The other day I ran into Wesley Donehue at Starbucks (see that, Starbucks? yet another product placement you’re not paying for), and we talked briefly about my appearing on “Pub Politics” again, which would make me a member of the Five-Timer Club. I’m totally up for it, particularly since I’d like to discuss this aptly titled “rant” on Wesley’s blog.
I think I want to argue with him about it, but first I have to get him to explain more clearly what he’s on about.
I say “rant” is apt because it seems to come straight from the gut, without any sorting or organization from the higher parts of his cortex — and Wesley is a smart guy. The problem I have is that his thought, or emotions, or impulses or whatever, don’t add up. They just don’t hang together.
He makes the following unconnected points:
- Where does the media get off making like it’s a champion of transparency?
- How dare WACH-Fox defend itself from a slur leveled at it by Gov. Nikki Haley on Facebook?
- The media are just lashing out, because they are becoming irrelevant in the new media age, when politicos can go straight to the people.
- “Transparency” doesn’t mean going through the MSM, so the media have no legitimate excuse to criticize the gov.
- Any problems the media have are their own damn’ fault, for failing to be relevant and keep up with the times.
Did that cover everything? I may have missed an unrelated point or two.
Here, respectively, are my problems with his points:
1. Golly, Wesley, the MSM may be guilty of a host of sins, but suggesting they are somehow an illegitimate, insincere, incredible or inappropriate advocate for transparency is most illogical. They’re kinda obsessive about it, and this might be a shock, but they were into it a LONG time before Nikki Haley ever heard of it. Finally, the media are the one industry in society that actually have a vested, selfish interest in transparency (unlike certain politicians who TALK about it, but belie their commitment to it with their actions) — they kinda rely on it in order to do what they do — so I’ve just gotta believe they really mean it.
1a. Furthermore, what does this have to do with the ongoing talk about the gov’s failures to be transparent? What did I miss? This seems to me to be about the TV station defending itself from the governor’s insult. The transparency issue — the one that I hear folks in the media talk about, anyway — has to do with everything from Nikki not wanting to disclose questionable sources of income and refusing to release her e-mails back during the campaign, all the way up to meeting with two other Budget and Control Board members while excluding the others. I’m missing the connection in other words, between this incident and your complaint that the media are going on inappropriately about transparency.
2. Well, let’s see. The governor wrote “WACH FOX 57 is a tabloid news station and has no concept of journalism.” Wesley, I don’t care whether the governor said that on Facebook, or through an interview with the MSM, or in a campaign ad or by use of skywriting. The choice of medium does not take away from the fact that that was an extraordinary thing for a governor to PUBLISH (and that’s what she did; if governors and other empowered “ordinary” folks are going to take it upon themselves to communicate directly with the people without the offices of the MSM, perhaps they need to take a little seminar on the difference in significance between merely muttering something to your friends, and publishing it). Next — are you really suggesting that WACH or any other business does not have the right to defend itself when maligned by the governor? I assert that they have that right under the 1st Amendment, whether they are Joe Blow’s Used Cars or the MSM.
3. This one’s really interesting. I’ll grant you, WACH looks pretty lame technologically when it fails to provide a direct link to the FB post with which it is disagreeing. (Here you go, by the way.) But beyond that, let’s talk about the new rules. Here’s the kind of thing that happens in this wonderful, marvelous new world in which anyone can publish their thoughts and don’t have to go through the stuffy ol’ MSM. In the old, benighted days, a former employee of the governor (and of the last governor) might go around muttering about having had an illicit personal relationship with the governor, but he would have been ignored. Now, thanks to the wonders of modern technology that you extol, he can publish it himself with practically zero effort or investment. So it’s out there — because, you know, those bad old editors can’t keep it away from the people. And then it starts affecting the political campaign, and therefore becomes news. Now, let me ask you — when that same blogger follows that up by publishing salacious details related to his allegation, having already caused it to be a news story, what are the media supposed to do? Well, I don’t know, and others aren’t sure either. Me? I ignored it. WACH made the call that it made. Did the governor have the right to get ticked and trash WACH because of it? Yes, she did. (Although it was, as I say, pretty extraordinary for a sitting governor to say something like that about a business in her state.) Did WACH — that poor, pathetic institution that’s falling apart as you say, have the right to defend itself? Of course it did.
4. Who said it did? I missed that. Maybe you have a link to it; I’d be interested to read/hear that argument.
5. The problems that the media have result from a massive restructuring of the way businesses — the ones they relied upon for the advertising revenue that underwrote the gathering of the news — market themselves to the public. The long-term trend has been away from mass-media advertising on the local level, and to more targeted approaches. Nothing about what the media have reported or not reported, or positions they have taken, have anything to do with it. The public is lapping up news and commentary more hungrily than ever — from the MSM as well as other sources. But the business model that supported newsgathering — the model that’s falling apart — has nothing to do with that; it’s a whole separate transaction from the one between a medium and its readers/viewers/listeners. So you’re way off base there.
Anyway, have me on the show and we’ll talk further. Keep the beer cold.