Our political Quote of the Day comes from Howard Kurtz’s must-read-in-full Washington Post piece about the toxic media atmosphere where the goal increasingly seems less about laying out facts and analyzing ideas than advancing a political agenda or gaining readership/hits/audience share by hitting hot buttons and throwing out red meat:
It’s journalism as blood sport, performed for the masses.
To say this atmosphere is troubling is to risk being pilloried for defending the old regime against a New Media Order, which comes equipped with a new mission: exposing the corruption of those who wield the megaphones, or at least bloodying them up a bit. (Actually, to say anything at all these days invites a fresh dose of venom from the pontificators, pugilists and potshot artists who have real-time platforms — a jeering section that has its healthy aspect while also contributing to a sense of cacophony.)
In short, as the polarization of the Bush years has yielded to the polarization of the Obama era, a search-and-destroy culture has emerged that is as likely to vilify journalists as political and corporate leaders.
The news business, aloof from criticism for far too long, should absolutely be held accountable. These days, though, the constant swirl of accusations, the charges of bias and personal perfidy, have tarred even those who are working hard to be fair.
No media person is perfect, including me, but I cling to the belief that facts matter. That, however, is in danger of becoming an old-fashioned view, along with the virtue of calling people for comment before you unload on them. (Too slow, why wait, let them deny the charge later.) Instead, the toxic atmosphere that many media outlets tolerate, and sometimes foster, is slowly poisoning the discourse, for us and, yes, for you.
All the incentives these days — for ratings and circulation and Web hits and just getting noticed — lie in the direction of running and gunning. Many news consumers are sending a message that they simply want their own views echoed and amplified. But if journalists devote much of their energy to savaging one another, can they really be surprised that we look so horribly scarred?
Read it in its entirety..
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.