Everyone has their favorite bit of generalized media criticism. The mainstream media are biased. Sports journalists are too close to the teams they cover. Celebrity journalists are beholden to publicists. Embedded war correspondents are captured by the troops they cover. The White House press corp has a herd mentality. Business journalists are gullible. Folks who work for shows with the word “Squawk” in the title seem to be constantly under the spell of bullish analysts.
The reason why these opinions are so persistent is that they so often bear a close resemblance to reality. The main problem with these opinions is that they are old news.
So it’s fascinating to discover a totally new and very strongly held bit of media criticism. This time we came across the thrill of the new in the comments to a post on the blog of Gary Weiss, author of Wall Street Versus America. In response to a post mildly critical of the Columbia Journalism Review, an anonymous poster called “Biased Observer” announced that he had discovered the real problem with journalism.
[More after the jump]
To take things a step further, the very practice of dividing stories into separate sections of a newspaper serves only to skew information and news. There are two kinds of story--the whole story, and the incomplete story. A business story that doesn't reference the politics, a stock price story that doesn't note the long-term growth strategy, a marketing story that doesn't outline the financial implications -- they're all presenting incomplete pictures, and thereby somehow deluding the reader.
Now we tend to think that there is a rational limitation of the subject matter of most news stories. Call it the journalism equivalent of the concept of rational ignorance. It costs too much for writers to include everything in a story, and asks too much of readers to take in every possible relevant fact. Dividing newspapers into sections might mean that most stories present only slices of reality. But it also makes them, you know, kind of readable.
What follows in the comments to Weiss's post, however, is an amazing battle of charges and counter charges, as the anonymous commenter is revealed to be none other than an editor at CJR. Definitely worth taking in.
CJR Daily Does it Again [Gary-Weiss.Com]