Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Re-Views of the News

Every Wednesday evening in our home, we listen to a local radio show called Views of the News. There are several reasons for this. First, we are nerds, especially when it comes to the news and media. Second, the #1 journalism school in the country resides here. It would be foolish not to tap that resource once in a while for some insight into the news media. Third, it's on after Marketplace and therefore isn't bad, classical music.

Normally, I find Views to be a nice diversion from daily life, sort of a throwback to radio talk shows (sans irate callers) of yesteryear. The topics are timely but benign for the most part. However, tonight's show sort of rubbed me the wrong way.

Before I go on, it should be noted that I in no way am attacking the hosts, producers, or KBIA. We all work for the same employer and that would be against certain policies. What I am doing is respectfully disagreeing. Moving on to the topics...

The first topic was the #balloonboy story of Falcon Heene and his fictitious balloon ride through Colorado airspace. The story was one of those classic cable news fiascoes where all news around the world stops as the newscast is hijacked by [enter random, extraordinary event that has no consequence for the rest of us and really just appeals to the voyeur inside all of us here]. I followed it on Twitter, trying to concentrate on my work but not succeeding (extending my day unfortunately).

The View's take - aside from simultaneously blaming the media and audience for indulging in such voyeuristic garbage - was that the key difference between the online media and traditional media (read "newspapers, radio, and TV") was that traditional journos think it most important to check all the facts first before reporting while the online media just get the story out there and check facts later.

They're wrong.

I blog and Tweet from time to time. While I am in no way a reliable source of information, I do understand the thinking and motivation of the citizen journalist and online media. The idea is simple, really. Put it out there. Someone in your network will repost or comment. Someone else will Google it or look it up through other means. The facts will pour in. The errors will be corrected. Through collaboration and audience participation, the narrative will be pieced together. We no longer live in a time where we wait for the evening news or morning newspaper to get the story. We watch it and participate in it as it unfolds.

The second story didn't allow me to come down from the outrage over the first misinterpretation.

Earlier this week, the fabulously infamous Yes Men pulled another great hoax on the United States Chamber of Commerce. It seems that the merry pranksters posed as Chamber spokesmen and declared that the Chamber was reversing its stance on climate control legislation. (The actual Chamber was and is against such regulations.) Of course, the Yes Men were exposed but not before they exposed the chamber for its idiotic stance. (Now you know where I stand on the political spectrum.)

Once again, the View had it wrong.

The three, wise professors thought it a travesty that these Yes Men continue to pull hoax after hoax on poor corporations and the federations that represent them. Their claim is that these deceptions do nothing to solve national and global problems. In fact, it's claimed that the Yes Men actually harm those they want to stand up for and turn public sympathy to the bad guys/multi-national corporations.

Brought into the conversation was the screening of The Yes Men Fix the World at last year's True/False festival. At least one of the View's hosts was in attendance for that showing of the film and he was appalled at the reaction of the audience who cheered for the Yes Men as they lied to and manipulated the media, corporations, and various other power brokers into falling for their entertaining pranks.

I was there too, but I had a different take as I do about this past joke played on the Chamber. What the Yes Men do is important, inspirational, and effective. It's important because it exposes wrongs committed by those in power against the powerless to an enormous audience. The film and this week's stunt inspire people by showing them that we don't have to take what corporations or the traditional media are shoving down our throats. And yes, it is effective. People are duped, even the victims. However, I seem to remember the victims of the tragedy in Bhopal and those left homeless in New Orleans due to the the re-purposing of their homes appreciated the Yes Men's work in standing up for them while exposing the truth about their situations. These people usually figured it was a hoax from the beginning, but they understood what the Yes Men were out to accomplish. Again, truths were revealed through their work of deception.

That brings me to an interesting topic in the worlds of both traditional journalism and community/citizen/guerilla journalism: truth.

There is no one, essential truth. Because a journalist checks all the facts and asks all the questions she can think of doesn't mean she'll only report the truth. That is one version of the truth, no matter how thorough or ethical a journalist may be. The truth is not as simple as right or wrong. In every story, there are many truths. Each blog, newspaper article, Tweet, evening news report, vlog, etc. holds some truth. Traditional journalism does not control the market on truth. Sure, they have the training and resources to gather most of the truth, but they can never have it all.

The one part of the program I agreed with came from former host and current guest Rod Gelatt. Now, as the amateur that I am, I will attempt to paraphrase Dr. Gelatt's sentiment. He talked about how journalism and the media will change, so the students should be prepared to change their view of what it is they are training to do or plan to do in the future.

This is something the media is not doing: adjusting to change. Newspapers are dying because they were unwilling to change how they delivered information when they had a chance. Now, the New York Times is laying off its reporters. Radio and TV are jokes. Radio is becoming so homogenized that we might as well only have a handful of stations for the entire nation. And TV is all about ratings and being sensational. To counter any argument about TV journalism, all I have to do is point at Fox "News."

The media's future is online. The future is talking with communities, not about them or at them. The future in media is in collaboration. There is no more banking system where the newspapers, TV networks, and radio stations hold all the capital to divvy out to the masses as they see fit. There are many more truths out there than traditional media is willing to accept at this point in time.

At this point, I could get more revolutionary, but that would get away from my original intent just to review a radio program. I just wanted participate in the conversation instead of passively accepting the stories and opinions shared on KBIA's Views of the News. So, there you have it.

Views of the News can be heard every Wednesday evening after Marketplace on 91.3 KBIA here in COMO.


Unknown said...

Thanks for this. I saw a muted live broadcast of this program and wondered what the Yes Men story was all about. Now I know.

Carrie said...

I don't have much patience for the news for a number of reasons, but I enjoy seeing that the Yes Men are still able to pull of international pranks. I've been worried about them becoming too recognizable because of the docs and how that might hamper their hijinx.

Mike said...

From what I've seen, the balloon boy thing was a television news failure. How do bloggers get the blame? MU doesn't train people for nü media, but cable news wouldn't exist the way it does now without MU's j-school machine.