Discussing the New Yorker's Non-Stop News Article

Excellent article in the January 25, 2010, issue of the New Yorker by Ken Auletta on journalism, the White House, new media and collapsing newspapers, among other topics. The title is "Non-Stop News."

Auletta mentions the White House new media guy Macon Phillips as having the body of a linebacker, although I would say small sumo wrestler would be a better description. I got to meet and briefly film Phillips for a Voice of America report last year. He seemed a bit gruff, impatient, overworked and dour in a barely lit office.

The White House now has its own production team for video, nowadays, as everyone does, but not too many seem to care, preferring controversial fodder from the social networking curating sphere or the usual cable suspects.

Less obviously and more seriously, the article goes on to look into why overworked journalists are more superficial, being overtaxed with live shots, blog updates, cross media appearances rather than being actual reporters, beside and beyond researching and interviewing with their Blackberries.

Investigative journalism, or even honest journalism, seems a dying art. Twitter acts as a tsunami wave on certain "trending topics" and it seems most journalists just get carried away with everyone else, following the curve of mass craving for empathy from a technological distance, where bad/good guys/hapless victims are clearly identified, celebrity mania, especially for missteps and doom of the rich and famous, and outlets breaking stories are the trashiest of the trash and supermarket tabloids are being talked about for Pulitzers.

We live in a renewed Scarlet O'Hara era where people are shamed in the virtual arena, on a public level. Within companies, emails can be cced all around to discredit people with just a few sentences and a click. The evidence can be another email.

I believe the downfall of U.S. journalism began very clearly after 9/11 when a sense of a certain idea of patriotism at all costs trumped all else, stock markets tanked and newspapers began their decline and irrelevance.

I remember writing radio news copy during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, and always using the phrase "alleged" weapons of mass destruction. One editor kept taking the word alleged out, and said we all knew the weapons of mass destruction are everywhere in Iraq, no need to have that word alleged included.

I remember when American newspapers wrote dismissive articles about activists and former arms inspectors in Iraq who insisted there was no proof of weapons of mass destruction. They were portrayed as fringe lunatics, kind buffoons. I remember in the lead up to the Colin Powell fake satellite picture UN speech, being mocked by colleagues for being half French, with the usual brie-eating-surrendering-stereotypes, since at the time, the French government was leading the anti-Iraq invasion movement. One reading of history is that World War II was about gaining access to European markets, via the post conflict Marshall plan, and not to defeat fascism.

I remember the sad trumpeting of technology over reporting, when embedded CNN journalists fed live feeds, without being able to tell us where they were, gee thanks for that, acting more as robots with a camera on their head than reporters. This reminds me of CNN using a monstrous looking 360 camera in Haiti so we can feel like we are there, even though we are not, and neither are the journalists who are.

I also remember when a higher up at VOA told the newsroom we were now all part of the war on terror, and that our mission was to take part in defeating terrorists, thus actually violating VOA's own firewall policy, of influencing VOA journalists with a government motive. A brave colleague immediately resigned.

It has also gotten me thinking recently, why does American media take everything the court system decides as sacrosanct. Why is a guilty man or woman in the courts automatically guilty in the media. In other words, why is the court system above the media? Shouldn't media question and doubt everything, and always work as a counter-power to possible abuse?

Why does media always give more trust and validity to the powerful rather than to the downtrodden, to those whose messages reflect the status quo, rather than to those who want to mix it up, and shake it up, in efforts of making the world better, and less corporate driven?

Why is democracy, a system that was basically set up to protect landowners, such a high minded absolute? Native Americans never thought land should belong to anyone.

I was at a VOA copyrights class the other day and found out that parts of the English language are copyrighted. For example, "Don't Leave Home Without It" can't be used as a headline. Isn't that insane?

Anyway, this stream ramble is done.

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