Cross-posted at Daily Kos
As I’m writing this the Quick Vote on CNN.com is "Should the man who found a
severed finger in a pint of custard have returned the digit right away?"
The top story at ABCNews.com is "Men Describe Jackson Sleepovers" and
last night my local television news station, KOAI, led with 2 car accidents and
a house fire.
But I don’t really want to discuss television
news. It is what it is. I really want to talk a bit
about old media’s fascination with, and demonization of, two new media phenomena:
blogs and Jon Stewart. I suppose, technically speaking, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show
is on television which is a decidedly old media medium; but let’s not quibble
about details. The Daily Show is a fake news show which satirizes real
news shows whose news is often less informative than the ‘fake’ show’s news.
That, in my book, makes it a new media phenomenon.
I guess this all started a couple of days ago when I read NPR Ombudsman Jeffery
Dvorkin’s online column titled
"When Those Pesky Blogs Undermine NPR News."
In this piece, Mr. Dvorkin cites a Carnegie Corporation survey: "…younger people
find the Internet a more useful place, and a more nimble way to get their news…".
Fair enough. I know I sure do. Dvorkin continues, saying the survey also notes: "At the same
time, fewer Americans of all ages, but especially young Americans, feel the need
to keep up with the news at all." He then slips in an editorial
comment: "This group also considers Jon Stewart […] to be the most trusted
television anchor. At the same time, readership for newspapers and viewers of
network television news continue to fall." Reading between the lines, Dvorkin seems to be
implying that this group, tuning out the mainstream media and into a
‘fake’ news show, is somehow less informed than we should be. In reality, of course,
this group knows that a National Annenberg Election Survey showed that Daily Show
viewers were better informed about issues than people who regularly read newspapers
or watch television news.
From Dvorkin’s piece, I nimbly jumped to NPR political reporter Ken Rudin’s very own
he has a hissy fit about some fellow netizens critiquing a report by his radio colleague David Welna. Apparently
some bloggers took issue with Welna’s statement that Democrats were using the term "Nuclear Option"
in reference to Republican efforts to eliminate the Filibuster. Well, this group knows the
term was actually coined by a Republican, Trent Lott, back in 2003. When recent polls showed a significant majority of Americans
did not approve of eliminating the Filibuster, Republicans began a campaign to get the media to refer to it as the less incendiary
"Constitutional Option". So, while it may be a tad nitpicky, the bloggers’ complaints do seem justified.
Rudin kicks off his tirade with: "Finally, congratulations to the dozens and dozens of free thinkers who
wrote in, often using the exact same language, regarding a piece by NPR’s David Welna on the oncoming
collision in the Senate over the right of the minority to filibuster judicial nominations." He continues
"Welna didn’t say that the Dems originated the term. He didn’t get into its etymology.’" But the
etymology is exactly point. As journalists, language is what you do. Ken finishes with a flurry, indicting
bloggers as unthinking lemmings: "And that was followed by dozens of e-mails, all from people ‘outraged’ that NPR would stoop
to such tactics. The least they could do is change some of the wording and make it look like they actually did some
independent thinking before pressing the ‘send’ button." Well Ken, excuse us for participating. NPR stations do, after all, have an FCC license
to use the public’s airwaves. In all fairness I should give Ken credit for the snarkiness — the key component
in any good blog — much more important than actually addressing the points made by the people who bothered to email you </snark>.
Finally, just yesterday, I spot Thomas Friedman’s NYT column
"Tuning in to Jon Stewart, and
Britney Schmidt." I hopefully clicked through expecting my man Jon to finally get a little of the cred
he so richly deserves. Friedman’s piece, though, turns out to be yet another indictment of this group:
"But what was new for me on this [book] tour was the number of people who also mentioned getting their
news from Jon Stewart’s truly funny news satire, ‘The Daily Show.’ And I am not just talking about
college kids. I am talking about grandmas. Just how many people are now getting their only TV news [emphasis mine]
from Comedy Central is not clear to me – but it is a lot, lot more than you think."
Well, Tom you can count me in. The only TV news I regularly watch is the Daily Show. Yet, I consider
myself fairly well informed. Friedman goes on to lament the state of education in our country and how it will
adversely affect our competitiveness with foreign workers. He nebulously ties all that’s wrong with our educational system to
the Daily Show and this group that trusts Jon Stewart more than the overpaid, self-important blowhards on CNN who
have the God-given gifts of good hair and the ability to blather on about something, anything, for hours on end.
There is something eerily self-defensive about these incriminations. It’s as if NPR and the NYT are suddenly
in fear of irrelevance. They shouldn’t be. NPR is, hands down,
the best passive media outlet in the United States. And the NYT, for all it’s faults, is a great newspaper where
real journalism happens on a daily basis.
But I, for one, no longer read the NYT or listen to NPR every day. Oh I pop in now
and again, but these days I can go to Google News and, in just a few minutes, get a feel for how hundreds of media sources across the
globe are covering any given issue. I can read the analysis and opinions of thousands of fellow netizens on Daily Kos.
I can contribute my own 2 cents and for every viewpoint proffered, read 10 variously opposing thoughts.
That is a more robust, engaging and stronger news media and it is a beautiful thing.
So listen guys, relax a little and enjoy the ride. If you welcome this group instead of vilifying us,
we’ll continue to find you quite relevant.