Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, July 07, 2008

All you have to do is read the New York Times . . .

to find out what's wrong with the New York Times -- and the rest of the journalistic establishment.

First, David Carr puts his ass on the line to describe the vicious tactics used by Fox News against critics and potential critics. Yes, it's about Fox, but it also happens to be a powerful indictment -- whether quite intended or not -- of the entire news industry, because guess what? These tactics work. Here's one of the money quotes:

At Fox News, media relations is a kind of rolling opposition research operation intended to keep reporters in line by feeding and sometimes maiming them. Shooting the occasional messenger is baked right into the process.

As crude as that sounds, it works. By blacklisting reporters it does not like, planting stories with friendlies at every turn, Fox News has been living a life beyond consequence for years. Honesty compels me to admit that I have choked a few times at the keyboard when Fox News has come up in a story and it was not absolutely critical to the matter at hand.

But here's the most important tidbit:

In the last several years, reporters from The Associated Press, several large newspapers and various trade publications have said they were shut out from getting their calls returned because of stories they had written. Editors do not want to hear why your calls are not being returned, they just want you to fix the problem, or perhaps they will fix it by finding someone else to do your job.

And this explains why the Washington press corps is in the bag for the Bush administration: access is the coin of the realm. You can't cover the Administration if they won't talk to you, and they'll only talk to you if they like the stories you write.

Then there's this from Tim Arrango. Vincent Bugliosi, a well-known author who has written three best-sellers including Helter Skelter and a recent very serious, very well received book on the Kennedy Assassination, has a new book out. The title? "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder," and it is just what it appears to be. Writes Arrango:

Mr. Bugliosi could be forgiven for perhaps thinking that a new book would generate considerable interest, among reviewers and on the broadcast talk-show circuit. But if he thought that, he would have been mistaken. . . . Internet advertising has been abundant, but ABC Radio refused to accept an advertisement for the book during the Don Imus show, said Roger Cooper, the publisher of Vanguard Press, which put out the book.

And, he hasn't gotten a single review in a mainstream newspaper, nor a single appearance on television -- including the Daily Show and MSNBC, both of which declined to have him on. Oh yeah-- the New York Times has not reviewed the book, although it is number 14 on the NYT's own best seller list.

Who needs state-controlled media? The corporate media does the same job. And oh yes, I appreciate the irony that both of these stories appeared in the New York Times -- in the business section, actually. That's the beauty of the whole arrangement. These exposes can slip through the cracks, where a few eccentrics like me will notice them, but it has no effect on the institution as a whole. The composition of the information stream will remain overwhelmingly fawning and deferential to the establishment, while the exceptions merely serve to disguise the fact.

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