March 15, 2005

Newswire Needed

Via Atrios, via Tom Tomorrow, the NY Times writes about pro-packaged propaganda broadcast as news. The blogosphere has been pretty roundly horrified by how widespread this is, but this paragraph really caught my eye, emphasis mine:

... WCIA is a small station with a big job in central Illinois.

Each weekday, WCIA's news department produces a three-hour morning program, a noon broadcast and three evening programs. There are plans to add a 9 p.m. broadcast. The staff, though, has been cut to 37 from 39. "We are doing more with the same," said Jim P. Gee, the news director.

Farming is crucial in Mr. Gee's market, yet with so many demands, he said, "it is hard for us to justify having a reporter just focusing on agriculture."

To fill the gap, WCIA turned to the Agriculture Department, which has assembled one of the most effective public relations operations inside the federal government. The department has a Broadcast Media and Technology Center with an annual budget of $3.2 million that each year produces some 90 "mission messages" for local stations - mostly feature segments about the good works of the Agriculture Department.

"I don't want to use the word 'filler,' per se, but they meet a need we have," Mr. Gee said.

The Agriculture Department's two full-time reporters, Bob Ellison and Pat O'Leary, travel the country filing reports, which are vetted by the department's office of communications before they are distributed via satellite and mail. Alisa Harrison, who oversees the communications office, said Mr. Ellison and Mr. O'Leary provide unbiased, balanced and accurate coverage.

"They cover the secretary just like any other reporter," she said. ...

The article goes into several issues with the underpinnings of broadcast media, including the lack of archiving, making it difficult to track where these propaganda pieces are shown. It notes that though the agencies include information in the segment tag indicating who produced the spot, the broadcasters typically erase it, transforming them from video press releases to sleeper propaganda. Interesting stuff, all, and you should go read the full article.

Yet what surprised me is that more hasn't been made of the legitimate business need mentioned in the article. Newsrooms are being cut "to the bone marrow," as Laurie Garrett said on today's Free Speech Radio News broadcast, and being expected to turn the types of profits generated by other businesses.

The blog world has been nurturing plenty of proto-journalists who could probably step in and fill this need if there was some sort of centralized blogger wire service for hard print news, op-eds and video news spots. Regional services would probably be more effective as such a service built its credibility, but would be important in their own right. I'm sure the right would chime in quickly with a Scaife funded behemoth in rejoinder, but it would be a more active way to engage the media and give them a choice of better news programming a la carte.

Posted by natasha at March 15, 2005 07:09 PM | Media | Technorati links |
Comments

Yes, leave it to the liberals to be scabs and replace writers belonging to professional associations and unions...

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at March 16, 2005 06:24 PM

If the press was able to do their jobs, whether because they don't want to or are being stymied, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Additionally, part of the point I was making is that many news outlets are being forced to cut staff and can't support additional reporters. How many people do you think are willing to stake their living on being a stringer writing about agriculture in Illinois? I'm talking about things that they either won't cover, can't cover, or for whatever reason have refused to cover properly. And if anyone who's a professional writer wanted to perform these tasks, I'd be glad as anything.

Regarding the union issue... supporting journalists as a group just because they belong to some self-congratulatory professional association (one which provides practically no coverage of or support for any other sort of labor or union issue,) is like supporting Alberto Gonzales because you're in favor of Hispanic rights. When you have a policy goal, you support those people who contribute to it, not those people who could in some vague sense be considered affiliated with it but actively hinder any progress.

Lou Dobbs is practically the only regular outlet for labor news, and I think he gets away with it because he turns around and bashes the heck out of immigrants at every opportunity. In regards to labor issues, the press either stands solidly by the standard corporate line or ignores the subject altogether.

In short, being in favor of labor unions is not advocacy for incompetence, it's a belief that employers should have to pay a fair price for the work that makes their business possible. The press as a whole does not support this belief, and they actively cooperate with spreading the false idea that regulatory protection equates with social promotion for adults.

Posted by: natasha at March 17, 2005 12:18 AM

In short, being in favor of labor unions is not advocacy for incompetence, it's a belief that employers should have to pay a fair price for the work that makes their business possible. The press as a whole does not support this belief, and they actively cooperate with spreading the false idea that regulatory protection equates with social promotion for adults.

As a society, we don't place any value on work-life balance. We're way beyond the point where we've become overstressed to the point of inefficiency.

By the way, Natasha, you really need to check out (just once, that's all you'll need to see) the local channel 13 Fox News broadcast at 10PM. Last night, the weatherman was explaining why you can't catch up to the end of a rainbow while they played Stairway to Heaven in the background. I think they're the first ever news broadcast to cater to stoners.

Posted by: thehim at March 17, 2005 07:24 AM