Has journalism disappeared or is it just hiding?

A  very smart friend of mine, Rick McNair, who calls President Obama "WOW" for "walks on water", writes on his blog  that he’d give him a grade of “C” so far.  He laments a "fawning PR blitz by a media that leaves me wondering where and when journalism disappeared? Thankfully, Fox news, Rush and the internet are around to tell the other side of the story from their own biased perspective."
I asked him four essay questions on his blog. He enjoys a challenge so I expect he’ll answer, perhaps honoring Capitol Hill Blue readers with his insights.
1) How does telling opposite sides of a political "story" from biased points of view which are equally extreme and at times distorted lead to understanding of the  often complex – dare I suggest nuanced – pros and cons of any issue?
2) What is wrong with this statement: If I fully understand black, and I fully understand white, it stands to reason that I fully understand grey.
3) If partisans never hear counter-arguments because they listen only to those who support their beliefs, how are they supposed to be objective?
4) Explain how the recent Ohio State University study of viewers of The Colbert Report who are conservative have a tendency to believe he is one of them rather than a liberal relates to this.
The International Journal of Press/Politics, Vol. 14, No. 2, 212-231 (2009)
The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report
This study investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert. Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy. Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert’s political ideology. Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. Finally, a post hoc analysis revealed that perceptions of Colbert’s political opinions fully mediated the relationship between political ideology and individual-level opinion.
Even on the talking heads television shows we generally find a liberal and a conservative spokesperson debating the issues, rarely conceding points to each other, with the moderator doing little more than refereeing. 
 I haven’t sampled all the talk shows and I can’t bring myself to watch Fox, even for the sake of Capitol Hill Blue. (I’m not claiming to be a journalist.) I regularly watch the other Sunday morning network interview shows.
During the week I mostly watch MSNBC where I find that the Morning Joe crew actually comes close to putting bias aside when they debate amongst themselves.
Without resorting to hyperbole and saying that journalism has literally vanished, do you think that in the past, say, ten years, the objective reporting of politics has taken a severe hit?
Where are the best examples of objective reporting to be found?

There are few talk show hosts that can make sure their partisan guests actually hear what each other are saying. A good talk show moderator should be like a good marriage counselor.


  1. jgw

    Bias in the news? Of course! I suspect the closest you will get to none is to read the various news organization news releases on the net. Newspapers come in next but they are, for the most part going broke. The ones with staying power are the ones with a point of view (nicer than bias).

    Anybody who considers television an actual source of real news has their head stuck firmly, er, in the ground. Please remember, tv news is ENTERTAINMENT – nothing more, nothing less. I remember, at the beginning of last year’s election cycle in something like 2006, when all the majors announced that they would no longer cover the war in Iraq as people were more interested in the election so they would cover that instead. This, pretty much, defines their ‘unbiased’ reporting and “the right to know”.

    So, any arguments about news: Is it real? Is it unbiased? etc. is a nice distraction (not unlike gay marriage, the evil Mexical invasion, etc) but, when it comes to news the main question should be; “Is it entertaining?”. That’s what the providers ask (and try to provide), and, obviously, its what the public demands.

    There are lots of real reporters, doing real reporting (check out the agency reports) but, if it isn’t entertaining then its unlikely it will reach the majors. This is a simple fact…..

    Oh – writing bad things about Obama, arguably the most popular president in a VERY long time, would be neither popular NOR entertaining! Therefore…….

    Port Angeles, WA

  2. griff

    During the week I watch nothing. During the weekend I watch nothing. And yet I know exactly what’s happening. Go figure.

    People don’t want to be informed, for the most part. They want to be entertained and comforted, soothed to sleep by their favorite partisan lullabye.

    They want to know that the government is is on the job and there’s nothing to worry about. Just a little rough patch is all.

    That’s the media’s job.

    “Hush now baby, baby, dont you cry.
    Mother’s gonna make all your nightmares come true.
    Mother’s gonna put all her fears into you.
    Mother’s gonna keep you right here under her wing.
    She won’t let you fly, but she might let you sing.
    Mama will keep baby cozy and warm.
    Ooooh baby ooooh baby oooooh baby,
    Of course mama’ll help to build the wall.” – Pink Floyd

  3. RichardKanePA

    Much opinion many people feel rarely gets reported because people who hold it don’t repeat it over and over again. And to me obvious facts or likelihoods missed.

    People old enough may remember when you told a restaurant etc. that one was a vegetarian. The question back was, “Do you eat fish”. Then there was a campaign to insist that fish eaters weren’t vegetarians, and the question ended. In casual conversation on abortion or gay rights sometimes casual comment was “The earlier the better” or “Straight is better than gay, but it’s better that people not be forced to be all alone”.

    Much discussion such as insisting that requiring parental notification will mean more late abortions, wouldn’t mean much without the assumption that there was something more serious about a late abortion. Opinion polls are slanted to avoid confusing sounding answers.

    Beyond this wet newspaper sticks to itself and ceramic, so no one flushes a book down a toilet. And as far as the flushing story being and old Arab folk tale. Certainly not before the spread of flush toilets. Arguments over whether a single stand of DNA, a stand of hair was planted, neglects that hats are full of hair strands, a few from people in the vicinity.

    Seeing the world divided between good and evil has something to do with having a brain with two halves, and two eyes and ears. Supposedly now there are endless dimensions, and most of the universe is dark matter and energy we can’t begin to understand —

    and almost never the conclusion that all of us have very little understanding of what is going on.

    PS before the presentation of chaos theory, quite a few scientist mathematicians began to conclude that there wasn’t enough time, for the theory of evolution to occur without outside encouragement from somewhere.

    This point disappeared into a rousing discussion whether creationism should be part of science classes. The top expoundant of chaos theory Otto Rössler who also added details to its development and nuances of insight is bent out of shape worrying whether the Hadron Collider will turn the earth into a Black Hole.

    Collider supporters usually insist that religion is directly or indirectly behind worries about the Collider’s safety. However, without chaos theory there would be a lot more religion among top scientists.

    Back to the original subject, I don’t feel guilty about watching McLaughlin Report. I really enjoy Carl Nemo’s touches of insight but got the impression that he supposedly by being meticulous he sees more than the rest. But I wouldn’t like it is I accidentally encouraged him to post less often.

    Anyway McLaughlin Report gives a quick summary of the arguments in the headlines in the previous week.



    Since no one responded yet, I will apologize for appearing to be proud of knowing what others don’t. My major frustration is seeing danger that I can’t convey to my fellow human beings. In 2003, Bush withdrew troops from Saudi Arabia, and bin Laden had to be careful not to sponsor anything that might make an adrenaline soaked US send them back. US interrogation isn’t only torturous but encourages story telling thus needs vast improvement.

    Al Qaeda is still smug that the US will bankrupt itself with ever more expensive smart weapons while al Qaeda fights on the cheep. So if Obama stops spending a fortune on Afghanistan and Iraq, al Qaeda will be desperate to attack the US domestically especially since Rush Limbaugh and Cheney are giving them assurance that Obama will be blamed for another domestic terror attack. Being at the verge of victory will put the US domestically in great danger.

    Since no one will listen. A friend watches my TV and uses my computer and enjoys the terror attack warning TV drama “24”. This is a show that Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh hope people believe about torture,

    Jack Bauer as he goes into unconsciousness from a deadly diseases, will wake up and discover that his daughter had the painful operation to give him the (I think) massive amount of bone marrow (I didn’t pay close attention) that he needed to survive.

    I hope my insights that are less important can alert people to victory over al Qaeda will likely be proceeded by a domestic terror attempt.

    I wish I knew how to look more humble knowing others also see what I don’t.


    Tall young women sometimes hunch down so as not to look strange and short one can wear high heals. People can appreciate nerds only if they make a lot of money. Can’t we somehow get on the subject of survival instead of popularity and money.

    I wish “Has journalism disappeared” could have been discussed without people responding to who may think they are smarter than others might be.


  4. Stratocaster

    A journalist used to be a protected species. If one got roughed up; the entire media would rally and there would be so much media attention put on it that no one could stand the heat. Now, it is open season on jouralists. If you step on some toes, you end up on a corporate hit list.

  5. Stratocaster

    We always glorify the past. So, now that I think about it, even in the newspaper days, the word was how can there be a free press when you have to be rich to own a newspaper.

  6. woody188

    You actually only need be rich to own a newspaper business. I know of many small publications locally but only a couple actually turn a profit providing self-employment.

  7. AustinRanter

    Whatever happened to the idea that the free press was the guardian of liberty and freedom?

    Free press, without doubt, is the most powerful vehicle to preserve truth and justice.

    However, the free press’ role in our sacred Republic appears to be rapidly diminishing.

    If the true intent of free press becomes so obscure and/or is so removed from public access because it’s content is delivered in a controlled manner and becomes a forum of biased opinion rather than reporting events as they actually occur…or…free press becomes so diluted with what now appears to be tabloid content just for the almighty buck…then our social concepts of democracy and our way of life that was created around the principles and rights contained in the Constitution is surely destined to die.

  8. John H Kennedy Denver CO

    Our newspapers have only themselves to blame. Ever since they stopped covering what the government di not want them to cover… illegal war in Iraq, WMD Lies, Torture as a violation of US Laws…
    The papers have sealed their own fate.
    Why would anyone pay to buy a publication that refuses to fight for the people, for truth?

    Bush’s crimes need exposure and prosecution.

    Sign the Petition To Prosecute Them



  9. Stratocaster

    The free press became a danger to the establishment, so the establishment bought the free press. They wouldn’t want anyone thinking for themself. Can you imagine what a threat that would be to their regime?

  10. AustinRanter

    Hal…we have to have enough citizen’s that are capable of even being aware about whether or not journalism is alive and well, hiding in the background, or dead.

    A majority of the American electorates are like pig’s being led to slaughter…irregardless of who’s leading them to their demise.

    There is little to no objectivity when it comes to politics. That’s not how the American people have been programmed over the past couple or so generations.

    Public objectivity is the politician’s greatest enemy.

    For the public at large (majority of voting age citizens) to have political objectivity would mean that the masses have the ability to engage in a substantially higher level of critical thinking that what appears to exist today.

    I would beg the question: “What percentage of voting age citizens have the exposure to polticial, social, and economical knowledge, which would allow them to be free and objective thinkers?

    If there is any hope for the American electorate, in my humble opinion, we need to make a major overhaul in our school systems across the nation, of which most have removed civics classes from their curriculum:

    From elementary to high school there only needs to be 6 areas of curriculm taught beginning about the 3rd grade as described below.

    Reading, 1 class a day
    Writing, 1 class a day
    Math, 1 class a day
    And 3 classes a day, everyday in Civics, which is broken down into 3 areas (adapted for specific grade levels, of course)

    1) Federalist Papers (including the National Gazette of the mid to late 1700’s)
    2) How the founders intended government to work…it’s framework in its entirety.
    3) Government Corruption, Special Interest, and Lobbyists

    Then, lets see how the bastards in Washington get away with their bullshit.

    We all know that government ran schools would never allow such a curriculum.

    Oh, and one more thing. Our media is so inundated with talk and commentary show formats (radio, tv, internet, magazines), etc. I would bet my last dollar that we have millions of people in this country who can’t distinguish the difference between hard news reporting and opinion.

  11. gazelle1929

    No science? No history? No foreign language? No arts? No music? No health classes? No physical education? No nothing?

    If we did it your way that’s what we would end up with: Know nothings.

    By the way, you may want to look up what “beg the question”
    really means. The way you (and a great many others) use it is simply not correct. Product of your own curriculum?

  12. Hal Brown


    I think you’ll agree that teaching critical thinking at every level and in all appropriate courses is vital. Children need to be aware of the human tendency to go along with social norms and pressures to conform.

    Seriously attending to the issues that really effect our lives requires rigorous thinking. It is far easier do devote your mental energy to following sports, pop music and entertainment. 

    When evidence suggests that disaster is around the corner, because the human tendency is to avoid anxiety, it is common to ignore it. 

    When disaster does hit one personally there’s always the reassuring belief in the power of prayer.


  13. AustinRanter

    Hal, I would like to double dip here.

    After I posted my previous comments, I went back and added the following:

    Our media is so inundated with talk and commentary show formats (radio, tv, internet, magazines), etc. I would bet my last dollar that we have millions of people in this country who can’t distinguish the difference between hard news reporting and opinion.

    I don’t know whether or not journalism is an effective tool anymore, in terms of providing raw information that encourage the readers of the information to form their own opinions and take hard inspection of the facts contained in such information.

    With that being said, and I’m not quite sure I understand your points about “disasters”, but it’s hard not to agree with the reactions of most to avoid anxiety. But if it also means that people find comfort in just being part of the flock of conformity because it’s the easier softer way to manage their anxieties…then we have a very serious problem in this nation.

    As far as having the reassurance of the power of pray…well, you have me there because I’m a life-long Evolutionist (atheist, if you prefer). I can only assume that prayer best serves those who believe in it, and will use it as a coping tool…rather than a critical thinking tool. I would think of all of the possible prayers…The Serenity Prayer might be more valuable. Therein lies an element of action on the part of the person doing the praying…rather than the he, she, or it being prayed to.

  14. bryan mcclellan

    A friend told me that discourse is useless without action.I replied that action cannot be structured without debate, so he told me that I and the media should just shut up and go away.He does not read, says he hates the thought of it and gets all the news he needs from the Telly.

    Here is the greatest symptom of the written words impending doom.People are too lazy to read and want video gratification, not realizing that sound bites are leading and mostly never tell the whole story.

    I think this speaks directly to the vacuum that is so prevalent in the minds of Americans today.Critical thinking takes too much time and hurts their brain. This friend asked why I do the daily crossword puzzle and I replied that it keeps my mind as nimble as it can be.His reply was that Jeopardy is the better tool for mind sharpening and that again I’m wasting precious time scribbling letters and such.

    Is he exhibiting info anxiety as Austin has alluded to?

  15. AustinRanter


    Of course science, history…etc is essential. I would think it’s obvious I was being an over-the-top ass in my comments about the curriculum, but it was to make the point that we have an ignorant society when it comes to politics. And that we have a large population that is lacking in the ability to engage in critical thinking…for a host of reasons.

    But, it might take a wee bit of critical thinking to catch my point.

    As far as “Beg The Question”…hmmmm, perhaps I failed to frame it just in the right way. Might be that I could have said, “Someone might beg the question”…yadda, yadda, yadda But “Beg the Question” can be used as a Fallacy in Arugment that’s related to Circular Logic…and/or to give emphasis to a specific question designed to draw specific types of answers.

    But, it must be hell being perfect, Gazelle, I’ll work on my grammar, spelling, etc. How’s that?

  16. Stratocaster

    It all goes back to who pays the bills. In the newspaper days, everything was measured in circulation, the number of papers sold. Investigative reporting was in its hay day, the common man wanted the truth about the bigshots that ran them around. Now everything is based on what big spending advertisers are willing to pay for, and the media has been taken over by corporate America that wants its own slanted verion of the news. People seem to have forgotten that there are three sides to every story. There is your side, there is my side, and there is the truth. J schools used to have a code of ethics that demanded the truth. You had to swear to the code before they would let you in the school. Now, no one knows what ethics means.

  17. Cosmic Surfer

    I find Mr Nemo’s the list of publications from The Nation to Mother Jones offset by NY Post and Weekly Standard to be interesting but not offering actual opposite sides of the same coin…. (also interesting that he cannot bring himself to watch Fox but reads the NY Post – “Fox on paper”…).

    I am so disgusted by the changes in journalism over the 40++ years of my experience, I can’t bring myself to even read much written in the US short of the New Yorker with any sense of belief.

    The idea that there is a journalist in the US with a job ALLOWED to actually BE a journalist, I find to be a rarity if not complete fantasy. The days of giving facts and knowing facts as well as researching facts is unknown to any of the rags currently printed. I cannot blame it all on the writer – I do blame their employers…A writer has to eat but sometime a moral compass must kick in, right?

    Op-Ed turned “news”…Propaganda posing as “fact” and payola throughout the industry seems to be an accepted practice.

    And the stories unwritten – that void is so great a universe could pass through. Where were the stories of torture that was being brought out in 2003 and 2004; the stories of white phosphorus used on the citizens of Fallujah; the stories of the manipulated intel when it happened….there was rumor and even the release of factual documents but the MSM refused to pick it up…”How about them Broncos” or Chiefs, Bears or whatever team hitting the front page when thousands were being killed in a city in the desert as they dropped illegal chemical weapons on the citizens – That should have been news from NYC to Honolulu!

    Murdoch pays the way for the PNAC from Kristol to Rove to Cheney to Perle…..and even underwrote the Weekly Standard just for them.

    Of course there are groups on the left with their rags but they do not pose as newspapers or actual News publications …They state what they are and try to give information that other sources refuse to print.

    US Media, while being accused of a liberal bend, actually perpetuates that fantasy while they are run by conservative sources paid by corporations to keep the word on the side of the power brokers.
    Rupert Murdock owns a large share of the industry and revamps the reporting in every new purchase – not immediately but gradually so it is less noticeable.
    Haliburton, Martin Marietta and Boeing advertise consistently on CNN as do Exxon, Coal industry and others who have no product for the general consumer…I admit it was more common pre-2008 but still there today. They offer only an agenda for manipulating opinion….
    And the spin of the stories seem to reflect it.

  18. gazelle1929

    “thousands were being killed in a city in the desert as they dropped illegal chemical weapons on the citizens – That should have been news from NYC to Honolulu!”

    This was being carried on major networks and in major newspapers at the time.

    But I want to know where you came up with the “thousands being killed.” It was my understanding that the citizens of the city had gotten the hell out before the assault began and that the casualties on the other side were almost all insurgents. Can you cite to a reputable source to support the word “thousands?”

  19. woody188


    Thank you for covering the subject. Paid journalism is dead. You can not go into any newspaper, TV, magazine, or any other business that sells information to the public and write or show what you want. You answer to their Board of Directors, their station/paper managers, their editors, producers, etc. And it was ruled by the Supreme Court that they did not have to tell the truth in their broadcasts and print. (Although I have a feeling this could be fought via the public good argument and revoking of broadcast licenses.) But this doesn’t mean journalism is dead, just the paid by advertising corporate shill “news shouters” are going to go away.

    No instead we have a new phenomenon thanks to technology and the internet. We now have citizen journalists with camera phones, PDA’s, nettops, and all sorts of other tech that can get us images and articles from where the news is occurring faster and more accurately than the corporate media. And while they are certainly biased in their views, they don’t pretend to be “fair and balanced” and usually are not pushing a larger agenda or trying to appease their corporate advertisers ala Fox News and CNN.

    This leads to less of the “media filter” many politicians have often cried about. Although many of these same politicians now have to be much more careful about what they say and do because anything out of the ordinary is now more likely to get into the open discussion. And it also allows for greater conversation and understanding, a back and forth such as you do with us here on your column.

    I note you don’t claim to be a journalist Hal, but in fact you are a citizen journalist. Sure it would be nice to be paid to write, but that isn’t why we do it.

    We comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable because corporate lamestream media is no longer capable of performing that task. Hats off to you, blogger, citizen journalist, information hero of the new millennium. We are not unlike the committees of correspondence of the Revolutionary War. When our governments and multinationals have turned their backs on us, what other choice do we have than to voice our our own views from the rooftops?