State of the Media

19 March 2008

Pew releases an annual State of the Media report, and this year's is pretty grim. Particularly interesting is its report on Cable News reporting (see Punditry). As a citizen, things like this make me upset:

Collectively, the broad range of domestic issues including the environment, education, transportation, development, religion, domestic terrorism, health care, race -- everything but immigration -- made up 13% of the time on cable (compared with 26% on network evening news). The three topics of celebrity, crime and disasters, in contrast, accounted for 24% of cable's time.

To put that into perspective, if one were to have watched five hours of cable news, one would have seen about:

* 35 minutes about campaigns and elections
* 36 minutes about the debate over U.S. foreign policy
* 26 minutes or more of crime
* 12 minutes of accidents and disasters
* 10 minutes of celebrity and entertainment

On the other hand, one would have seen:

* 1 minute and 25 seconds about the environment
* 1 minute and 22 seconds about education
* 1 minute about science and technology
* 3 minutes and 34 seconds about the economy
* 3 minutes and 46 seconds about health and health care

As Matt Nisbet points out, "If you watch FIVE HOURS of Cable News, expect to find ONE MINUTE of coverage devoted to either science or the environment." And this is just for 2007. I imagine that campaign coverage (see campaign strategy coverage) has skyrocketed since then.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, John McCain is throwing a private party at his home for all the cable news journalists where he cooks them ribs. In return, they excuse him from tough coverage.

UPDATE II: Not surprisingly, the public is unhappy with the news media.

UPDATE III: As Glenn Greenwald reminds us, "we have the worst, sleaziest press corps possible". After legitimately asking for, and eventually receiving, Hillary Clinton's records as First Lady does ABC News scour them for substance? No:

The full headline reads: "Hillary Was in White House on "Stained Blue Dress" Day." It seems as if our television journalists have been replaced by high-school gossips. Rather than looking through the records to evaluate them substantively, they rush to sex it up however they can. It's really despicable.

UPDATE IV: As Glenn Greenwald also reminds us, Brian Ross (who just brought us this deplorable "journalism" from ABC) was also making the rounds several years ago shrieking that Saddam Hussein was behind the anthrax attacks. Ross still has not apologized for his false scare-mongering.

These are the gatekeepers. This is the filter that the most important stories in the country have to go through before you see them. I'm normally a good-humored guy, but it seriously upsets me to take a step back and see how awful our procedures are for getting substantive information out to citizens and voters.

UPDATE V: I suggest that anyone concerned with Brian Ross's awful "journalism" send him an email here. Or, as Susie Madrak points out, you can leave him a voicemail at his phone number (212-456-7612) - just don't harass him personally.


Utah Savage said...

This deplorable "journalism" did not exist during the Vietnam war years, no embeds there. I can't remember when the news media got so cowardly and gossipy, but I think it happened when news shows were required to make a buck. The privatization of everything is the culprit. Rupert Mudrock and his ilk are most of the problem. It has certainly gotten worse in the past eight years. Olbermann's "Special Comments"are the only rays of light I see on the journalism scene.

Cameron said...

This relates to update III:

In fairness, it takes a while to read through thousands of pages of heavily redacted scanned images. I'm still hopeful some responsible media outlets somewhere are working on it.

Utah Savage said...

I have to amend my last comment. Olbermann cannot be said to be a journalist. He is a pundit. Part pundit, part sports nerd, part humorist/satirist, reluctant conduit of tabloid gossip, but great observer of the body politic. And his "Special Comments," are the best thing since the late great Edward R. Morrow.