July 17, 2012
The Golden Age of Media

Paul Krugman, at it again:

…Perhaps in a better world we could count on the news media to sort through the conflicting claims. In this world, however, most voters get their news from short snippets on TV, which almost never contain substantive policy analysis. The print media do offer analysis pieces — but these pieces, out of a desire to seem “balanced,” all too often simply repeat the he-said-she-said of political speeches.

Trust me: you will see very few news analyses saying that Mr. Romney proposes huge tax cuts for the rich, with no plausible offset other than big benefit cuts for everyone else — even though this is the simple truth. Instead, you will see pieces reporting that “Democrats say” that this is what Mr. Romney proposes, matched with dueling quotes from Republican sources…

I wish I could say that things were a whole lot better back in the golden age of newspapering. But they weren’t. At least in my day — the 50s and early 60s — they were worse. Then as now, newspapers and television stations were, by definition, owned by millionaires. Apart from a few financially anemic partisan magazines like The Nation and The Progressive and privately financed hobbies like The National Review the print press was even more wedded than today to false equivalency masquerading as fairness. News on radio and TV was pathetic. Anyone who thinks the American media plumbed historic depths in helping to lie us into Iraq is too young to remember how enthusiastically they helped Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson lie us into Vietnam.

It may well be that we are, right now, in the true golden age of news. Enjoy it before the government steps in to control the spigot, as it is already starting to do. For now, though, every man, woman and child, from Ayn Rand Looney Tunes to Nobel Prize winners, can afford his or her own electronic printing press.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at July 17, 2012 08:45 PM
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Ehisenhower? How did Nixon get by?

Posted by: knowdoubt on July 18, 2012 6:11 AM

Very well-said. Gracias.

Posted by: Oblio on July 18, 2012 9:52 AM

Nixon gets a bye because didn't lie us into the war. He lied in telling us he'd end it, neglecting to add that he'd wait until he got reelected before doing so.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on July 18, 2012 10:32 AM

The good old days: 15 minutes of news a day on TV; 1 minute an hour on radio.

But at least we had the Fairness Doctrine.

Posted by: JoyfulA on July 19, 2012 2:09 AM

For a good discussion of yesterday in this context, and how it got to be that way, I recommend Tim Wu's book "The Master Switch". He discusses how the promise of a better more democratic people powered movement inherent in newest information technologies have always been usurped by big money and political power. From the movie industry to rado and telephone, history has shown an ever increasing trend toward the power contained in the new technologies towards consolidation of power into the hands of the few. In Germany, during the rise of the fascists, radios produced for the mass of the people had two channels. A and B. Take your pick.

Keep an eye on the bills in Congress such as SOPA and PIPA. Democracy in America is not dead, at least not yet.

Incidentally, I reacommend Wu's book. Available at Powell's.


Posted by: Cool Hand Geek on July 19, 2012 6:56 AM
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