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Heavy-Handed Politics

"€œGod willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world
without the United States and Zionism."€ -- Iran President Ahmadi-Nejad

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Is It True? The news media discovers news?

This from The Washington Times:

The news media discover news

What’s this? Stop the presses, pre-empt that program. Some news organizations claim they have rediscovered their primary directive: to report the news.

In the last week, both The New York Times and CNN said they will now emphasize real content rather than overwrought punditry.

The Times is adopting the policy that has long been in place at this Times — The Washington Times, that is. The policy? Shorter is better. Less is more.

New York Times executive editor William Keller sent a memo to his staff in recent days that says simply, enough already.

“Over the years various editors have waged a fitful campaign against the inexorable creep of swollen prose. The latest effort to stem the tide of excess begins with a spirit of optimism. I’m confident we can develop greater discipline in our writing,” Mr. Keller wrote.

“The simple fact is, for all the great journalism we deliver every day, our stories sometimes feel slack or padded. I’m talking, for the most part, about 1200-word stories that could be told in 900 words, and 1,500-word or 1,800-word or 2,000-word stories that suffer from dawdling anecdotes and redundancy.”

The new policy: Stories over 1,800 words need approval from higher-ups. The New York Observer wryly noted that Mr. Keller took 1,000 words to get his point across, but hey — at least it wasn’t 1,800.

Meanwhile, CNN announced Monday that it would concentrate on “hard news and analysis” rather than chit chat. News director Jonathan Klein promised to “roll up our sleeves and report the news” rather than “talk about it.”

Mr. Klein told USA Today this week that CNN was not trying to beat FOX News and its audience of 842,000 viewers — twice the audience of CNN at any given time. CNN’s competition, he said, now includes Web logs, DVDs, music and the whole media cacophony.

But CNN must also be taking on the pervasive political culture, perhaps.

“Everyone talks in talking points these days,” news analyst Andrew Tyndall noted. “It’s not just on cable news. It’s radio. It’s everywhere. The entire political world is no longer talking ideas, but talking points.”
--- Jennifer Harper, national media reporter

Is it possible that the good old MSM is retreating back in time to use the standards and ideals of reporting of the good old media of days gone by? I seriously doubt it. But just for the fun of it, let's look at Benjamin Franklin's views on news reporting.

"Even as he became more political, Franklin resisted making his newspaper fiercely partisan. He expressed his credo as a publisher in a famous Gazette editorial "Apology for Printers," which remains one of the best and most forceful defenses of a free press.

The opinions people have, Franklin wrote, are 'almost as various as their faces.' The job of printers is to allow people to express these differing opinions. 'There would be very little printed,' he noted, if publishers produced only things that offended nobody. At stake was the virtue of free expression, and Franklin summed up the Enlightenment position in a sentence that is now framed on newsroom walls: 'Printers are educated in the belief that when men differ in opinion, both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public; and that when Truth and Error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.'

[HeavyHanded wants to know, is it the above principle, the Enlightenment position, which drives the liberals to employ the tactics of filibustering and shouting down their opponents?]

'It is unreasonable to imagine that printers approve of everything they print,' he went on to argue. 'It is likewise unreasonable what some assert, that printers ought not to print anything but what they approve; since ..... an end would thereby be put to free writing, and the world would afterwards have nothing to read but what happened to be the opinions of printers.'

It was not Franklin's nature to be dogmatic or extreme about any principle; he generally gravitated toward a sensible balance. The rights of printers, he realized, were balanced by their duty to be responsible. Thus, even though printers should be free to publish offensive opinions, they should generally exercise discretion. 'I myself have constantly refused to print anything that might countenance vice or promote immorality, though .....I might have got much money. I have always refused to print such things as might do real injury to any person.' "

(From Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson.)

Nah, I think this would be too much to ask of our current MSM.


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