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People have been beating up on journalists and journalism pretty well the last couple of days and deservedly so. I mean you expect Fox News to misrepresent and distort the Congressional Budget Office report on the impacts of healthcare reform ("Obamacare") on the economy. But it was very disheartening to see how many members of the traditional, mainstream, mythical "liberal" media fell right into line with the right wing talking points. And yes I realize in the preceding sentence the word "mythical" can be modifying the words liberal, media or both. I'll leave it up to you to decide which is more appropriate.

As hopefully most on this site realize by now the assertions that the CBO report stated that Obamacare would "kill" 2.5 millions jobs was totally wrong. The report concluded that in fact Obamacare would:
create jobs
lower unemployment
reduce the deficit.

What it did say about those 2.5 million fewer people working, was just that, 2.5 million people choosing not to work. Thanks to being able to find affordable health insurance on the exchanges, approximately that number of Americans would voluntarily decide to leave their jobs. Jobs that in the past they would have been chained to because it was the only way they could obtain affordable health insurance for themselves and/or their families. Now they would have the freedom to retire early and bridge the gap until they qualify for Medicare, leave a job to start a business, switch to a part-time job for a period of time to be home with young children or an ailing parent. The lock between job and health benefits is broken. The jobs don't go away, some of the people who would have filled them in the past, do. Which of course makes room for others needing work.
Even Republicans used to believe that was a good thing. Rep. Paul Ryan even laid that out as needing to be a key component of any healthcare reform when the work on healthcare reform began to get underway in early 2009. The CBO is simply confirming that yes, Obamacare accomplishes that goal.
Eventually most of the media (the usual suspects excluded of course) got around to reporting the correct conclusions of the report. But of course damage had been done as far as the impression given to the casual observer/voter who may have only heard the initial reports and postings. But in usual media fashion they didn't blame themselves for having totally misinterpreted the report (or more likely not bothered even reading it in the first place and simply reporting off the assertions of others). It was all the Democrats and the White House's problem that it was being misrepresented. Healthcare reform is just too complex so they need to do a better job explaining this "stuff", you know the facts.
Silly me. I guess I'm getting old and hearken back to the good ol' days when reporting facts and making sense of things to the general public was the job of, oh I think the word for them used to be, "journalists". You know an informed citizenry being the lifeblood of a democracy and all that quaint stuff. Now they are content to sit back and be glorified stenographers. They paint every issue as having two (and only two) sides. They simply transcribe what each side says, and then voila their work is done. No context, no facts to help the general public interpret the competing statements. Just a "he said, she said" and you decide which side to believe.

So that brings me to what set me off this morning. I hesitate to pile on since journalism has given itself such a bad black eye recently. And compared to the CBO report fiasco this is really a minor thing. But I heard something this morning that I found infuriating and is emblematic of the level of reporting America receives today.
It occurred on the Today Show on NBC. Of course they are spending most of their time and energy promoting the Olympics, but in between they take time to give the other news of the day.
First up today in the "rest of the news" was a not more than 30 seconds item regarding the vote on extending unemployment insurance. The lead in was along the lines of "Another major loss for Democrats". Then the story described how they failed by one vote to get the extension of unemployment insurance to come to a vote. That they failed to satisfy Republicans that there was enough of it paid for along with other deficit reduction measures. And then simply stated that as of December 31, 2013 when the extended UI expired 1.7 million Americans lost their unemployment payments. End of story.
"There", I thought, "is everything that is wrong with the modern media in a nutshell."
Notice what the focus of the story was, not the lost unemployment and it not being brought back. No, the focus was the horse race aspect of it. The Democrats lost. The Republicans won. The 1.7 million Americans without unemployment? Bit players in the political drama apparently. No need for context as to the vote itself, the issues involved, the historical context of emergency unemployment insurance in tough times having been a bipartisan, no brainer, didn't have to be paid for, issue in the past. No discussion of how from an economic standpoint extending unemployment on the one hand, and cutting back in other areas, makes no policy sense. Because facts like that just get in the way, and besides then it might appear you're taking sides rather than being balanced.
Which is ultimately one of the major failings of today's traditional media. Their job should be to accurately inform the public. When "balance" trumps accuracy, then everyone in the democracy is in trouble.

Originally posted in large part at Views on Brews

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    Blue is blue and must be that. But yellow is none the worse for it - Edith Sidebottom

    by kenwards on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 01:51:44 PM PST

  •  access and profit (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FiredUpInCA, delver, Bronx59

    Journalists depend on access to political figures to have anything at all to say - otherwise all they can do is watch the speeches and read the press releases like the rest of us.  The media conglomerates they work for depend on appealing content to sell ad time/space ... and being big corporations owned by wealthy people, they are right wing by default, so they have a significant incentive to influence things with what they talk and don't talk about.

    Since modern journalism has decided that there's no such thing as truth - only dueling propaganda - and have totally bought the idea that they themselves are knee-jerk liberals, then even if the rest weren't true, they'd still suck.

    I no longer read or watch any mainstream news sources.

    Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

    by Visceral on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:13:38 PM PST

    •  How do we get voters out of this mindset? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      delver
      Since modern journalism has decided that there's no such thing as truth - only dueling propaganda - and have totally bought the idea that they themselves are knee-jerk liberals, then even if the rest weren't true, they'd still suck.
      Many voters are disengaged from the details of stories and take the headline wholesale--e.g. 'The IRS targets the Tea Party'--then vote according to their casual observations.

      How do we get people to see that they have an ethical obligation to dig a little deeper than the headline before they vote for the party or representative that will have a significant impact on the quality of their lives?

      "I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights." (From "You Said a Mouthful" by Bishop Desmond Tutu - South African bishop & activist, b.1931)

      by FiredUpInCA on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:32:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  volume of information is a real problem (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FiredUpInCA

        The less people need to know in order to make the correct decision, the better, because expecting the average voter to be an amateur economist, political scientist, historian, sociologist, etc. in order to rise higher than basically flipping a coin is doomed to failure.

        Absolutely people are interested in getting the main point of an issue or event from a headline: a reporter's distillation of an expert's distillation of the complexities of real life that it's their full-time job to study and manage.  Absolutely people reduce the issues themselves to simple binaries - right/wrong, work/fail, more/less, us/them, etc. - because the sad truth is that more information doesn't help the average person make a decision; instead, it paralyzes them with ever more variables and contingencies and unintended consequences.

        Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

        by Visceral on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 03:09:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  What I find puzzling is that anyone, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FiredUpInCA

        and particularly journalists, treat CBO reports as facts.

        CBO reports are not facts and prove nothing. All they do is report the outcomes of thoughtful people, using very constrained models with scores of assumptions. So any journalist reporting on CBO reports should always start with what they are, models of possible future outcomes. Instead they treat these reports like facts, which is nonsensical.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 04:44:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  CBO says that its report is conjecture (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib
          CBO’s estimate of the ACA’s impact on labor markets is
          subject to substantial uncertainty, which arises in part
          because many of the ACA’s provisions have never been
          implemented on such a broad scale and in part because
          available estimates of many key responses vary considerably.

          CBO seeks to provide estimates that lie in the
          middle of the distribution of potential outcomes, but
          the actual effects could differ notably from those estimates.

          http://www.cbo.gov/...

          "I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights." (From "You Said a Mouthful" by Bishop Desmond Tutu - South African bishop & activist, b.1931)

          by FiredUpInCA on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 05:43:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  The Golden Age of Journalism was 1950-1990 (0+ / 0-)

      I wrote a diary about it and you can find it here:

      http://www.dailykos.com/...

      Two things killed journalism, Watergate and the Internet.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 04:48:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting point (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib

        Everyone tries to be the next Woodward and Bernstein. And even Woodward became a vapid inside the Beltway villager.

        Blue is blue and must be that. But yellow is none the worse for it - Edith Sidebottom

        by kenwards on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 05:01:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm with you. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    delver, kenwards

    I believe the #1 reason the GOP even manages to exist today is because of the media.

    If these outlets actually practiced "real" journalism from time to time, the GOP would have nowhere to hide and would be forced to come in line with the rest of America.  

  •  Journalists are fine. (0+ / 0-)

    Americans aren't used to them because we have so few.

    Americans are used to fake news, half the story, drama and other useless crap from a media largely owned by conservatives who openly value lying top and misleading people for the sake of profit and power.

    And Americans just sit there and take it, they are so well-trained.

    Legal means "good".
    [41984 | Feb 4, 2005]

    by xxdr zombiexx on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:30:44 PM PST

  •  Breaking up media empires (3+ / 0-)

    should be a high priority.

    For instance, our small, university town's newspaper was purchased about 10 years ago from the founding family: the results, a staff of two instead of seven writers and I was told that in an executive meeting, the editors of the many small-town papers this company owns were cautioned that the owners are Republican.

    Consequently, political coverage is non-existent or slanted.

    Happy days in journalism, not.

    "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

    by smiley7 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:30:58 PM PST

    •  Same has happened here (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smiley7

      Small town papers bought by larger corporations. Veteran reporters replaced by young out of towners looking to "move up" and editors told by out of state bosses to endorse Republicans.

      Blue is blue and must be that. But yellow is none the worse for it - Edith Sidebottom

      by kenwards on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 05:05:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The range (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, koNko

    of journalist performance excellence to suckitude is probably not much different than all other jobs.

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:37:29 PM PST

  •  The American "news" media (0+ / 0-)

    passed away quietly on September 12, 2001.

    There was no published obituary, no graveside ceremony and the burial site remains unmarked.

  •  Journalists vs Talking Heads (0+ / 0-)

    Ken, please don't confuse journalists with talking heads, it's insulting, demeaning and unfair.

    I mean, what have journalists ever done to deserve comparison to the idiots you write abut?

    No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

    by koNko on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 09:00:04 PM PST

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