The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

News, commentary and nightmares

My recurring nightmare is back. I’m in front of a large and irritable crowd trying to explain what “news” is. They keep talking about Bill O’Reilly. When I try to clarify the term, they bring up Rachel Maddow and Rush Limbaugh.

I can’t take it! What is the world coming to?

Clyde Bentley

Clyde Bentley

But when the night sweats ended and the morning’s coffee cleared my head, I started to wonder if the world is just coming to new reality I helped create.

Tuesday I attended an interesting lecture by media watchdog Jennifer Pozner. Pozner is the passionate critic of the press who heads Women in Media and News. Although she could use an editor to keep her from wandering off the point, Pozner did a very good job of demonstrating how the talking heads on television have strayed even farther off track by turning the political debate into a trivial discussion of hair-dos, cleavage and how black is black.

I heartily agree with her observation and am an equally passionate advocate of media literacy education to help citizens sort the seed of news from the chaff of commentary.

And that’s where my nightmare comes in. Pozner’s lecture was entitled “When Anchormen Attack.” But with rare exceptions, the examples she used were not anchormen. They were pundits. Worse, most were from the openly-conservative Fox News Network.

I don’t blame Pozner and others for getting mad at Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews. They never let facts get in the way of their slash-and-burn commentary. Isn’t opinion, however, what they are paid to give? As Pozner later said, the real danger is when the pundit’s constitutionally-protected diatribes move onto the news desk.

Or worse, when people simply think it is news.

Pozner and other media critics say media ownership concentration is making matters worse by limiting the number of voices in the public sphere. In the spirit of the Blog Action Day theme, it’s the root of intellectual poverty.

But cyberworld folks like me see no end to voices (175,000 new ones per day, according to Technorati). Studies show more and more people turn to blogs for their news and opinion. By popular definition, bloggers form a community where bias is expected – even demanded.

Given the size of the blogosphere, is it any wonder that television has followed suit by muddying the objectivity waters?

Ms. Pozner, we’ve both met the enemy. It is us.

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October 16, 2008 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley | , ,

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