures they cannot easily jettison and revenues are falling. No one who writes seriously about new media and citizen journalism is unaware of this. No one in new media, citizen journalism or regular journalism knows what to do about it.

That’s not the only reason, though it’s a big one; it’s an extremely safe assumption that revenues bottoming out are what’s driving some of the other reasons old media’s hit an iceberg (see above, and Michael Malone’s great election-end column at Pajamas HQ), and is a subject we explored in video form earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Jules Crittenden also spots the extreme blurring of the lines between punditry and reporting in old media.