Blogging Parasites II

Beyond any relatively trivial media tales of my own (post before this one), Gordon Campbell rebuts John Armstrong’s column so very well.  Bryce Edwards weighs in, too, though gives more ground than Campbell … well, actually, Campbell doesn’t give any. Here’s one point (among many) that struck me from Campbell’s piece:

Let me just say that, beyond the name-calling, there are two substantive issues involved here. One, it has been true for years that the only ideology in media circles that gets called as such is on the left. Right wing propagandists are taken as the sensible norm by the corporate media.

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about both with respect to journalism, but also beyond. Sadly, MSM journalism will, of course, follow whichever economic orthodoxy is dominant — might makes right, so to speak. Or, to the victors go the “sensible norms”.  Maybe the Angry Journalist Column is an early sign, as Campbell suggests, that this is changing. It’s not just journalism’s agreed upon “sensible norms” that are under threat, but the economic orthodoxy upon which they are parasitic (had to get the word in somewhere). On the other hand, that’s probably a tad optimistic and definitely premature.

After all,   I recall thinking  — naively as it turned out — in mid- to late- 2008 that the economic catastrophe that was quickly bearing down on us all would surely, at the very least, raise questions about the neoliberal programme we’ve been following so slavishly for so long. Like I said, naive. It was absolutely reminiscent of the thought that the finding-of-no-WMD in Iraq would finish W’s chances of re-election in 2004. In both cases, it seemed to make not a jot of difference. Though one still has hopes some longer term lessons can be learned. (It’s definitely far too easy to pronounce failure in the short term.)

It would be interesting, I thought at the time, to go talk to the people at the Business Schools and Economics Depts to find out how they were changing their syllabi and reading lists in the wake of the 2008 meltdown. Hah!

But, back to Campbell. Yes, exactly right. The “left” is largely a joke to MSM, with the “right”, as Campbell says, is “the sensible norm”.

It’s hard not to see the kind of thrashing about that John Armstrong is doing in his column — the death throes of MSM essentially — as being in part a clinging to the days when Paid Professional Journalists truly did control pretty much all the flows of news and information. Unless you were rich enough to be able to afford a subscription to that wafer thin version of the International Guardian or committed enough to subscribe to an alternative news magazine, what MSM dished out was IT.

Tim Murphy, the editor in chief of the Herald, Tweeted after the relaunch of the paper last week (this from memory) something about how NZH had set the news agenda because TV had picked up NZH stories for its news bulletins that night. But is “setting the ‘news agenda'” (apparently measured by whether or not it’s on TV) the best way of judging whether or not your newspaper is a success? We all know how news agendas can go terribly terribly wrong: think NYT and the “aluminum tubes”. It’s also out of date.

If Paid Professional Journalists care as much as they keep saying they do about the craft of journalism — about taste, and accuracy and fairness — they should champion and embrace journalists like Campbell, who works his rear off trying to build something of quality in the vast universe of crap that is the Web-o-sphere. There sure is indeed a whole lot of junk out there, but the work Campbell and Edwards do is not part of it.

The only conclusion that makes sense at this point is that it’s because their work is good that it’s such a threat.


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