It’s Not Just Gun Coverage: The Problems in Media


I actually found this article to be a very interesting read on the problems of media today. While some in media just want to pretend that it’s the financial challenges that keep things tough in journalism, Kristi Culpepper notes some other deep flaws in the profession:

There is less concern among the media for developing actual expertise in the fields they write about, capturing events accurately, or providing thoughtful analysis. Some journalists I have interacted with even take pride in their lack of seriousness, which is unfathomable to me. Reporting is less about honesty and more about ubiquity now.

Contrary to how it seems sometimes, we’re not actually completely anti-media in our household. If there’s someone out there who does reporting/writing right, we do pay for it. We have a few digital subscriptions, and we’ve even participated in a PBS fundraiser once because that particular station happens to produce and play (non-news) content we enjoy. But the problem is that many news organizations no longer value the reporting and writing done right. I’m not sure how to solve that problem when, as argued above, there are people in the industry who take pride in the fact that they are incapable of covering an issue with any sort of seriousness.

17 thoughts on “It’s Not Just Gun Coverage: The Problems in Media”

  1. The unseriousness and ignorance seems to be social signaling. It’s like seeing an Edwardian era British Lord take pride in his ignorance of “tradesman’s skills.”

    Course said Lord wouldn’t, normally, be distributing a club journal about boilers…

  2. I remember when the fairness doctrine was overturned, and emergence of “news” that gloried in the fact that it didn’t have to follow it.

    I know less government is supposed to be better, but in this case I think it has worsened us as a society.

    1. I don’t remember what the radio was like before the Fairness Doctrine, but I, for one, am thankful it is gone, based on my understanding of what radio was like before the Fairness Doctrine: no one was willing to do a news show. Over the years, I have listened to a lot of talk show hosts. I have liked some, come to detest others, and my like/dislike isn’t due to political issues, but how they handle their shows.

      Before the Fairness Doctrine, however, few radio stations were simply unwilling to discuss politics. I have no idea how we would be better off with no politics on the radio.

      The complaints given in the article are beyond radio, however. To the best of my knowledge, the Fairness Doctrine never applied to TV, and certainly not to Cable. It never applied to print media. It never applied to the internet. Yet the problems of ignorance goes all across the board. Should we have a “fairness doctrine” for blogs? While I have not had much success focusing on my blog (life happens, after all), I, for one, would despise having a government bureaucrat constantly hovering over my shoulder, demanding that I give equal time to all points of view (I was leaning towards discussing Austrian Economics, when I last blogged–should I be forced to give equal time to Keynsian, Marxist, Chicago School, and other schools of economic thought as well? What the heck does “equal time” even mean? Equal blog posts? Equal word counts?).

      No, the lack of a Fairness Doctrine is not a problem.

      The problem is as stated: journalists are ignorant on what they report on, and some of them are even proud of it. If this is the case, why should we trust them? Trust is journalist lifeblood, and they have been steadily draining it for the last several decades.

    1. I see what you’re trying to argue there, but that would imply that the problem is in the mere existence of media as a concept at all. I don’t see that as the case. The problems is in the journalists who currently work at some outlets.

      1. Some? I’d say most at the very least.
        Traditional Media is dying, and to a large extent for this very reason, nobody want’s to pay someone to lie to them.
        Sure, you may still get lied to on the internet, but at least you have several free sources of info available to double check things against.

  3. You would think they would keep a Veteran on staff who could help with stories about guns and the military. They are completely ignorant on both subjects despite all the ink they dedicate to them.

    1. How much ink do they dedicate to them, though? From my perspective, yeah, there’s lots about guns in the media, but that’s mostly because I follow lots of blogs like this one. But from the perspective of someone who works at the Washington Post, how many articles about guns do they see published, compared to stories about other things?

      1. Better question is how many POSITIVE ones?

        Sure they are quick to publish stories of crimes committed with guns, but when a crime is stopped by a person, other than a cop, with a gun all we hear are crickets……

  4. The very idea of an “unbiased” media is a modern invention. For most of our history, media was anything but. Most cities had two newspapers, one Republican, one Democrat. The editorial pages made no pretense of even-handedness, and that bias worked its was all over the paper. They were party organs.

    Only broadcast media, and in particular mass national broadcast media (ABC, NBC, CBS in their heyday) pretended to be “unbiased.” The biases there were (and are) much less a reflection of owners’ loyalties (like in the old newspaper days) than a reflection of the kinds of people who tended more and more, in the 60s and 70s, to get into journalism. They saw journalism as a means to an end – to influence society – rather than an end in itself – to accurately report the events of the day.

    And keep in mind one other thing: there never was, never will be, and never can be “unbiased” reporting. It does not exist. It never existed. Biases are inherent in humans doing reporting.

    Ignorance is another matter. There’s no excuse for that.

    1. There’s a reason that I don’t talk about an unbiased media in this post. I don’t believe it’s totally possible, either. I think there are elements that make stories more balanced and fair to multiple views. However, that’s not what I’m talking about here.

      In this case, I’m highlighting the problem of journalists who choose to remain ignorant about the topics they write about on a daily basis. Even if some don’t come out and say they take pride in being clueless, there’s still the underlying issue that they often know little about what they write about.

      There was once a local political reporter who had a real passion for reporting on the nitty gritty of local politics. He was actually pretty good at it. However, he once got the gun issue very, very wrong in making sweeping statements about assumed positions. I did a detailed takedown of why he was horribly wrong, and he acknowledged it was right. He apologized for the error, agreed with my assessment, and took something away from the experience. Even though his bias was coming through in his initial report, he wasn’t clueless because he was willing to learn and make the final product more informative. He’s still biased against guns, but he was much more careful in reporting on the topic in the future because he was willing to learn a little more about the politics of it, which was really his focus.

  5. At some point ‘News’ stopped becoming about informing the public and became just another form of entertainment. The focus is no longer on accurate reporting but has shifted to making revenue. Stories no longer need to be accurate, just generate lots of attention and accurate reporting often gets in the way of that goal.

  6. And I bet most of those problem reporters all have a degree in “journalism”. The institution of news reporting is rotting from the head.

  7. Pretending to be non-partisan increases the potential audience significantly. With the dramatic polarization in society today, if you openly back one party or the other you cut your readership by half or more immediately. That means fewer eyeballs and thus less revenue.

    News rooms have also lobotomized themselves. Tight revenues are forcing lots of cuts. This makes media very dependent on being handed their story by outside agencies such as government press releases or outside groups like the SPLC. Even the Daily Show is mourning the death of investigative journalism.

    A lot of the issues we see in the media are systematic bias and agenda. Even more are simple ignorance though. Never ascribe to enemy action what is simply incompetence. It is a heck of a lot easier to parrot some anti-gun big city police chief’s pre-written press release than to do your own reporting, especially with a deadline and few staffers.

    If the media is as dumb on guns as we know they are, why would we think they’re more accurate with the details on any other issue?

    1. “Even the Daily Show is mourning the death of investigative journalism.”

      That’s a really sad statement on the state of journalism right there.

  8. Rotting from the head is right. Most of the old media is owned by six big conglomerates. Giant corporations (especially media owners) love regulations on their industries because they have the lawyers, accountants, compliance officers, and above all lobbyists to deal with them whereas smaller ones do not. Protecting people from big corporations with regulations is like planting briar patches to protect humans from Godzilla; the humans will get tangled up but Godzilla will plow right through.

    Big corporations are run by people who get where they are because they like telling people what to do, and are skilled in corporate political manuvering. They hire like minded-people to run the media businesses, who hire like-minded editors, who hire like-minded journalists. We all know about the liberal biases most share or the conservative ones a few share, because they tell us about the ones on the other side, but we don’t all notice the massive totalitarian/authoritarian biases they all share by the nature of the selection process. On any specific issue they talk about how the government should regulate things, with at best lip service to the general idea that there should be less regulation. Gay marriage is a perfect example; they write for it or against it, but don’t touch the idea that maybe the government should get out of defining marriage altogether.

    Liberals don’t think the media has a liberal bias because they can see that the bias is totalitarian and corporatist, which they associate with the right as we conservatives do with the left. Conservatives are correct inasmuch as the left leadership is wholly corporatist and totalitarian, but how much more liberty did we get and how much was spending cut in 2002-2006 when Republicans controlled the Presidency, House, and Senate?

    The number one thing we can do about this as individuals is keep always in mind that everybody knows almost nothing about most issues. It takes extensive and open-minded research to wade through the swamp of journalist bias, selective reporting, and lies, and the mire of echo chamber bias and selective repeating based on it, and no one has time to do it on more than a few issues. When you notice the well-meaning bull coming from your own side, then maybe you’ve figured that issue out.

  9. The rise of Hunter S. Thompson wannabee Gonzo Journalists, who missed the point that HST was both a fine writer and a person who knew about that which he wrote, is one reason for journalistic decline.

    The idea of advocacy journalism is a bigger reason.

    The idea of being Democrat operatives with bylines, paid by media groups, is an even bigger reason.

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