Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"The media"

This is my media rant post.  It'll sound weird, because the stereotype is that it's The Right who complains about the "biased liberal media" and makes a hobby of lambasting it at every opportunity.  And believe me, Ol' Shifter is not traditionally associated with the Right.  But I work in a job that draws a fair amount of media coverage, or at least has in the past 5 years or so.  I mean we're not on the evening news every night, but where I work gets mentioned every month or so, and usually not in a flattering light.  In fact, NEVER in a flattering light.  And there are thing about that which piss me off.

As I write this I"m reminded that one of the things that pisses me off is that media reports paint ALL parts of a huge system with a single, ugly brush.  Having said that, it occurs to me that I could be doing that very thing with discussion of "the media."  So while I will refrain from making any further generalizations about "the media" in a global sense,  I still have to say that all the media reports that have been on topics that I know, I mean really know, has been off.

Where I work has its problems.  And if you've read this blog in prior years, when we were still writing it, you'd have some sense for that.  And there are things about the system I'm working in that absolutely drive me batshit crazy.  I mean running up and down the halls, gibbering and crying, crazy.  So I'm the last person to say there's nothing wrong with our system, or nothing to report.  But what I can tell you, with absolute certainty, is that just about every single news story that I've seen involving my place of business has been dead-on, flat-out, all the way, wrong.  Not a bit wrong, not a bit biased, just flat out wrong.  And it's infuriating, because it perpetuates a stereotype that is harmful not just to those of us working where I work, but also those who we are trying to help.  In a way, in fact, it is not harmful to the employees like me at all.  I pull the same pay check if we get good press or bad press.  And it's a big enough system that it will take more than a few local news reports to really affect me, or those who work with me, at all.  But if you just keep running inaccurate drivel about where I work, then those who really NEED to come and see us and get help are even less likely to do it.  So thank you very much, media.

I really don't think that is because the media is biased towards the left or biased towards the right.  I'm sure those forces are present, but what I mostly see is that there are many elements of media (that I've experienced) that are biased, instead, towards whatever will sell.  What makes a "good story."  And the fact is that "corporate healthcare workers providing good care and coping with challenging circumstances" doesn't make good press.  What also makes poor press are complex stories that cover numerous causes, implications, and elements of context.  Those bore people.  "Smoking gun" type stories make good press.  Even when there's no damn gun.  It's frankly to the point where I've decided that most news stories that I see, those I agree with and those I do not,  have to be viewed with skepticism.  I assume there are some facts in each report, but I also assume there are so many facts that are relevant and not reported, and that misinterpretations of the facts that are presented are so rampant, that a story's conclusion is at best only 50% likely to be accurate.  At best.

You can argue, with some justification, that the problem is that audiences don't have the tolerance and patience and interest for reality.  In other words, some media outlets are responding to market forces, to the will of the people as expressed through their dollars.  You can argue that but I doubt you'll like the implications.  I doubt you get many reporters saying their job is solely to entertain.  Presumably it is to inform, and if that's the case then accuracy and completeness should matter, right?  There should be a reason we watch or listen to news other than Jon Stewart and Rush Limbaugh, right?

I have no idea what's to be done about this, and if I did have an idea it wouldn't matter all that much anyway, right?  My only conclusion is the one I stated before - don't trust the press.  Not because they love Obama or hate him, because they're pinko commies or fascist pigs, but because the interests of many aspects of the media appear to be complex, multifaceted, sometimes hidden, and to include far, far more than a desire to report "the truth at any cost."

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I absolutely agree. I tend to not watch the news at all because I don't truly trust any of it. Some of it is slanted one way, some slanted the other, but all of it is not straight on facts.