Journalism Students: Beware the MSM

Sunday, March 19th, 2006 10:27 pm by Neal

If you are an aspiring student of Journalism, the worst thing that you can do for your career is listen to the old dogs of the mainstream media. Not only are they incapable of learning new tricks, but they also fail their own standards. Their inability to adapt to the new media, combined with their elitist assumptions of superiority and monopoly, are leading the “professionals” into bankruptcy and insignificance. Here are some examples:

Hugh Hewitt has this post, Weekend Reads: Requiem for the Newspapers on MSM incompetence, arrogance and irrelevance:

Memo to J-School students everywhere: The last place you want to work is a newspaper, and the last people you want to learn from are “old school” newspaper reporters and editors.

As an example of the bubble in which most legacy media live, I offer –as I could literally every week– Tim Rutten’s Saturday media column from today’s Los Angeles Times. Tim’s one of the loudest tubas for legacy media, reliably telling us each and every week why legacy media is special and why new media comes in various shades of irresponsible, bigoted, xenophobic etc.

Tim’s become a cartoonist, and a not very good one.

Today Tim’s worried about Scooter Libbey’s subpoenas to other legacy media. The column is titled “Why you should care about reporters’ rights?”, and in one particularly overwrought paragraph Rutten exclaims:

Is any substantial number of Americans really prepared to accept the proposition that a reporter going about the business of journalism is legally or morally the same as a hostile power’s secret agent? Clearly, a bitter and ideologically intoxicated minority is prepared to do that, but what then?

I don’t think this ploy is going to persuade even the immediate families of legacy media. The vast majority of Americans –neither bitter nor ideologicially intoxicated– don’t think much of old media, and certainly don’t think reporters and pundits are entitled to any greater rights than ordinary Americans. If a reporter or pundit is a witness improtant to a criminal defendant’s defense, they should show up for trial without whining.

If a reporter has traded the secrets of the United States for fame and fortune, that reporter should be prosecuted.

Rutten doesn’t understand these two very basic propositions, doesn’t understand why folks aren’t reading his column or newspapers generally, doesn’t understand the end of the era that brought genuine competition to the opinion and analysis business, a competition that old tubas simply haven’t been able to succeed in because they are too used to the comforts and pace of the legacy media, for which a column a week was adequate because no one else was writing more than that.

But mostly he doesn’t understand that most Americans sneer at journalists who think themselves a sort of priestly class of secular America, elite and all-knowing, and definitely in charge.

Contempt repaid with contempt.

Michelle Malkin in “Going Down, Down, Down”, Regret the Error, and others cover the inability of the New York Times to do their homework regarding the identity of the hooded man shown in an infamous photo from Abu Ghraib prison. Thanks to Salon for getting to the bottom of this one. Jeff Jarvis sums it up thusly:

The Times thought it had a scoop, interviewing the Abu Ghraib prisoner in the most infamous photo from the scandal. They carefully said how they determined it was the guy, thanks to an injured hand. But Salon says it’s not the guy and the Times puts a story in the paper quickly saying it is reinvestigating. This is the speed at which corrections should occur — yes, even before you know what is correct.

Not surprisingly, the Times is taking a beating where it counts. Have you seen their stock ratings lately?

The ever-entertaining Mark Steyn had this to say on the wasted opportunities typical of the MSM:

Well you know, one of the things I find, and I’m sure you do, too, you travel a lot around the country. And the thing about American newspapers in particular, but it’s also true of Canada and certain others, is that if you get off the plane at almost any airport on the continent, and you’ll pick up the local paper which will be a monopoly daily, published by Gannett or some other similar company, and it will just have like the world’s dullest comment page, the world’s dullest op-ed page. This is a great riveting time of war, and say what you like about crazy folks on left or right, but there’s a lot to say about it. And in fact, the newspapers, and their monopolies, have made them dull, and that’s the danger, I think, in much of the United States, that you want someone, whether you agree with him or not, that you want something that will be riveting and thought-provoking. And some of these guys have been just holding down prime op-ed real estate for decades. It’s amazing to me.

Finally, we have Diana West’s article, NYT imam series not even Journalism 101 on how NOT to conduct an interview:

Way back when I was a cub reporter, I got hold of a book about the “art” of interviewing. It was a thin book — no use spending thousands of words to tell a reporter, cub or old Grizzly, to bone up on a subject and let natural curiosity take its course.

That thin book came to mind on reading a three-part series in The New York Times about an imam named Reda Shata, who presides over the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, N.Y. As far as the art of interviewing goes, the reporter got it exactly backward: Thousands of words; negligible expertise; and no curiosity.

Both the New York Post and the New York Sun have already pounced on the most egregious flaw of omission: not a mention, in 11,000-plus words, of the day in March 1994 when a man walked out of that same Bay Ridge mosque and, inspired by the anti-Jewish sermon of the day (delivered by a different, unidentified imam), armed himself and opened fire on a van carrying Hasidic Jewish children. Ari Halberstam, 16, was killed. The Times series, as it happened, concluded on the 12th anniversary of his death.

UPDATE: powerline has a snippet from Mark Steyn (commenting on a post by John Hinderaker):

John Hinderaker demolishes a typically lazy AP piece that has no conceivable purpose other than as a hit job on Bush. Note, for example, the section in which the AP hack, Jennifer Loven, dismisses as a “straw man” Bush ‘s characterization of Kerry’s position on the war, even though it’s virtually a direct quotation and the hackette’s husband was a prominent Kerry supporter. This Powerline post is a grand example of the pleasures of the Internet. It’s interesting to me, as a fading old-media bore, that the trend in media is the exact opposite of the rest of the economy, where Wal-Mart and Home Depot and McDonald’s are putting all the mom’n’pop stores out of business. In the media, Knight-Ridder and CBS and The New York Times are the Wal-Mart and Home Depot and they’re being picked off one, ten, a hundred readers at a time by what are effectively mom’n’pop stores like Powerline and Instapundit and Little Green Footballs. Maybe the difference between Wal-Mart and old media is that the latter never knew their market that well in the first place.

“Stupidity and arrogance all in the same package. Quite a time-saver.” — Ambassador Londo Mollari

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