Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Understanding The Recent Press Drift

Is it me, or has the New York Times drifted to the Right.

When I first subscribed to the New York Times, it was definitely a liberal paper, complete with a token conservative. Now it has a number of conservatives on the staff, and much of the opinion pieces have drifted over to the (classic, not neo-) conservative viewpoint.

While admitting that some of these items have merit (I'm a moderate, if my aim is at the right it's because that's where the threat is), it's still rather disturbing. It's as if the bullies who've castignated everybody not marching lock-step to their dictates have seen victory after victory. It's like they're not even opposed.

Of course, there is an unique possibility which I've thought over the past few weeks. In NPR's On The Media, when they were talking about the new phenomena known as meta-journalism (watching over the reporters and how they report), the person talking about how this stuff started referred to the Clinton/Lewinsky affiar, and said the gulf started when the press waxed righteously angry while the public cared less about what happened.

Which leads me to the possibility of thinking "What if the press listened?"

Consider this: The press shouts righteously in anger over Clinton/Lewinski, the majority of the public cares less, and the Religious Right reacted by forcing the impeachment hearings?

Maybe those impeachment hearings were the thing that won them the nation.

Consider: People listen to them that listen back. And when the Press talked about Clinton/Lewinsky, the only people who would appear to say "You're right, and that matters" were the religious right.

Now, these people who were reporting on Clinton-Lewinsky are now likely in positions of some power and authority. And when the people who listened to them before start shouting about "The unfairly liberal press," the reporters are bound to listen -- and change in an attempt to placate them. After all, you don't piss off the people who liked you before, unless you can do better by doing so -- or are sure you're so right you don't need or want them.

Thing is, how would your average liberal have reacted at that time? After all, it's not like Clinton was trying to bring down the government -- the once agreed-upon definition of an impeachable offense. Who would have thought this would have been seen as a betrayal by those who would gain power in the Journalistic world?

As it happened, this may have been a watershed event in what has become the great distrust in Journalists by the American Public. While one can point to such items as the cowing of the press in the face of Reagan VS Patco, the birth of Fox News and the Washington Times (thus sparking the era of "News Is What I Want To Hear About, How I Want To Hear About It, And Without Any Disagreement Whatsoever"), the development of News Departments as profit centers for corporations and even theories held by dissenting professors in college (one professor I knew said there was no such thing as neutrality, saying that every word held hints of bias and that one couldn't remove these "connotations" from words); the Clinton/Lewinsky story seemed to point in stark contrast the appearant nontrustworthiness of the press:
  • First the way it ended up becoming a big item (exposed by a blog predacessor after refusal by a major magazine)
  • Clinton's infamous "I did not have sex with That Woman" speech. I could tell the millisecond I heard that sound-bite that he'd have to violently change the English Language to keep that statement true (and he was successful -- world to the nation's young: when a mouth touches the genital area (or buttocks), it is indeed SEX. It's an intimacy you SHOULDN'T throw around as casually as you try to.)
  • A large group of people tuned out the press at that point, realizing they knew it all.
That last point is important. After all, who of us cares much about our paper anymore?

Just the radical right. And that gives them power -- just the fact that, as a group, they care.

And that's why, despite the obvious butchering of the news by Fox News, Ed Stassel, et. al; it's only the left-leaning press's problems that get noted. And why the press is moving to the right.

(or at least one specific reason. There's others, none of which I care to touch upon here tonight.)

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