Thursday, August 25, 2005

Violating the Blogger Prime Directive

Never put your best stuff in other blogs' comments!

I have just written two essays in response to comments by Steve Lovelady and Jay Rosen over in the ongoing PressThink debate. I will reprint the first comment below -- it is in response to Steve's point that
the real's a function of corporations seeking a more favorable opinion of their stock price on Wall Street
My reply:

It is true that most people in most professions, including journalism, worry about what their bosses and the bean counters in the back office will think about their work vis-a-vis the bottom line. But that only goes so far in this dialogue because:
  1. It is not a given that the corporate masters will necessary want to "prove [their] macho chops," especially if they have the majority of their eyeballs coming from overseas. When CNN runs a viciously anti-Israel piece, are they proving their "macho chops" to their intended audience? How does Al Jazeera fit into this debate -- what is its PressThink, and should they be granted the same professional and social status as American press outfits?
  2. Moreover, sometimes the top of the corporate culture is run by elites who do not well understand the American public: Indira Nooyi may know a lot about which artificial sweeteners taste better but she does not exactly have her finger on the pulse of American public attitudes; more directly, I'm not sure that Pinch Sulzberger is strictly interested in maximizing the bottom line if it leads him too far away from his social goals. From accounts I have read, the NYT has tried to eat its cake and have it by attempting to find more like-minded readers in other cities rather than diversify their content.
  3. Even the best corporate bean counters cannot instantaneously alter the accreted rituals of a professional religion which limits creativity and diversity of thought. This is why much of the freshest reporting and commentary today is coming from sources who are not indoctrinated in this religion. And the audiences have responded, while many oldthinkers can only scratch their head; it is literally unthinkable.
  4. One approach, comforting only in the short run, is to blame the audience for being so dumb and/or primitive as to not understand the teachings of the priestly class. Patronizing the audience is the one intellectual space where both the “clerics” and the bean counters (who form an often-misguided corporate elite) can see eye-to-eye, although each may seek a different means of redress.
In sum, I don’t doubt that there are considerable financial pressures that affect moment-to-moment decisions every day. But that hardly explains the story of how Americans have lost their trust in conventional media, or how Fox News has built its audience starting with cheap sets and second-rate talent.


Blogger Norma said...

The odd thing about blogging is that great essays may get more readers at someone else's site than your own. So no ticket for those blogging violations.

I appreciate your interesting insights.

1:31 PM  

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