News corruption

Ack! you say. What is Rupert Murdoch doing on the NCPR blog? Well, I wanted to grab your attention and share with you the best thumbnail of the International News Corporation (i.e., Murdoch and company) cast of characters and culprits. It came to me via the independent investigative news outlet, Pro Publica. Here’s the link.

In public radio, we work hard to be honest and fair, so do others in the news and information business. Not all, but most. Nonetheless, the fourth estate consistently registers pretty low in public opinion polls. Why? Can you think of an example of bad behavior on the part of a news organization? Be as specific as you can. Thanks.

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9 Comments on “News corruption”

  1. Josh says:

    I think it has a lot to do with the fact that the only time the media is the subject of a story is when an organization has done something wrong (like with News International). When the media has done something right (ie, uncovered corruption, exposed incompetence), the subject of the story, rather than the story itself, is the focus.

  2. Bob Washo says:

    I guess it largely depends upon how you define bad behavior….

  3. Pete Klein says:

    Josh is correct because the news does gravitate to bad news.
    Using that standard, it appears the media is less corrupt than the government and most businesses.

  4. Ken Hall says:

    Perhaps the most obvious “bad behavior” example on the part of the majority of the American new organizations was the hook line and sinker swallowing of and regurgitation of the orchestrated information produced by the GWB administration concerning the frivolities (NOT) perpetrated on the Iraqis during OUR War on Terror. Who would have thought that embedding news folks with the military would lead to disinformation????

    How about the current swallowing and regurgitation of “the economy is turning around”. A most egregious example here is the ludicrous definition of unemployment which discounts long term unemployed persons by considering them slackers who have decided they no longer want to work thereby enabling the unemployment rate to be touted as below 9% when in actuality it is likely greater than 20%. Occasionally the mention of this dichotomy is mentioned in passing by newscasters whilst they concentrate on the “good new” that unemployment claims have fallen again. Perhaps the Democrats made a mistake by pushing the Republicans to renew additional unemployment funding; hell, throw a bunch more folks into the slacker group and the unemployment figures might drop into the 6-7% range. What a deal.

    I can do this till the cows come home; how many more examples do you want?

    Pete, If I agree government and business are corrupt, what does that say about us? Are we not the “they” who comprise the support for these organizations as functionaries, employees and consumers? How does one point fingers at “them” and not look in the mirror?

  5. Ellen Rocco says:

    You raise a very important point: the “swallowing it whole” problem in much of news media. If the source is the government, journalists are more likely to take it at face value–whether it’s reasons for going to war or how well the economy is doing. Part of the problem is shrinking resources. If, for example, NPR is expected to be one of the key non-partisan, thorough sources of news, how much is required to go beyond the first two or three layers of a story? Generally, a lot. I’m not making excuses here, mind you. But I know we face this problem at NCPR–so many stories we’d like to go deeper on, while at the same time we’re expected to cover day-to-day news. It’s a real challenge for under-funded news organizations, whether public or commercial.

  6. Bob Falesch says:

    “Be as specific as you can.”

    My guess about why the fourth estate consistently registers pretty low in public opinion polls relates to the tremendous polarization of today’s politics. I think our tendency to find bias in media coverage is fed by the extreme polarization in our sociopolitical fabric. This perceived bias in the news media causes us to lose confidence in that media.

    Hmm, that was not very specific, was it. I must try harder next time.

  7. jeff says:

    My memory goes way back to the exploding gas tank one of the networks set up to illustrate reports side impacts on certain pick-up trucks and CNN not reporting certain things so they could maintain a presence in Iraq under Saddam.

    What is news? Listening in to Diana talking intimately to her lover? John Edwards affair? Whitney Huston’s drug and alcohol use and the Governor of NJ wanting to lower flags in her honor. Is it the opposition to that action on grounds it gives undue recognition to a drug addict or recognition to wonderful singing? It is no longer all the news that is fit to print.

    The journalism class I took focused on the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. The Why and How can be factual or opinion if one is not listening closely. All Things Considered has about five minutes of news followed by 25 minutes of stories. Those stories often have someone asking a reporter “what do you think” and similar questions- not facts but conjecture.

    The incentive to get viewers, listeners, or readers; to solicit supporters or advertisers is the motivation of sensationalism and gossip. Headlines like “Bimbo Feeds Homeless” for some reason draw more interest than “Bakery Supplies Bread” to Shelters.

  8. Ellen Rocco says:

    Bob and Jeff,
    Thanks. Good points. First, Bob, I think you actually made a very clear point: how people hear or read a story is deeply affected by personal politics and opinions. I deal with this all the time. Someone calls us and complains about partisan coverage of a particular issue, but if you trace back to the specific story and others on the same subject, the coverage is usually balanced and fair–but it doesn’t sound that way to someone who has a vested interest in one side or the other and wants to hear coverage that “favors” their point of view (hence the popularity of the kind of news provided by FOX or MSNBC).

    Jeff, yes, the Ws are the basis of any good coverage. As for reporter opinion…the practice you reference–talking to reporters about a story–is an inexpensive way to provide analysis and context, using a person who is well-versed in the story (i.e., the reporter on the ground or beat). Ideally, there is a clear line between analysis and opinion, however, I agree that that line is crossed from time to time, even on NPR or NCPR.

  9. Ken Hall says:

    Ellen, Per your comment concerning the cost of going a bit deeper into a story an example just presented itself during the 5 news update between the two hour segments of “On Point” just moments ago. The newscaster was extolling the value of a recently agreed upon deal between Mexico and the US to assist each other in Gulf of Mexico drilling for oil. Paraphrasing the news caster “the federal government has estimated there are millions of barrels of oil capable of being produced”. Nice positive slant on his part, my immediate thought was “how about a comment that millions of barrels of oil is likely less than a days supply for the entire human population of the Earth (approx 80 million barrels/day) and perhaps a days supply for the USA (approx 20 million barrels/day).

    The tacit approval by the media (commercial and public) of the debasement of scientific theory, based upon evidence and mathematics, and scientists in preference for absolute pronouncements from lay pseudo-experts really rankles my pseudo-scientist (engineer) sensibilities. Currently the arenas which cause me the greatest consternation include but are not limited to the following: (1) Earth as an infinite source of natural resources (2) peak oil is no big deal (US with 2% of Earth’s proven oil resources consumes 20% of world oil output is going to drill baby drill it’s way to energy independence) (3) global warming is no big deal (renamed climate change to reinforce the no big deal concept) (4) biggest and most rapid die off of the Earth’s fauna in approximately 65 million years is no big deal (most humans unaware and unbelieving when so informed) (5) that the 7 billion humans infesting the Earth are responsible for all of the above is no big deal (twice as many humans are born each day as die) (…….)

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