Powered By Christian Gifts

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Media Then and Now - Part 2

by Roger Metzger

The picture here is Roger on the left and John Lind from the Presidential Prayer Team on the right. To see part 1 of this 2 part post, scroll down just a few stories.

Part 2

Now, of course, that’s not the case in the national news. Most -- not all -- “journalists” are bent on interpreting the news, positively or negatively to suit their agendas. Why those agendas are mostly liberal I may not be smart enough to answer.

One conclusion I have is that a lot of it comes from what “reporters” are learning in journalism schools and what they observe in their chosen element of the profession. In other words it’s sort of a self-feeding cycle.

I base my conclusion on the changes I observed in journalism interns and new employees fresh out of college. Mostly, they were very impressive. But things changed with Watergate. Almost immediately, they came to us eager to do only investigative pieces that exposed wrong-doing. They were convinced that every politician, every corporation had an underlying motive of evil and corruption. And they were determined to find it.

Until then, your typical journalist approached their job believing the best in those they covered. It wasn’t being na├»ve … you
used common sense, and if you found wrong-doing you took a reasoned approach to exposing it, but you weren’t driven by that agenda either.

As an example, over the years I did investigative series on labor union corruption and railroad mismanagement. But I took far more satisfaction in reporting on the positive things that happened around me

For years, I was in a newspaper management environment that encouraged that approach to the job … surrounded by true professionals with strong ethics.

That all changed when we were bought out by a major newspaper chain. And that alone, my friends, is one of the saddest things that has happened in every chain acquisition I’m aware of.

For many of my years in journalism, newspapers were locally owned. And the local publishers had a great interest in doing what was good for their communities. Obviously, they needed to make a profit to survive, but making money wasn’t their sole objective.

The new chain owners are focused first on the bottom line. (Of course, the same thing has happened in the medical profession and many other areas.) They de-value staff experience and community awareness. Timeliness gives way to pre-packaging of certain
elements (“McJournalism” a friend once called it) and matching press deadlines to convenient production and distribution schedules … i.e., in many cases, at least in my area, you can’t count on reading Saturday night sports results in your Sunday paper … even Friday night results
in your Saturday paper.

And somewhere in the management chain there must be incentives for winning awards. Personally, and for a lot of my co-workers, winning awards was never that important. Honestly, the prize was doing the best you could on every story.

But back just after our newspaper was sold, our new owners seemed pre-occupied with having a flood. We had quite a bit of snow cover one winter and every time it thawed or rained several of us were sent out into the area to “find the flood.”

I went on several of those wild goose chases and resented every one. Why God favored ‘em with a flood, I’ll never know! But they had a big one, so big and at such a “down” time in significant events across the country, we made national news and the President came to observe and toss a few symbolic sandbags.

Our newspaper’s management campaigned in every way imaginable for recognition and a Pulitzer Prize. And the top award in journalism was ours. There was a champagne celebration in the newsroom. But I and a few colleagues did not celebrate because we somehow felt, maybe naively, if your work was worthy of such an honor the industry would know it without your “selling” it.

The award became even more tarnished when our management vigorously pursued another Pulitzer by reporting relentlessly – and “selling” the industry’s decision-makers with equal determination – a story about an area faith-healing group. The stories weren’t about changing a perceived wrong – they were all about winning an award.

That “sales” effort didn’t achieve the national recognition that was desired. But it cheapened journalism for a number of us who witnessed the process first-hand.

Then we saw another amazing breach of newsroom integrity -- actual deceit of the public for the sake of the dollar, a fascinating story but too much to tell here. And, for me, it was the last straw. I knew I could no longer work for such an institution, and I left.

Happily, I can report I eventually returned to journalism, serving as editor in a free county-wide publication with an emphasis on the good news and information to help people. And it was a rewarding 14-year experience in closing out my career.

I must clarify that deceit in the media is not new. For those of us who remember, the facts were certainly manipulated by the national media during the presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater -- the media’s greatest swing to the left in that era.

We saw the media shift right during for much of the Ronald Reagan Administration. That was due, at least in part, to his ability to communicate his concepts to the American public in “sound bites” that inspired us. I believe that was so effective, the media lost its grip on its leftward-slant.

Of course, before his second term ended, he was portrayed by many in the media as a doddering geezer who couldn’t stay awake and didn’t know what was going on.

As a lifelong outdoorsman, I’ve seen foxes that created the same impression – all the while staying just out of firearm range!

Now, I must say, I can hardly believe I’m living in the America that’s always been dear to me. That’s because the national media goes at great lengths to put a negative spin on everything common sense would suggest is good.

That’s across the spectrum, but most particularly in the War on Terrorism. They have consistently, and conveniently, overlooked a pre-invasion publication in at least two major magazines, listing many weapons of mass destruction and the amounts held in Iraq.
I’ve never read a contradiction of that report … never mind the UN stalling gave Iraq ample time to relocate them. And somehow the national media didn’t widely report the extent of murder and outrageous brutality carried out by Hussein and his sons.

You all know how the media dwelt on failures, not successes, in Iraq and almost dropped it from the radar when the “Surge that Wouldn’t Work” suddenly became a tool of progress.

Unfortunately, the same twisted approach to coverage has been applied to domestic issues … taking a positive, twisting it into a negative, and feeding it to you as gospel.

Just one example that sticks in my craw was the 2007 “Christmas shopping season.” Reports of what a bad season it was going to be for retailers began in October and persisted after Christmas. Retail sales were described as up 4.9 percent in one national account. Also, gift card sales, which are not figured into the tally, were up considerably more. Yet, there were endless reports that holiday sales were “gloomy,” “depressed” and had “plunged dramatically.”

Maybe I’m too old to take it all in. Maybe it’s because I remember a nightly national newscast that began, “Good Evening, Mr. and Mrs. America … There’s good news tonight!”

But I’m not too old to expect all of our news media to actually tell us the truth and let us decide. Or else label it as personal opinion.