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The [Tuesday] Papers

"Earlier this year, New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman published The Loudest Voice in the Room, a strongly critical biography of Roger Ailes," Bob Somerby writes at his Daily Howler blog.

"In January, Sherman discussed the book with Jane Hall as part of C-Span's After Words series. We watched their discussion two weekends ago.

"Late in the hour, Sherman and Hall discussed the nature of propaganda, especially as practiced by Fox. Sherman's description was basic but interesting."

Click through for the passage, I'm going to jump ahead.

Sherman described a very basic type of "propaganda." In this model, simple-minded "story lines" are created, with recognizable "good guys" and "bad guys." These simple stories are repeated all through the day on Fox.

For what it's worth, there's nothing wrong with repeatedly covering a certain news topic throughout the day on a cable news channel. Sherman is describing something slightly different. He's describing a process we ourselves have long described, in which simple-minded stories are handed to the public, with basic facts perhaps giving way to the need for simplistic script.

Is this the way Fox News operates? This is the way the whole press corps operate[s].

When you work in a mainstream news organization, you are not allowed to deviate from the storyline - no matter what real reporting actually finds. When you are assigned a story, you are assigned a story. In other words, you are assigned to write an article in a certain way, with the conclusions predetermined. In other word, it's a story.

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"As we've often noted, facts play almost no role in our national discourse," Somerby writes in a separate post.

We'll give you four quick reasons:

The facts we hear are often wrong. Other key facts get disappeared.

When people in our tribe make up facts, we tend to applaud them for it. And in a highly tribalized culture, it's hard to convey basic facts across tribal lines, even if the facts in question are accurate and important.

This is absolutely true. The media is fed, say, an image of who Barack Obama or Rahm Emanuel is, and they repeat it endlessly until people actually believe it - just like corporations do with their products through advertising. Journalists who dare to offer contravening facts are dismissed, no matter how incontrovertible those facts are. Journalists who repeat the storyline are rewarded.

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What has Bruce Rauner been spending all that money on? An ad campaign creating an image of him that bears little resemblance to reality. But the ad campaign is far more pervasive than the slivers of actual reporting - and reporters themselves come to believe the ads too.

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"And now the mayor is Rahm Emanuel, who got my vote and will get my next vote for exactly the reason Kass suspects: because I think he's smart and tough enough to run a complicated and tribal city."

That Emanuel has been shown to lie with impunity is apparently not even a dealbreaker to a Chicago media critic.

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"We'll now offer a fifth, more specialized reason," Somerby continues.

"Some key facts about the looting of the middle class tend to get disappeared by corporate-paid liberals and by our upper-end news orgs."

For example, one of the greatest financial scandals in the history of the planet isn't named as such, but instead as the Great Recession, a blameless event caused simply by inevitable economic cycles. No one is to blame.

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On a smaller note:

"This is a yarn about how a single press release about pot misled dozens of major media outlets," Brian Stelter writes for CNN.

"The press release in question was published Monday on behalf of MarijuanaDoctors.com, a company that says it helps connect patients with doctors who prescribe medical marijuana.

"The release stated that MarijuanaDoctors.com was buying television ads through a division of Comcast. marking - its words here - 'the first time that any major U.S. network has ever allowed the advertising of a medical marijuana service.'

"Turns out that was a false claim - the ads never actually aired.

"But reporters for news organizations, including ABC News, Time magazine and the Chicago Tribune, all published stories as if the press release was fact. A CNN newscast included a mention of the alleged pot ads, too. Even NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams covered the story, despite the fact that NBC is owned by Comcast, which explicitly denies that the ads ever ran on any of its cable systems."

So funny; if you read A.J. Liebling's The Press, first published in 1961, you'll see example after example of this same sort of thing.

Which, by the way, is one reason why I believe in an undergraduate journalism education, which seems to be always under attack from . . . people who didn't go to journalism school? Or people who didn't go to a worthy journalism school? And by "worthy," I don't mean Northwestern.

In journalism school, at least when I attended at the University of Minnesota, we read the whole battery of works: The Press, The Boys On The Bus, I.F. Stone's Weekly, Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail . . . and I'm sure the curriculum has been updated since then - hopefully including On Bended Knee (Hertsgaard) Who Will Tell The People? (Greider), Read All About It (Squires) and, yes, the Daily Howler. The idea was to teach you not to do these things. My journalism education was reformist - not corporatist, like it is at some other places I know.

And the idea that a journalist instead should study economics or political science or history? Done, done and done. At least in my day, journalism schools had to require 75 percent of our courses to be outside our major to retain accreditation.

Inside our major, we learned media ethics, media law, media history . . . we learned how to think about our business. The school was trying to build a better journalist. We learned about political strategies used against journalists and techniques for covering public affairs and how to run investigations and the ins and outs of FOIA.

At the college paper, we put it all into practice - though the truth is that the college paper, The Minnesota Daily, was already light years ahead of the classroom. Still, it was a potent combination.

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"The other day, ESPN published a story, citing data from the ESPN Sports Poll Annual Report, claiming that Major League Soccer now 'equals MLB in popularity with kids,'" Deadspin reports.

"The story was quickly picked up by MLS, CBS, The Big Lead, the Orlando Sentinel, the Seattle Times, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, brandished as proof of baseball's terminal decline and soccer's rise to glory.

"There's only one problem: It's completely unclear what this study is actually measuring."

*

"Thursday night at a University of Chicago panel with the mayors of New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the prediction that Chicago Public Schools are on track to have an 80 percent graduation rate in four years," Catalyst notes.

"An 80-percent graduation rate in Chicago public high schools would be a big improvement, but CPS cautions this would exclude students attending charter schools, special ed schools, the alternative schools where disruptive students are sent and schools in jails."

So an 80 percent graduation rate once we've filtered out those not graduating at an 80 percent rate.

Including charter schools.

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"Real journalists are not for sale, not for insider access, a free lunch or the prospect of a future book contract," Margaret Sullivan writes for the New York Times.

So that eliminates Neil Steinberg. But I digress.

"The best journalism is about truth-seeking and truth-telling; it's meant to serve the public. Integrity also means not borrowing from others without credit. If you want to put your name on it, don't cut corners. Do the work - or give the credit.

"Another thing I'm certain of: that the press is not supposed to be cozy with the powerful. Journalists are supposed to be a check on power, and that means not being afraid to be adversarial when needed: to dig out the truth when people don't want us to, to state it clearly and let the chips fall where they may."

It's sad that this still needs to be said, but it seems like it needs to be said now more than ever.

*

"Glenn Greenwald is an interesting voice," Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger tells the Times.

"He is not a Guardian reporter, but what he writes is interesting. If we hadn't have hired him, we wouldn't have gotten Edward Snowden. Small things lead to big things."

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Also noted in that interview:

"In the Guardian reporter Luke Harding's book about the Snowden files, he says American journalists are too deferential to government sources."

That's what we were taught at Minnesota; they were trying to build Glenn Greenwalds, not Neil Steinbergs and others like him in the Chicago press corps.

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And the media followed.

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ChicagoSXSW
An alternate festival for those of us stuck at home.

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Yay, Democrats

From the family of the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.

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BeachBook
* Miley and LeBron at Underground Chicago.

* Chicago Guy Wants $2.5 Million For URL 'Cabinets.Com.'

* Chicago Taxi Driver Busted In Kentucky Drug Deal In His Flash Cab.

* Devin Hester Says He's Best All-Around Player In NFL.

* California Towns Ditching Red-Light Cameras.

* Emerging Chicago Rapper, 17, Charged With Murder.

* A Benefit For Harvey "The Snake" Mandel.

* Handsome Family Make The 5 O'Clock News In Albuquerque.

* The White Stockings In Oz.

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TweetWood

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Early tipping has begun.



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Posted on March 11, 2014


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Media Sexism And Weinstein.
POLITICS - Illinois' Dirty 34.
SPORTS - SportsMonday: Action Jackson.

BOOKS - Chicago History Museum Card Catalog Going Digital.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: War Of The Rainbows.


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