Has journalism disappeared or is it just hiding?
May 3, 2009
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.