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Thursday, October 14, 2004

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too many steves

I understand the concern for journalism and the principles of objectivity, fairness, and balance. But I'm having difficulty understanding why this bodes poorly for the health of democracy.

By the account in this post, this politically partisan media network is suffering commercially, including being boycotted by advertisers, as a direct result of its blatant partisanship. If things continue the network will either crash or fade away. To me that demonstrates that the systems is working rather nicely.

Were there only a couple of places to get the news (and I admit to ignoring, for the moment, the consolidation of MSM operations via acquisition) then I would agree this could be the manifestation of a stifling of open debate and desirable journalistic priciples (see above). But there are so many outlets available, including YOUR blog, that I think it strains the argument to say the the health of democracy is suffering.

And based on the reaction I've seen and read, people understand this attempt to smear Kerry for what it is; much as they understand that Michael Moore's works are not quite documentaries in the sense of a dispassionate examination of the facts.

Ron

Since blatant political partisanship in the media is bad, I assume this also condemns Dan Rather's 60 Minutes piece with the forged memos?

It also says something to me that the left thinks commercial backlash is fine here, but that it was supposed to be an affront to the Dixie Chicks freedom of speech.

Marc Cooper

Well, Ron, surprise! I do agree with you about Dan Rather. As to the Dixie Chicks... there's a difference between boycotting a sponsor because it finances partisan programming... and a federally licensed broadcast outlet handed monopoly control over the public airwaves banning a musical group because of its political views. If the audience wants to boycott the Dixie Chicks... that is an absolute right.

GMRoper

In the field of mental health, there is a term called catastrophizing. The construct is that when something happens, regardless of what it is, it is a catastrophe (called catastrophism in the social/political sense).

This seems to be what your thrust is Marc. Sinclair, as a commercial-politico organization OR as a politico-commercial organization has every right to do what they are doing. In the field, it is known as editorial control and I am absolutely positive that you have done it time and time again in your years as a journalist and "editor" of this Blog. That is what free speech is all about, whether it is Sinclair broadcasting a documentary about Kerry or the ACLU supporting the Nazi's as they march in Cincinnatti. Prior restraint of the press or of individuals exercising their right to the benefit of the First Amendment should be anathema to the left (and usually is, except in this case or any other case involving them nasty right wingers).

ABC, NBC and CBS have been doing it (this type of "journalism") for years. Life magazine did a reprise of the life of John Kennedy just prior to the 1964 elections as an "anniversary of the assasination" issue when in fact, as a weekly they had plenty of time to do it AFTER the November 3, 1964 elections. Obviously it was an attempt to garner support for LBJ (as though it was needed at that time).

Too, the CBS "Kerfuffle" over the "Fake but Accurate" memos were EQUALLY an attempt to garner support for Mr. Kerry.

You have commented that the major media is right leaning. I have to disagree, while it is true that they are trying to be more balanced, it is equally true (in spite of the denial of the left) that they have been over so far to the left that leaning rightward still puts them to the left of center. Hardly a "right wing" tilt IMO.

If Sinclair is making a major blunder, their bottom line will fall and support for them will flounder. This is the way a functioning democracy works. If they are making a GOOD decision, then their bottom line will improve and this too is an indication that the democratic ideal of this country is functioning as it should.

Don't confuse, as it seems to me that you have, editorial decisions with the end of democracy as we know it.

Other than that however, I enjoyed your post, as I do all of them; even when I disagree.

Live well and prosper!

steve

The odd thing is if the 'liberal' Westinghouse owned CBS was out to do in Kerry, they chose a funny way to do it, going with documents that were most likely dubious at best, instead of laying out the case more clearly and reliably by simply interviewing the secretary who was responsible for the documents in question. For, she said after all that the documents while likely fake reflected the reality that Bush's performance and pulling of strings was a topic of frequent complaining among his superiors. So much for the 'liberal' CBS...

Ron

Thanks for the Dan Rather thing.

Your Dixie Chicks part, however, raises the interesting aspect of the public airways thing. There was an interesting post over at Steve Verdon's

http://www.steveverdon.com/archives/completeidiocy/001815.html

addressing Sinclair as improper use of public airways. More interesting stuff in the comments. I'm not sure I'm up to speed enough to pronounce what is proper use of public airways, so I'll duck the issue :-)

But if radio stations should play the Chix regardless of what their listeners want to hear, then why shouldn't Sinclair air Stolen Honor regardless of what people want to see?

wil

My suspicion is that for every person who gets outraged because of the documentary there's one who's getting outraged by Sinclair showing the documentary. And they'll vote accordingly.

I've always found the concept of public airwaves specious at best. (I'm reminded of the guy who was featured in your own LA Weekly, Marc, for getting around the mile and a half limit the FCC puts on boradcasters by linking up a series of transmitters all over town and synching p the braodcast over the web - www.rhzradio.net) The web, mostly free from FCC type meddling has a far greater diverstity of opinion than televison and radio with their enforced fairness - mostly due to the fact that one doesn't need to pay the FCC $50,000 a year to operate a web site.

Eli

While I wouldn't expect the makers of 'Stolen Honor' to be concerned about the ramifications of a partisan television network, I find the poll on their website particularly galling. Have a look (for those wishing to register a protest vote, look elsewhere):
http://www.stolenhonor.com/home.asp

This internet polling thing really is getting out of hand. Why do so many people like seeing that others agree with them? Maybe as a side effect we'll eventually realize that polls are meaningless. Perhaps that will happen in about 3 weeks.

Here is the text of their poll:

Q: What is your opinion of Sinclair Broadcasting's intent to air Stolen Honor on all 62 of their television stations, during prime time, October 21 –24?

a) The DNC is worried the truth unearthed in Stolen Honor will negatively impact Kerry’s presidential race.
b) After the CBS scandal, partisans on both sides of the political spectrum should applaud truthful journalism.
c) Forces are at work to keep the public from seeing this moving and powerful account of Kerry’s betrayal.
d) Sinclair Broadcasting should air Stolen Honor as intended.

rosedog

Good post, Marc. BTW....I called a number of Sinclair's sponsors and notified them I was boycotting their products and why. It felt wonderfully satisfying.

Burt Webb

Is it noteworthy that Sinclair is anti-Kerry while the Chair of the Federal Communications Commission is the son of Powell a Bush appointee?

Lindy

I'm amazed that no one is pointing out that in every right-wing evanglical church, which receives tax exempt status, the preachers are standing up and telling their congregations to vote for George W. Bush. No one seems to be too concerned about this total breach of ethics. I can assure you that God would not vote for George W. Bush...I would be willing to bet my eternal life on it. This distrubs me far more than a documentry which would inspire me, even more, to vote for Kerry. Is there anyone with a brain out there that still thinks we did the right thing in Viet Nam? If so...then this country gets what it deserves. Too bad I have to live in it.

Iva Geisinger

When a political advocate controls an overwhelming number of media outlets and issues one-sided political views, that isn't news, it's propaganda--and that can produce a very dangerous situation. History buffs and oldsers should remember how easy it was for Adolph Hitler to come into absolute power.

Unfortunately, there are too many people who can be swayed by propaganda.

What can we do about Sinclair? Exercise our freedom of speech rights and expose Sinclair for what it really is: a far-right propaganda organization.

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