The American Journalism Review has an interesting articleon whether the mainstream media could literally learn something important from the Daily Show
. It's one of the few serious examinations of the issue, and one that, I think, is long overdue.
I've become convinced that no matter how the Emperor seems to react, he wants to know that he's striding nude through the land. How tiring it must be to carry such pretense, to be constantly waiting for someone to point out the obvious. As time goes on, the investment in the image is enormous, and no one - not one of us - wants to let go. Because in the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, we'd all like to think that we're the little boy who pointed out the obvious. We're not. We're the people around the emperor, all helping to maintain the fictional image.
In this case, it's the public that is tired of the media maintaining the stentorian tones, weighing in on the Issues of the Day, and otherwise not saying what the reporters know is actually happening. Think of the flack that broke out when private emails from the Wall Street Journal's Iraq correspondent
became public knowledge. Suddenly, someone who was there said what she saw. But none of it had been coming out in the paper, and the Journal apparently kept her from further reporting at the time until the 2004 election was over.
I'm a member of the media, and can understand trying to support principle. But is the real interest of the media to protect so-called objectivity? Or is it to support self-image and to try and reduce criticism? Over the years, I've found that people who are standing for something generally come across as courageous. In contrast, the media most often reeks of fear, treading cautiously, testing each step as if creeping over a frozen lake of public opinion. The sad fact is that the water thawed long ago and instead of consuming itself with staying above the fray, the media should be concerned about drowning.
This is a critical time for our country and the world. It's during periods of apparent calm and "localized" violence (turmoil in Iraq and other parts of the world being conveniently elsewhere) that the forces generally marshal for calamity. Massive conflict doesn't come out of the ether, and the biggest downturns in economies have happened after long stretches of what appeared to be prosperity. But always there is the weakness or problem under the surface, the topics that no one wants to address. If the media continues to avoid saying what it sees and knows, the time will eventually pass in which it can freely express truth. Then that period passes, and suddenly freedom is no longer an option.
Labels: American Journalism Review, Daily Show, fear, Jon Stewart, media, objectivity