Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Monday, December 20, 2004

Interesting Coincidences

I am an avid reader. Sometimes a voracious one. I'd rather read than do pretty much anything else, given the choice. So I always have something to read when I go to lunch, and usually it's a book or a magazine. I almost never, however, read newspapers. At least, not the dead-tree versions. Being the gun nut Second Amendment defender that I am, I am intimately aware of what Michael Crichton termed the "Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect" (PDF):
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.
Thus was the art of "fisking" invented.

Anyway, if I want to read the news, I get it on-line now, generally. Besides, the two local papers, the Tucson Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star are generally Left and Far-Left respectively, so I don't feel like giving them my money. But today I picked up a copy of the Star so I'd have something to read with lunch.

And I stumbled across this op-ed by Leonard Pitts, Jr. where he decries falling newspaper circulation, and relates the efforts of a Chilean newspaper to counter this fall by, well, giving the readers what they apparently want.

Mr. Pitts does not approve.

Mr. Pitts does not approve because the plebes choose to read brain candy rather than hard-hitting news such as "stories about budget deficits, congressional summits, and other boring stuff nobody cares about."

How dare they!

Leonard blames the newspaper's problems on "bean counters." He says the paper where he works (the Miami Herald), a place where costs are cut with the mad glee of an ax murderer, talented people are being shoveled out the door, and editors are required to prostrate themselves before the altar of the holy profit margin.
He has a point, actually. I've said myself that the worst thing to happen, at least to television news, was the discovery that the news department could be a profit center rather than a money-pit.

Newspapers, (and news magazines) on the other hand, have always been profit-driven. They haven't had large commercial networks behind them to cover the payroll and the light bills. Thus "yellow journalism" was driven as much by a desire to sell newspapers as for idealism. But times have changed, and for one thing, people suffer less from Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect than they used to. The internet has had much to do with that.

As you're no doubt aware, Time magazine awarded Power Line its "Blog of the Year" award. The guys at Power Line excerpted this from that story:
The story of how three amateur journalists working in a homegrown online medium challenged a network news legend and won has many, many game-changing angles to it. One of the strangest and most radical is that the key information in "The 61st Minute" came from Power Line's readers, not its ostensible writers. The Power Liners are quick, even eager, to point this out. "What this story shows more than anything is the power of the medium," Hinderaker says. "The world is full of smart people who have information about every imaginable topic, and until the Internet came along, there wasn't any practical way to put it together."

Now there is.
I believe that 60 Minute's viewership has fallen off dramatically since "the 61st Minute." I think a good chunk of the falling newspaper circulation is due to similar reasons. There may still be a large audience willing to read "brain candy" from the press, but there are a LOT of people who still want to read about "budget deficits, congressional summits, and other boring stuff" - we just want the facts. We're tired of being told what to THINK about it by people who don't understand what it is they're writing about. If we want an editorial, we'll go to the editorial page.

I was listening to Hugh Hewitt on the way home from work this afternoon, and he was playing excerpts from C-SPAN's "Q and A" interview of Roger Ailes. Roger is head-honcho of FOX News, a man with his finger on the pulse of what does and what does not attract an audience, I think. Hugh quotes Roger on his answer to the question, "What do they teach in journalism school?"
Well I think they get too political from time to time. I think they draw conclusions for students, at least many of the ones that I have talked to. They don't necessarily teach them the simple things of gather all the facts, present all the facts. I think in many cases they have agendas. You know, I was asked by a university to give them some money and I went to the university and I taught a couple of classes and I interviewed a bunch of students and I said: 'I'm not going to give you any money until you can graduate somebody who likes America. It's not a bad country you know. Soon as you get me somebody like that I'll get you some money , but based on what they're learning, you'd think we lived somewhere else.'
Hewett expands:
The anti-Americanism of many elite media is palpable, and increasingly resented by Americans of all backgrounds. Ailes knows this, and knows as well that any network that simply does not attack America on a nightly basis will be ahead of CNN.
The same holds for newspapers, and Mr. Pitts should understand that and stop blaming the moronic public on the one hand, and the parsimonious bean-counters on the other. If he wants to see the reason for falling circulation, perhaps he and his professional breathren ought to spend some time staring into a mirror.

Failing that, he can go ahead and get into the bed-and-breakfast industry, and leave the news and analysis to the rising amateurs and semi-pros of the blogosphere.

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