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Media Criticism: it’s the consumers, stupid
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Megan McArdle is in a scuffle with Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald demonstrates his usual lack of reading comprehension and/or willingness to misrepresent the claims of his critics, factual errors, a heaping dose of ignorance/naievete about the subject on which he writes, and a level of sanctimony normally associated with people too blinded to realize they might be wrong. McArdle responds to Greenwald's latest diatribe...
I am not defending John Yoo, or his memos, or the government's behavior. I am simply pointing out that when it comes to the journalistic coverage of same, Mr Greenwald has the correlation running the wrong way: the public doesn't know because it doesn't care, not because the journalists don't want to tell them. If the public did care, Mr Greenwald would have more readers.

Frankly, his assertions sound bizarre, even lunatic, to anyone who has ever met a journalist or a newspaper editor. And the later part of his rant, during which he accuses me and Dan of supporting the media establishment because it is helping us cover up our war crimes, ranges into the kind of frenzied conspiracy-theorizing that I generally associate with Ron Paul's more wild-eyed supporters.
Greenwald's argues that the press is obsessed with trivialities and they are choosing to report on those trivialities, rather than more important issues. Which is probably true, to some extent. But in a free market, the media is just a vessel. They respond to incentives and they deliver the content that the market (the audience) demands.

And you know what? Sometimes that really sucks.
A campaign only gets credit for the messages it can push into the mainstream media. As I pointed out during the [Allen Senate] campaign, at one point, the Washington Post and WashingtonPost.com had done 156 stories involving 'macaca' in the previous 60 days...versus only 1 story that even mentioned Senator Allen's major energy policy proposal. Senator Allen spent a lot of time touring the Commonwealth to talk about his policies and his record, but you'd be hard-pressed to find much media coverage of those issues...especially from the Washington Post.

Oh, sure, the Washington Post did do one lengthy piece on George Allen — 1,302 words mostly devoted to George Allen's wardrobe.
Does the media need to do better? Yeah. But, again, this isn't the result of the personal deficiencies in reporters. It is the result of their incentives.

I won't presume to suggest that the psychoanalysis performed by Dr. Glenn Greenwald is incorrect, but I would suggest that Greenwald could do a bit more to educate himself about why the media doesn't focus more on detailed, important policy issues....by thinking about his own audience.

Gedankenexperiment time!

What would happen to Glenn Greenwald’s readership and volume of inbound links if…

  • …Glenn Greenwald spent a few months blogging about Democratic hypocrisy and wrongdoing?


  • …Glenn Greenwald spent a few months blogging about detailed, important policy issues that don’t involve partisan conflict and wrongdoing?


HINT: his audience would fall quickly and Greenwald would learn that his readers weren't quite as interested in policy details as they were in partisan politics. He would quickly discover that the people who were inflamed by hypocrisy and wrongdoing by Republicans were - surprise! - not quite so interested in such stories about Democrats. Replace the appropriate words there and you'll also have a good explanation for much of the past 8 years.

Glenn Greenwald does not have his audience because his readers are deeply interested in detailed, important policy issues. He has the audience he has because his readers are deeply interested in detailed, important policy issues that reinforce their beliefs about their political opponents. And he knows that, which is why he caters almost exclusively to partisan grievances, rather than to non-partisan criticism.

Media criticism is important. But misrepresenting and caricaturing the people he's criticizing - as he did with McArdle and Drezner - does more to prove their point than Greenwald's.
 
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a level of sanctimony normally associated with people too blinded to realize they might be wrong
Heh. You’ve described 99.9% of the blogosphere.
Gedankenexperiment time!
Yes, that sounds fun!

What would happen to Glenn Greenwald’s QandO’s readership and volume of inbound links if.

* .Glenn Greenwald QandO spent a few months blogging about Democratic Republican hypocrisy and wrongdoing?


* .Glenn Greenwald QandO spent a few months blogging about detailed, important policy issues that don’t involve partisan conflict and wrongdoing?

Hint: ...
Well, I think you know already.

Cheers.


 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
Some how this all reminds me of a quote by Boris Badenov.
I can’t be tricky all the time .. I’ve got better things to think about
It’s almost Nixonian, don’t you think (don’t have time .. I understand).
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Ich kann nicht tricky sein die ganze Zeit .. das ich die besseren Sachen habe zum zu denken
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
How many times do we read pieces that appeal to our desire to consider ourselves intellectual, something to the effect of the "the media only covers burning buildings, but discerning readers want to know...", only to be followed with trivial descriptions of burning buildings.

My own experiment, I will google "what’s wrong with the media", and I’ll take the first op-ed link and paste the intellectual massaging, and then the prurient meat, from the same article...

First hit...

You are so smart if you are reading this...
Being a responsible citizen, it’s important to know what is going on in the world as well as our own communities. Yet, the average citizen who relies on the local newspaper, radio and TV is at a disadvantage. How? The local newspaper slants their writing to reflect what they want to cover, how they want to cover it and is almost assured that you will share their point of view when you are finished reading their article.
And in case you are bored with being smart, let me titillate you with an example of what the media shouldn’t do...
The recent Republican ad with the RATS frame within it is a joke. The Democrats were suggesting it is a deliberate attempt at subliminal advertising. The Republicans said it was just an oversight; it was just the ending of the word DemocRATS. I say big deal. Even if the Republicans wanted to call the Democrats, RATS - why would it matter? I’m sure much worse things have been said by both parties. And rats is an opinion - again, big deal. Granted, it is somewhat childish and distasteful. But do the democrats really think that just because one party calls the other a name we believe it? Hmmm. and yet, they think we’re intelligent enough to vote?
As a nation, we’re basically heading towards idiocracy. It is difficult to fight the temptation to desire a professional electorate. Let each precinct in America elect a few people to represent them in elections. After that, politics would be virtualy 100% wonksville.

And since the elector would be unpaid, and unable to accept ANY favors, gifts, etc, they might actually make sound decisions.

As a nation, we have ADD. We can be in the middle of the most important policy debate of the century, and then..."Oooh, look at the shiny thing... what were we talking about?"

 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
Q. What would Anna Nicole Smith think of this ?
A. She wouldn’t.

My local paper searched for years to get a message that would sell.
All the "new" privacy laws have made hospital admittances hard to obtain,
and then they started charging for obituaries over a simple paragraph.
Now, we have a car crash on the cover of every paper. Sometimes two.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
a level of sanctimony normally associated with people too blinded to realize they might be wrong
I resemble that remark.
 
Written By: Ott Scerb
URL: http://cluelessprof.maine.edu
I liked Megan’s opening:

Mr Greenwald’s anger at the establishment power structure seems to be rapidly transmuting into anger at the non-Glenn-Greenwald power structure:

Greenwald built his following on his ability to write "Bush Sucks" in 5,000 words or more on a daily basis. Now he has less than a year to make a smooth transition to... what? I don’t know, but I bet it will suck.
 
Written By: Tom Maguire
URL: http://
what? I don’t know, but I bet it will suck.
Maybe it will be McCain sucks? That is different enough to have his sycophants think it is brilliant, and that more senators will read it from the senate floor, that he will write a new book based on it that will rise to the NYT (no less) best seller list with a good day to you sir.
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Greenwald built his following on his ability to write "Bush Sucks" in 5,000 words or more on a daily basis. Now he has less than a year to make a smooth transition to... what? I don’t know, but I bet it will suck.
The 2008 election is a very important one, particularly to the political economy. We have a choice between:

  • A Full Employment Act for The Hysterical Left - President McCain


  • A Full Employment Act for the Hysterical Right - President Obama

Either way, many of us lose.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
What would happen to QandO’s readership and volume of inbound links if.

* .QandO spent a few months blogging about Republican hypocrisy and wrongdoing?

* .QandO spent a few months blogging about detailed, important policy issues that don’t involve partisan conflict and wrongdoing?


QandO, being a free market site, does complain about Republican tax-and-spenders and they do talk about non-partisan economic issues. They tend to hit Dems more often because the Dems are that much worse on economic issues.
 
Written By: ben
URL: http://

 
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