October 28, 2005

Cage the beast…

William Powers says the age of media arrogance is over. I’m all for that.

A nit to pick, related to my first post today: Can we stop using “media” when what we really mean is “news media” or “journalism“? I’ve certainly been guilty of this. But I’m finding it within my interests (academic and otherwise) to try in some small way to cage this beast.

October 28, 2005

What it is…

I hear the first chords of Dueling Banjos. But, in this case, we ought to note that the duel is among multiple realities rather than between a simplistic political dichotomy. The battle for normalization of ideological commonplaces has begun. That’s a fancy-pants way of saying: Here come ‘da spin!

UPDATE (12:53 p.m.): I love it.

October 28, 2005

Turn on the fog…

Howard Kurtz makes the following statement today regarding the coverage of Harriet Miers:

This time, no one can blame the liberal media. And what made the right’s revolt all the more remarkable was that its opinion-mongering wing didn’t simply stand in polite opposition to Miers. Its troops hit the trenches, attacked Miers as unqualified, ripped President Bush for cronyism and in some cases raised money to defeat the nomination.

To have any meaning at all, “liberal media” must denote some identifiable portion of the news media–a portion, I would argue, that operates within the goal of journalistic practice to provide the information citizens need to make civic life work. Its pathetic and propagandistic connotation, however, includes the media in general. But that definition is demonstrably absurd because we can easily identify overtly liberal and conservative partisans (individuals and organizations) beneath the umbrella of “media.”

Opinion journalists are supposed to approach their work from an overt and identifiable ideology. Liberal opinion journalists do not create the pathetic “liberal media,” which is the focus of political struggle, nor do they contribute to a liberal media bias any more than their conservative counterparts. The reason: Their ideological approaches to journalism are expected by any reasonable reader of an op-ed section.

By dragging the concept of media bias into this, Kurtz turns on the fog machine and obscures some interesting issues about how to define the roles of opinion journalists versus pundits–the partisans such as Coulter and Limbaugh–and what their roles ought to be in the civic discussion of politics and governance.

UPDATE (1:00 p.m.): I’ve been looking for an excuse to use the word “fricative” 🙂 As in: Conservatives have been “borked.” Now they’re “miered.” But will they get “syked”?

October 27, 2005

Significant numbers…

PublicEye and CJR Daily take up the issue of the number 2,000, as in 2,000 American soldiers killed in Iraq–is this number significant? If so, why? And is it reportable news?

Humans assign significance to numbers. Popular targets of such assigning include 7, 12, 3.14159, and 1.61803. And we love to assign meaning to numbers that end in zero. How many of you have done this: Watched closely (and, perhaps, celebrated in some personal way) as your car passed 100,000 miles?

We also assign significance to the passing of seasons and years. And, if the passing of years corresponds with the occurrence of zero, well, we humans just go completely ga-ga. Remember the year 2,000? That was not the beginning of the new millennium. But we all treated it that way because of those zeroes.

You can’t have it both ways. We do assign meaning to numbers ending in zeroes. If you claim that such endings are arbitrary, then I don’t want to hear about your 50th wedding anniversary or your 40th birthday. Those numbers are just as arbitrary and just as meaningless.

In a sense, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan is absolutely correct. 2,000 is just a number–“an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups…” And, yes, to finish his quote, any individual or group has rhetorical purpose for assigning meaning–“specific agendas and ulterior motives.” Just as Boylan has a specific agenda, an ulterior motive, and a rhetorical purpose for asserting a lack of meaning.

It’s a good thing the press didn’t listen to him because we might not have had the opportunity to read this accurate headline from the New York Post: “2,000 Heroes”

We may certainly debate the notion that the motives of the press are nefarious. But one may just as easily point to so many other pseudo-news events that occur according to the press simply because a number has changed–many of them pleasing and maddening by turns to the various political factions.

Today is 27 October 2005. How long (hours? days?) before some military spokesman tries to sell the press a story based on the change of a number? And which wag among the assembled press corps will point out that it’s just an arbitrary number?

October 26, 2005

Rhetorica podcast

From today’s panel discussion on news media coverage of hurricanes Katrina and Rita at Missouri State University, here is the complete podcast plus a few moments of video (QuickTime).

October 26, 2005

Today’s schedule…

9 a.m. CDT: Radio Rhetorica on The Growl. Click audio stream #1.

2 p.m. CDT: Panel discussion of news coverage of hurricanes Katrina and Rita by the journalism faculty at Missouri State University. Live blogging of the event at Journalism @ Missouri State. Podcast later today on Rhetorica. Send your questions for the panel by e-mail to j_msu -at- rhetorica.net.

October 25, 2005

That funny Florentine recession…

When I think of Saturday Night Live, the faces and voices still belong to Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. So it’s not difficult for me to accept the notion that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have eclipsed the long-running NBC comedy show in political satire. That’s been the case for a long time, although SNL did have a moment of glory during the 2000 campaign.

Last night–pitch perfect. The Al Roker footage had me snorting beer all over my 27-inch flat screen.

Today, Alessandra Stanley considers the comedy to be found (created from) the (natural) absurdity of the news. But I still wonder about this:

…young people increasingly rely on comedy, and particularly “The Daily Show,” as their main source of news.

Impossible. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are not funny unless you already know what’s going on. Here’s a bit of proof for my contention from Stanley’s article:

And some of the best material on Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert’s shows lies in their sadistic use of snippets from real newscasts and political speeches. On Thursday, Mr. Colbert showed a montage of alarmed reports about the avian flu epidemic on CNN, C-Span and MSNBC, then showed a more upbeat Fox News headline: “Bird is the word on the street. Why the avian flu could send stocks soaring.”

Mr. Colbert praised Fox News for always finding something positive in bad news, be it about the Bush administration or the nation. “Every global pandemic has a silver lining,” he said approvingly. “Remember, the Medici made their money investing in the bubonic plague. A lot of people did. Until the boil burst.”

How many young people understand the Medici reference and the economic and political bursting boil in regard to it?

Let’s try an experiment. At 4:00 p.m. CDT today, I’m going to put the question to my media ethics class–mostly seniors and about a third journalism majors. I’ll bet no one gets it. I’m making no claims about their smarts. But I do claim that Colbert’s joke is only funny to those of us who know who/what the Medici family is, when/where the bubonic plague took place in regard to the Medicis, and what the plague meant to politics and economics following the Florentine Renaissance.

UPDATE (6:40 p.m.): I’m dumb. I forgot to ask the question because we were having a good discussion of the midterm exam, plagiarism in journalism, and the difference between being able to justify a course of action academically versus justifying it “in real life” on the job. So, I’ll ask on Thursday. That’ll also tell us which students are reading this blog 🙂

October 25, 2005

Rhetorica update…

Two updates:

1. Skype is a banned program at Missouri State. But there is a slim chance, given the access configuration of the room, that I may be able to use it for the Katrina panel tomorrow. I won’t know for sure until about 15 minutes before the event. Again, the panel begins at 2 p.m. CDT. I’ll be live blogging at Journalism @ Missouri State. You may send questions to the panel by e-mail: j_msu -at- rhetorica.net.

2. I’m playing with an interesting php script called radio.blog. You’ll find it on the sidebar. It allows me to stream .mp3 files from this page. So I’m using it to keep a few of the “better” Rhetorica Podcasts available. Enjoy!

October 24, 2005

Don’t forget our Katrina panel…

Don’t forget: This Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. CDT, Missouri State j-profs will conduct a panel on the coverage of the Katrina and Rita hurricanes (and maybe Wilma, too). I’ll be live blogging the event so that Rhetorica readers may follow the action. I’ll also post a podcast. And we’ll stream it a few times later in the week on The Growl.

Be sure to send any questions you may have to j_msu -at- rhetorica.net. You may also place a Skype call to me during the panel, but I’ll give more details about that tomorrow.

October 19, 2005

Beer, Geeks–live the fantasy!…

Another meeting of the Springfield Bloggers.

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