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Monday, February 07, 2005

Davos Defeatists and the Democracy Dirge

I'm not too submerged in the controversial comments attributed to Eason Jordan related to "targeted journalists."

If he was foolish enough to make allegations without the proverbial qualifiers at the World Economic Summit in Davos, his day will come. There are a significant number of "pit bulls" out there with a good enough grip.
Accompanying the "pit bulls" you have the usual "poodles" saturating the issue in an effort to acquire links and blogroll entries. I suppose they serve the purpose of escalating the dispersion. However, most are adding nothing of value or substance. Such is the idiosyncrasy of the blogosphere.

I'm more concerned about the shallow defeatist attitude that transgressed in the "media" focused forums. If you took the time to review the summation of the events relative to the media you'd realize that the issues they chose to debate/discuss are a microcosm of their failings.

Jordan's notorious comments emerged out of a forum entitled "Will Democracy Survive the Media?" The very topic suggests that the media may or may not have the ability to overturn a concept of government representative of the people. The topic implies that the media pulls the strings, and the viewers dance. And, in the summary provided by the World Economic Forum, the answer to the question suggested in the forum's title in as resounding "no"; Democracy cannot survive the media.

Guess again my elitist friends.

Moderator David Gergen started off the discussion by making the assertion that the public is trivializing the press and becoming disengaged. For some reason, he takes that "apple", and comes up with the "orange" that as a result, the public will be less inclined to vote. He, further, stated that corporate owned media has evolved into a selective news service that won't cover certain parts of the world due to cost.

Congressman Barney Frank supported this view and stated, "Essentially there's less news." He went onto say that, "Reporters used to come to the city hall and that is a thing of the past. The biggest change is in the corporate ownership. People used to put out newspapers because they wanted to be journalists. Nobody is doing that these days; they do it because they want to make money. Papers are in a circulation race."

What's fascinating about this shared view is the total ignorance to the reason for a disengaging audience. While the media and politically influential are willing to concede a loss of focus from the various targeted demographics, they are unwilling to understand the motivation. They are disinclined to, even, make it a part of the discussion.

They can't understand that the public's trivializing of the media is direct and concrete evidence that Democracy is, indeed, surviving the media. The public has collectively decided that the media can't be trusted to provide a non-biased point of view. A majority of such media outlets have so abused their forum that the public has resorted to seeking an alternative in an effort to sort out factual information from source opinion.

Will Democracy survive the media? Hell, it already has. The main stream media is still convinced that this is a question yet to be answered. The simple fact of the matter is that technology and a human thirst for truth has rendered the question irrelevant. The answer has been a resounding "yes." The media, on the other hand, has not survived intact.

The public is in a Renaissance of sorts. Disgusted with the continued abuse of the media's implied trust, the public has, not remarkably, moved beyond the obstacle of limited sources. At first, it was the increased focus turned toward alternative news outlets. The creation of these outlets provided the ability to compare and contrast "hard news." What became apparent was editorializing over reporting, or withholding details so as to promote an agenda. As the alternative news market grew, so did the distrust of the main stream media. As the public started to become disengaged from the CNN's and the CBS's, they're interest percolated with vigor for the FoxNews', and the Town Hall's. So, in all honesty, the public has not disengaged itself from the media. They have, wisely, sought out a basis from which to filter out the tripe and formulate informed opinions.

Eason Jordan, also, uses the "corporate owned" competitors as his excuse for a dwindling viewership. Quite frankly, it's astounding that someone in such a prestigious and important position can fail to understand his actual competitor(s). In a separate forum (We're News, They're Propaganda 22.01.2004) Jordan explained in a simple sentence why CNN's ratings continue to plummet. He said he finds "objectivity and impartiality to be outdated, tired terms."

A news outlet that finds objectivity and impartiality to be outdated and tired is not a "news outlet." They become an opinion editorial functionary. They end up serving as a proxy group for an ideological assembly. In a Democracy, there is usually more than one ideological position. As a result of the obvious transference within the "news" reported by CNN, and overseen by an executive who suggests objectivity to be outdated, it is no wonder that the public has chosen to disengage. What magnifies this truism is the fact that the chosen proxy ideology of CNN (Jordan's charge) is, in fact, a minority held position.

When Congressman Frank states that people don't want to be journalists, but want to make money, he misses a full medium in his conclusion. He is missing the layman reporter. He is ignoring those that he claims to represent. From that collective evolves the most complete, knowledgeable, and diverse reporting base available. He fails to recognize that the public is more genuine, scrutinizing, and accountable than any media outlet. He discounts the opinion and fact collecting abilities his own constituency. Congressman Frank, and the rest of the Davos debutantes fail to understand that the public is an entity onto itself with resources far exceeding anything found on your satellite dish.

When Senator Daschle challenged vote monitoring in the eleventh hour of the last election, the public was not forced to rely on the reporting of the left leaning Associated Press. Instead, they had the opportunity to view a real time update from inside the courtroom delivered by the Daschle v. Thune blog. Granted, this blog had ties to the Thune campaign. However, the Associated Press failed to identify the witnesses presented by Daschle as having ties to Howard Dean. And, even if both entities held solid ideological positions, the fact remains that there was an alternative opinion from which to contrast and compare. This new ability allowed for the thinking public to make an informed opinion, as opposed to a forced opinion of indifference force fed by a monopolizing reporting entity.

Prior to this past general election, President Bush made a campaign stop in West Allis, Wisconsin where he announced to the crowd that President Clinton had been hospitalized for heart ailments. The Associated Press made issue of an ill behaved, booing response from the rally participants. However, the AP journalist, Scott Lindlaw (who had been singled out previously for his "cheap shots" at Bush by the Columbia Journalism Review), had concocted the story. Attendees and local television viewers/radio listeners immediately set to clarifying that it did not take place. Within hours of the AP filing the story, a retraction was issued. The alternative media in this circumstance amounted to many single individuals who just happen to hold computer accounts, blogs, and screen names to forums. Once again, the monopolizing of the news, and the enticement to shape it towards an agenda was railroaded by a public not willing to allow the media to derail democracy and accuracy.

Rathergate, while important in magnitude, by no means tells the whole story of the new medium. It is but one example in myriad examples. The fact that the blogosphere takes the main stream media to task on something as miniscule as "booing" should hearten anyone wary of an overbearing and ideological agenda driven press. Rathergate ended with the CBS getting caught trying to steal a "watermelon." The blogosphere, and it's worldwide beat of experts in every vocation and locale has gotten to the point to where the main stream media would be hard pressed to steal a single "grape." Congressman Frank fails to understand that each individual contributing, and consuming from that perspective is a journalist of sorts. They don't do it for the money. They do it better than those who do it professionally.


In the Davos circle jerk, the most prophetic, and worthy comments emerged from Abdullah Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan. How ironic is that? The newest members of the free world seem to grasp the concept of a free press better than those who have had over 200 years to abuse it. Abdullah noted, " The right of expression is now ensured for our citizens. We have 160 newspapers with only about 5 or 6 publicly supported," he said. "During the election there were debates going on that nobody would have believed possible a few years ago."

I don't think the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan would be willing to concede that the media will kill Democracy. No, the only ones willing to make that concession are those who have perverted a trusted position with ideology and minority agenda.

Their vanity in such a conclusion is only out distanced by their ignorance to what has revolutionized around them in the blogosphere.

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