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Monkey Business

Media reality, etc.

About a year ago, I wrote a diatribe in the “Monkey Chronicles” on the media, even though the profession pays my mortgage.The gist of my ranting was the media’s lack of restraint in incorporating their own opinions and innuendos into articles and newscasts. It’s why CNN and the New York Times are known in the business as the liberal media, and Fox and our local daily, the Gazette, are referenced as conservative.Of course, those opinion editorials (like this one) are somewhat responsible for creating a certain bias – a political or social flavor.Maintaining a “voice” is an advantage of owning or publishing a newspaper, but one should never abuse the privilege. And a good newspaper and televised broadcast should always incorporate readers’ opinions as well.Well, I am on another media tirade – with mixed emotions, however.The media is out of control. Maybe it’s because of reality television. (I have honestly never watched “Extreme Makeover.”) No matter, here’s the media’s reality today: Journalism is out – drama and sensationalism are in. A newscast is now a Broadway production. Breaking news is breaking for hours. Fluff has replaced real news. TV news anchors and an occasional print journalist easily interject their own opinions, or they try too hard to stir up trouble.Here are a few examples.A CNN broadcast journalist, a day after the July London bombings, said, “America is going to work anxious today because of the bombings in London.” Who is he to reference every American as anxious? He doesn’t know that. Is he trying to stir up something? Although I empathized with the London bombings, my only anxieties on my drive to work that morning were related to the bumper-to-bumper traffic that now identifies Highway 24.Something like the London bombings should get its due in the media, but the problem is the media moguls are so focused on the competition that they over-saturate the coverage.But sometimes they barely cover what’s important, as in the following situation.According to information listed on www.BeAWitness.org, major network and cable news stations that broadcast 24/7 aired 126 segments in June on the coverage of genocide in Sudan. During the same month, the same stations, including ABC, NBC and CBS aired a combined 8,303 features on the runaway bride, the Michael Jackson trial and Tom Cruise.Have we become voyeuristic? A country of peeping Toms? What was the obsession with the runaway bride? Is it the media influencing our minds? Maybe we all need a media exorcism.There were fires raging all over Colorado a couple weeks ago, but “Extreme Makeover” hit the front page of the Gazette. I had to turn a few pages for information on the fires. Okay, I know we have “Extreme Makeover” on our front page, too, this month, but it’s only because of that great picture Tom Kimmell shot. And we’re not daily news anyway.We need more media watchdogs, like FAIR: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. From the Web site, www.fair.org: “Profit-driven news organizations are under great pressure to boost ratings by sensationalizing the news: focusing attention on lurid, highly emotional stories, often featuring a bizarre cast of characters and a gripping plot but devoid of significance to most people’s lives.We need people to find significance in their lives by demanding media integrity.On the other hand, we would be in the dark without the media. Can you imagine a media black out – newspapers and television? Wow! It would be a politician’s heyday.Responsible media is vital to our being. When people criticize the media without cause, I react, too.For example, a recent Gazette article about the Falcon incorporation efforts raised the ire of many incorporation committee members who said it was negative. The reporter quoted the sources, all of whom talked about problems and negative issues, which set the flavor of the article. The negative didn’t come from the reporter, and no one mentioned that the writer misquoted anyone.Reporters do get it all wrong on occasion. Too often reporters get a date, a name, a time or a place misconstrued. And sometimes a reporter will find ways to “report” a story based on his or her own biases. Some in the business excuse it by saying, “It’s to be expected, they’re human.” I disagree. The challenge as a writer is to report the facts – on both sides. I’ve written a story or two that hasn’t been completely fair to both sides (editorials don’t count, remember) but it’s a learning process. (A good editor helps.)Remember that anything you say to a reporter is fair game. There is no judge who will side with you because a part of your conversation with the reporter was “off the record.” It’s up to the journalist. And remember, too, that what you say in conversation often looks different in print. It’s not because the reporter got it wrong; it’s often because you wish you wouldn’t have said what was written. (Just ask senior White House Advisor Karl Rove.)In the real world of journalism, there are checks and balances, and there are good editors who care about consistency and the rules of the industry.Well, that’s it for yet another (and probably not my last) media diatribe.On another note:A couple weeks ago, I was driving down Meridian Road toward Garrett Road when I saw a dead cat in the middle of the road, and a few feet up I saw a dead dog lying on the side of the road. Meridian Road is not high traffic. There is no reason to drive so fast on Meridian Road south that you can’t stop for an animal.I rode my bike last week down Judge Orr Road, and one car out of 12 (I counted them) was courteous about my presence. The others were in such a hurry (on a Sunday morning) that one drive-by miscalculation would have taken me out in a heartbeat. When people are driving that fast, there is no margin for error.Slow down. Don’t regret your speed.

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