Tagged: News

CNN’s lost generation

Sometimes I wish CNN would just roll over and die. An announcement they are creating a news bureau in Second Life confirms that they are trend followers, and are no longer innovators. Yeah, so maybe a 24/7 news network was once a brilliant idea, but with the Web, who cares? Having failed at emulating the Fox News effect (by proliferating right wing news commentators through out their broadcasts) and comedy (by trying to inject Daily News antics here and there), they are now looking for salvation in user generated media, but the thing that they forget is that they are a huge multinational corporation. How does their business model jive with the new media revolution? Hence the humor of the following anecdote from youth media advocate Anastasia Goodstein:

Ypulse: Media for the Next Generation:

… when I was visiting CNN, they were talking about how to get young people to upload their own news video — one person remarked that they have been getting one kind of interesting video from teenagers: video imitating CNN anchors. Teens would create their own satirical skits making fun of the news and upload it to CNN (“The Daily Show” effect?).

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It takes one to know one

Bloviators of the world, unite! Robert Novak, a cantankerous, professional bloviator whose livelihood is threatened by our grassroots movement of citizen pundits and journalists doesn’t like sharing the stage. I think he just like to say the word “bloviate.” Me too.

‘Prince of Darkness’ Chronicles Novak’s Life in Journalism – July 13, 2007 – The New York Sun:

“The bloggers bloviate. They give their opinions. They don’t try to find things out.”

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Military mouthpiece

Yahoo! News Photos - War With Iraq-1

A fascinating interview with Josh Rushing who was featured in the documentary on Al Jazeera, Control Room, as a US military spokesperson. Now he reports for Al Jazeera. This is a terrific inside report on how the military spins news.

Democracy Now! | Ex-Marine Josh Rushing on his Journey from Military Mouthpiece to Al Jazeera Correspondent:

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the kind of information that was presented at CENTCOM and how you were feeling as someone in the Marines who was part of shaping that message, and how you changed along the way.

JOSH RUSHING: Yeah, no. This part was really rough for me, because as a military spokesperson, you don’t talk about policy. You talk about the way you’re going to conduct an action, not why you’re going to conduct an action. So if someone were to ask me before the war, “Why are you going to invade Iraq?” — and reporters did — the only honest answer I could give is, “We’ll invade Iraq if the President orders us to. And we won’t if he doesn’t. We don’t get to pick and choose our battles.” That way, it’s left to a politician in a suit behind a podium at the White House to explain why they made that decision.

But instead, what we did, we had a Republican operative who was put in charge of our office, displacing a colonel that had started doing media liaison when this Republican operative was about probably five years old. And what this guy knew how to do was run a campaign, and so we were run like a political campaign. And the first step in that political campaign was to sell the product, and that was sell the invasion. So they gave the reasons down to the young troops, guys like me, to go out to reporters and give the reasons we’re going to invade a sovereign nation.

Here’s the problem: the reporters in no way had the latitude to ask someone in uniform a critical question. I mean, on MSNBC their coverage was actually packaged with a banner that said, “Our hearts are with you.” So when I’m the young troop in uniform on screen, and the viewer sees “Our hearts are with you,” do you think the reporter’s going to ask me a critical question? Of course not. But I’m out there giving political answers. I’m out there saying, “We’re going to invade Iraq” — and this was the real catch: they would ask me before I would go on air live, “Are there any messages you want to get across today?” Well, yeah. My boss comes straight from the White House, and they have the messages of the day, and so they would give it to us. So I’d say, “Sure. WMD, regime change, ties with terrorism.” And they go, “OK. Well, I’ll ask you these questions, so we can get those answers out.” And they set it all up.

You can read Rushing’s book here:

“Mission Al Jazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth, Change the World” (Josh Rushing)

Framing 101


What follows is a decent article about how conservatives “frame” language in order to control how issues are thought about. The concept is based on the work of neurolinguist George Lakoff, whose book Don’t Think of an Elephant, was in the back pocket of every Democrat after the last presidential defeat. Framing is important for the study of propaganda, but I think it’s overblown because it assumes that all politics is about language (much of it is) and who controls it, but coming up with good ways to frame concepts is no substitute for good policy and righteous action. Sure framing will help progressives and ecologists get their messages out, but what is more important is ethics, intention and pedagogy. Organizers should think less about manipulations and more about establishing good intentions through the pedagogy and work of their cause. By incorporating the philosophy of Deep Ecology, for example, the long term change has greater benefits.
To Catch a Wolf: How to Stop Conservative Frames in Their Tracks – CommonDreams.org:

BLITZER: Congressman Kucinich, you voted against the Patriot Act when it was first introduced. You’ve since voted again against it. But some would say yesterday’s plot that was described by the FBI underscores the need for precisely that kind of tough measure to deal with potential terrorists out there.

Here is the framing evoked by the question:

First, and perhaps most importantly, the question assumed that the plot was indeed serious and was not, as Arianna Huffington has suggested, disorganized and disgruntled citizens who were hapless and harmless. Second, the question assumed that the plot was only foiled due to the provisions of the Patriot Act – not community cooperation or police work. Third, the question lumped all Patriot Act provisions together under the banner of necessity. Many provisions in the Patriot Act are indeed beneficial and needed. However, many more are a clear violation of civil rights – Blitzer’s question did not reveal these disparities. Fourth, the language “tough measure” and “terrorists out there” represented the Bush administration exactly as the President wanted: The Republicans are tough (hence the Democrats are weak), and there is real evil immediately threatening us (and the Democrats are too weak to protect us).

Finally, the question suggested that the trampling of civil rights through this “tough measure to deal with potential terrorists” is virtuous and worthy of being commended. Since the plot was foiled — Blitzer’s question implied that the Patriot Act is an effective measure to fight terrorists — and is therefore worth the destruction of civil rights.

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Don’t get fooled again


The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania has created a great classroom Internet news tool, FactcheckED. It has very practical advice for helping students detect fraud in political advertising and propaganda. Another good source for researching PR and spin is the site, PR Watch.
FactcheED provides this simple and awesome checklist for detecting bias…


A Process for Avoiding Deception

1. Keep an open mind. Most of us have biases, and we can easily fool ourselves if we don’t make a conscious effort to keep our minds open to new information. Psychologists have shown over and over again that humans naturally tend to accept any information that supports what they already believe, even if the information isn’t very reliable. And humans also naturally tend to reject information that conflicts with those beliefs, even if the information is solid. These predilections are powerful. Unless we make an active effort to listen to all sides we can become trapped into believing something that isn’t so, and won’t even know it.

2. Ask the right questions. Don’t accept claims at face value; test them by asking a few questions. Who is speaking, and where are they getting their information? How can I validate what they’re saying? What facts would prove this claim wrong? Does the evidence presented really back up what’s being said? If an ad says a product is “better,” for instance, what does that mean? Better than what?

3. Cross-check. Don’t rely on one source or one study, but look to see what others say. When two or three reliable sources independently report the same facts or conclusions, you can be more confident of them. But when two independent sources contradict each other, you know you need to dig more deeply to discover who’s right.

4. Consider the source. Not all sources are equal. As any CSI viewer knows, sometimes physical evidence is a better source than an eyewitness, whose memory can play tricks. And an eyewitness is more credible than somebody telling a story they heard from somebody else. By the same token, an Internet website that offers primary source material is more trustworthy than one that publishes information gained second- or third-hand. For example, official vote totals posted by a county clerk or state election board are more authoritative than election returns reported by a political blog or even a newspaper, which can be out of date or mistaken.

5. Weigh the evidence. Know the difference between random anecdotes and real scientific data from controlled studies. Know how to avoid common errors of reasoning, such as assuming that one thing causes another simply because the two happen one after the other. Does a rooster’s crowing cause the sun to rise? Only a rooster would think so.

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Guns and cameras

I was once on a panel with Lance Strate. He is a thoughtful, smart media ecology expert who recently wrote a provocative blog on the Virginia Tech murders. He is not the first to equate guns with cameras (Susan Sontag and Paul Virilio have each made the connection on a deep level), but I thought he made some particualry sharp observations about the manner in which news media allow themselves to be exploited by sensationalism. I encourage you to read the entire post.

Lance Strate’s Blog Time Passing: Guns and Cameras:

Guns and cameras are both media of communication, as McLuhan makes clear in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man where he includes chapters on the photograph, motion picture, television, and weapons–both guns and cameras are extensions of the human body, guns extending the fist and fingernail in their offensive capacities, cameras extending the eyes in their voyeuristic capacities. Both guns and cameras are means by which we mediate between ourselves and elements of our environment, they go between us our environment, and in doing so keep the environment as a distance from ourselves. Guns and cameras are both methods by which people communicate, sending messages to their target, and to bystanders alike–that is why we have phrases like, “the shot heard around the world” after all. Guns and cameras are both weapons, both used to attack and cause harm (e.g., the paparazzi, the private detective stalking the adulterer), both used to control and imprison–that is why we talk about cameras using words like shoot, snapshot, load (the film), capture (the subject, the moment), etc.–this is a deep metaphor that reveals an often-unconscious understanding of the link between the two technologies.

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Fake news out-duels “real” news


The PEW Research Center has released its latest study that correlates what people know and how they consume news media. Turns out not much has changed since the advent of 24/7 cable news, but the most interesting tidbit is that those who watch the so-called “fake news”- The Daily Show and Colbert Report- are the best informed. (I knew it!)

Summary of Findings: Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions:

There are substantial differences in the knowledge levels of the audiences for different news outlets. However, there is no clear connection between news formats and what audiences know. Well-informed audiences come from cable (Daily Show/Colbert Report, O’Reilly Factor), the internet (especially major newspaper websites), broadcast TV (NewsHour with Jim Lehrer) and radio (NPR, Rush Limbaugh’s program). The less informed audiences also frequent a mix of formats: broadcast television (network morning news shows, local news), cable (Fox News Channel), and the internet (online blogs where people discuss news events).

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Is it really only getting worse?


Truthdig – Interviews – Media Critic on Why It’s Only Getting Worse:

Once upon a time, TV news put journalists on camera. Today, cable news has on-air “talent”—who are “cast,” not just hired. A Walter Cronkite would have big trouble getting a job today in TV news. But an actor? No problem. CNN a few years ago cast a former actress from “NYPD Blue” as one of its “Headline News” anchors. At Fox News, where lip gloss and blond hair go further than a background in journalism, I could find no proof to the charge that executives reviewed audition tapes of potential female anchors with the sound turned off.

Jeff Cohen, a founder of FAIR, has been one of the best media watchdogs of the era. His new book, Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media, is out. It’s probably a good read (and funny too, I’m sure), but I wonder if it’s worth caring anymore about how bad cable news is. Do people really care what they say? Do these networks really have that much influence on people’s opnions? I’m thinking out loud here, but I’m guessing that we place more importance on this kind of programming than the actual impact. I wonder if these networks exist within a self-genereating reality and the Internet will bypass them as it has with newspapers. What do you think?

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News war


Watch it online.

FRONTLINE: news war: introduction | PBS:

Bergman traces the recent history of American journalism, from the Nixon administration’s attacks on the media and the post-Watergate popularity of the press to new obstacles presented by the war on terror and changing economics in the media business and the Internet. The topic has special resonance for Bergman, whose career as a journalist for FRONTLINE, The New York Times, ABC News and 60 Minutes has included reporting on the issues that are critical to the current controversies. “There has been a perfect storm brewing in the world of news,” says Bergman. “Not since the Nixon administration has there been this level of hostility leveled at news organizations. … [But] unlike the confrontations of 35 or more years ago, today’s news war sees the very economic foundations of the business shifting.”

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Mapping corporate media


“We report. You Decide.”

Wondering where your news comes from? One of the underlying principles of a “propaganda environment” is an information complex in which the values of the system are internalized. Remember that traditional media are corporations in the business of selling programming, including news. One of the criticisms of traditional media (as opposed to networked media or citizen journalism) is that they generate their own reality: they define what is “information,” not the reverse (i.e. the Fox News slogan, “We report. You Decide.”). Only rarely do the carefully orchestrated presentations of news get unhinged: natural disasters and major events like 9/11. I found it curious, though, that within 12 hours of the airplanes hitting the WTC, news companies had already edited amateur video into a narrative that looked like a film trailer. This is an example of how events are made into packages.

Anyhow, below is an interesting map of the interlocking interests between news companies and other major multinational corporations. For a detailed map of corporate board rooms, go here. The following is a snapshot that is a couple years old, and some of the members will have changed by now, but you will get the picture.

Project Censored Media Democracy in Action:

A research team at Sonoma State University has recently finished conducting a network analysis of the boards of directors of the ten big media organizations in the US. The team determined that only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. This is a small enough group to fit in a moderate size university classroom. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. In fact, eight out of ten big media giants share common memberships on boards of directors with each other. NBC and the Washington Post both have board members who sit on Coca Cola and J. P. Morgan, while the Tribune Company, The New York Times and Gannett all have members who share a seat on Pepsi. It is kind of like one big happy family of interlocks and shared interests. The following are but a few of the corporate board interlocks for the big ten media giants in the US:

New York Times: Caryle Group, Eli Lilly, Ford, Johnson and Johnson, Hallmark,
Lehman Brothers, Staples, Pepsi
Washington Post: Lockheed Martin, Coca-Cola, Dun & Bradstreet, Gillette,
G.E. Investments, J.P. Morgan, Moody’s
Knight-Ridder: Adobe Systems, Echelon, H&R Block, Kimberly-Clark, Starwood Hotels
The Tribune (Chicago & LA Times): 3M, Allstate, Caterpillar, Conoco Phillips, Kraft,
McDonalds, Pepsi, Quaker Oats, Shering Plough, Wells Fargo
News Corp (Fox): British Airways, Rothschild Investments
GE (NBC): Anheuser-Busch, Avon, Bechtel, Chevron/Texaco, Coca-Cola, Dell, GM,
Home Depot, Kellogg, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, Motorola, Procter & Gamble,
Disney (ABC): Boeing, Northwest Airlines, Clorox, Estee Lauder, FedEx, Gillette,
Halliburton, Kmart, McKesson, Staples, Yahoo,
Viacom (CBS): American Express, Consolidated Edison, Oracle, Lafarge North America
Gannett: AP, Lockheed-Martin, Continental Airlines, Goldman Sachs, Prudential, Target,
AOL-Time Warner (CNN): Citigroup, Estee Lauder, Colgate-Palmolive, Hilton

Balancing industry against science

Discussing a report that shows a consensus in peer-reviewed journals that there is global climate change, Gore says the mainstream media has failed to report this, and have continued to seek “balance” as bias. Read on…

Gore says media miss climate message – Nashville, Tennessee – Wednesday, 02/28/07 – Tennessean.com:

He noted that recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fourth unanimous report calling on world leaders to take action on global warming.

“I believe that is one of the principal reasons why political leaders around the world have not yet taken action,” Gore said. “There are many reasons, but one of the principal reasons in my view is more than half of the mainstream media have rejected the scientific consensus implicitly — and I say ‘rejected,’ perhaps it’s the wrong word. They have failed to report that it is the consensus and instead have chosen … balance as bias.

“I don’t think that any of the editors or reporters responsible for one of these stories saying, ‘It may be real, it may not be real,’ is unethical. But I think they made the wrong choice, and I think the consequences are severe.

Another small step for citizen journalism

Tonight at 11, news by neighbors / Santa Rosa TV station fires news staff, to ask local folks to provide programming:

Steve Spendlove realizes that after last month’s layoffs of most of the news-gathering staff at tiny KFTY-TV in Santa Rosa there will be less local coverage. The Clear Channel executive overseeing the station knows there won’t be reporters to investigate local scandals, let alone do those fluffy woman-turns-100 features that make TV anchors cock their heads and smile at the end of a newscast.

But Spendlove said that the station’s “business model” hadn’t been working for years, and that “covering one-eighth of the Bay Area” is neither a moneymaker nor even an operation large enough to be measured by Nielsen ratings.

So the next step in Channel 50’s evolution will be a nationally watched experiment in local television coverage. Over the next few months, the station’s management plans to ask people in the community — its independent filmmakers, its college students and professors, its civic leaders and others — to provide programming for the station.

Is this citizen journalism, or just asking consumers to produce their own content for free? It’s both really, and it should be viewed as an evolving situation that is more and more common. If the consumers are the producers, ultimately this is a good thing. In the early days of punk there was a breakdown between audience and performer, and it was liberating. Of course, in the end it’s quality that counts, and that remains to be scene

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Forecasting media weather


“You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows,”
Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan

Eat The Press | Fox Takes Fair And Balanced Look At Weather “War”…With One Side | The Huffington Post:

FNC’s “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocey did a piece on the “War over the Weather” this morning in advance of Friday’s United Nations report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with guest Sen. James Inhofe, ranking minority member on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (and formerly its highly underqualified chair), so Inhofe could once again hold forth on his views on climate change and global warming, namely, that it’s entirely normal and natural and not at all a man-based problem and anyone who suggests otherwise is a nefarious tool of the radical left. For his part, Doocey offered leading questions which also called out the “left wing”, creating a segment that was actually not at all unlike an informercial.

Does The Weather Channel (TWC) have a political agenda? Well, yes. It’s a business and makes money from advertising. But when Fox News Channel (FNC) accuses it of a “far left agenda” because its meteorologists acknowledge global warming, the implication of the finger pointers is that they are free of their own bias. I never thought weather could become a Rorschach test of ideology, but I suppose in a Stalinist political environment, anything is possible. For a clear understanding of how the FNC gyroscope is spun by Republican operatives, filmmaker Robert Greenwald’s Outfoxed documentary is an excellent case study of how precisely reality can be constructed by a news agency. Debunking the human contribution to global warming is akin to viewing humans as beings who eat but never excrete.

You need a weatherman to tell which way the digital wind blows

TWC represents itself through multiple segments and the ads it sells. But for the sake of analysis, I’ll focus on the network’s chief communicator, the weatherperson.

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Continue reading

Social news network

The folks at Media Channel have created News Trust, a social news network. What is “social news”? Building on the new paradigm of collective, self-organized intelligence that is the Web 2.0, readers can rate what they are reading as “trustworthy.” The old paradigm based on advertising determines what’s popular by what people buy, or the consumer patterns of a particular demographic that also reads the news service. So rather than voting with your dollars, at News Trust you vote with your intelligence. In all honesty, though, I’m not sure if I agree with the premise that an informed citizenry necessarily creates democracy. There’s also the issue of pedagogy and education. Just because someone can read facts doesn’t necessarily translate as action or democracy. Still, grassroots media services like this are absolutely necessary to balance large corporate media organizations that tend to filter according to their own operating paradigm in the service of capital rather than humans (or nature).

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Fake news

At least with The Daily Show fake news is funny. Not so with “Video News Releases” (NVR), which are bogus news packages created by PR companies that run during regular news programs as if they are legitimate news. This has been a growing phenomena that needs curbing. Click below for more:

Free Press : No Fake News:

Local Television’s Dirty Little Secret

For the second time this year, Free Press and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) have revealed that corporate propaganda continues to infiltrate local television news across the country.

Stations are slipping corporate-sponsored “video news releases” — promotional segments designed to look like objective news reports — into their regular news programming. This deception is illegal under FCC rules.

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Top censored news stories

Here’s another opportunity to read about the top 25 censored news stories from project censored. Here’s a snip, click the link to read what’s on the rest of the list.

News & Culture | Censored news stories:

1. Net Neutrality

Throughout 2005 and this year, a largely underground debate has raged regarding the future of the Internet. More recently referred to as net neutrality, the issue has become a tug of war with cable companies on the one hand and consumers and Internet service providers (ISPs) on the other. Yet despite important legislative proposals and Supreme Court decisions throughout 2005, the issue was almost completely ignored in the headlines until 2006. And except for occasional coverage on CNBC’s Kudlow & Kramer, mainstream television remains hands-off to this day.

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