A long time ago The New York Times adopted the motto “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” The NYT played an interesting role in the history of journalism at a moment when journalism was struggling with its identity–to be about entertainment or about information (re: Discovering The News). The NYT chose the information model.
What, however, is information?
Let’s review Neil Postman’s articulation of information theory:
Information: Statements about facts in the world.
Knowledge: Organized information embedded in a context.
Wisdom: The capacity to know what body of knowledge is relevant to the solution of significant problems.
Information is foundational to knowledge and wisdom, but it is of little use by itself. Journalism, to be any good at all, to be of any use at all, must be a knowledge practice.
So, at first blush, one ought to ask: Why is this news? Why should we consider, or care about, anything Rush Limbaugh has to say about anything (or what the NYT has to say about Linbaugh). I mean, he’s the guy who will tell you straight up he’s “just an entertainer” whenever he gets himself into trouble. Who gives a rip who he plans to endorse for president or who he likes and doesn’t like or who he thinks is or isn’t a good conservative?
But you see, this is news. Good news–in the sense that it is attempting to create knowledge.
Here’s what I mean: This article is merely pegged to Limbaugh’s disdain for John McCain. It’s really an article about influence, or lack thereof, in political punditry today and what really motivates bloviators such as Limbaugh (hint: $$$). That’s a story that can’t be told enough (at least until it becomes difficult to make a living bloviating) these days, IMHO
The article is lacking, however, an examination of the role Limbaugh plays in popularizing right-wing spin points. But that has been well examined before, so the writer/editor may simply assume readers are well aware of 40+ years of political history.
(Left-wing attempts to inflict the same sort of nonsense on us also need further examination.)
On the other hand, if the primary purpose of journalism is to give people the [knowledge] they need to be free and self-governing, then this article falls into some secondary category of purpose. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’d place articles such as this on a plane (or a rung of Hell) higher than the typical horse-race article.
Jason Wert, an interesting local blogger and citizen journalist, wrote a column published in today’s Springfield News-Leader examining the role of punditry in nomination campaign.