White Noise: News from Inside the Media Bubble
Black like them
Broadcaster Tavis Smiley and his mentor, Cornel West, were at NC A&T University on Sunday to kick off a three-day symposium on the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Report, a federally commissioned study of the causes of rioting in black urban areas. “The Kerner Commission was right forty years ago when they said the failure of the media to report on the lives of black America was a key part of the problem,” Smiley said. He further noted that the commission indicted the media for failing to report “the complexities, contributions and challenges of what it means to be Negro in America. Doesn’t that sound familiar?” Smiley, who hosts programs on PBS and Public Radio International, derided the notion of reportorial objectivity: “If I’m going to be called a journalist, I insist on being an advocacy journalist, to raise the issues that aren’t being raised, to tell the stories that aren’t being told, to profile the people who aren’t being profiled, to do what the Kerner Commission said wasn’t being done, to – pardon pun – color in the story.”
Maverick in love
The New York Times last week broke a story it had, according to rumor, been sitting on for several months regarding John McCain’s alleged affair with a telecom lobbyist during the 2000 election, prompting a phalanx of interpretations and theories, ranging from McCain’s denunciation of the paper as a liberal smear rag to Bill Maher floating the idea on “Real Time” that the McCain campaign itself leaked the story to counter Johnny Mac’s elderly image with something a little more virile. Neither strikes us as particularly compelling. In the former case, the Times did McCain a favor by giving the Republican base, at best ambivalent towards him till now, a reason to rally around their newly beleaguered candidate-by-default. In the latter, if McCain’s advisors were looking to propagate an image of vitality, it would seem more beneficial to that purpose to cook up something more recent than eight years ago, and with someone who wasn’t part of the money machine that McCain has built his reputation railing against.
An industry correction?
Everybody knows that “rock journalism” is a tired joke and has been since Rolling Stone went hyper-corporate back in the “80s, right? And everybody knows that CD reviews of works by mainstream bands are nothing but fluffy page-fillers in an era when literally anyone can download a sample of a new album before buying it instead of relying on the jaundiced opinion of a spiky-haired, horn-rimmed “rock critic” in a too-tight Dead Kennedy’s T-shirt, right? Right? Well somebody ought to tell Maxim magazine, that bastion of the backwards baseball hat set, that the only thing that makes a CD review even more worthless is when it’s completely made up. The March issue of Maxim featured a review of the Crowe’s newest effort, Warpaint, sandwiched between softcore pictures of Eva Longoria and the kind-of-hot chick who works at your local sports bar. The problem was that no promotional copies of the disc had yet been released, and only one single was available for listening. Reviewer David Peisner gave the CD two-and-a-half stars anyway, based, says a spokesperson for the frat-boy circular, on an “educated guess.” In a statement to the press, band manager Pete Angelus said, “In my opinion, it’s a disgrace to the arts, journalism, critics, the publication itself and the public. What’s next – Maxim’s concert reviews of shows they never attended, book reviews of books never read and film reviews of films never seen?” Uh, Pete… have you ever actually read Maxim? Add to that “women they’ll never have sex with” and you’re on point.
A blogging breakthrough
So it’s come to this. First the bloggers steal our readers. No big deal. There are plenty of eyeballs out there, and not everyone prefers their news predigested by some crank with an axe to grind. Then advertisers decamped, shedding ink and paper for pixels and .jpgs. Now the bloggers have come for our awards. Joshua Marshall earned a George Polk Award for his coverage of the firings of US attorneys last summer. Marshall is a blogger, the impresario behind Talking Points Memo (talkingpointsmemo.com), the first of his kind to be honored with the award. He does have some old media experience, for those keeping score, since he used to edit The American Prospect, a left-leaning magazine.