Thursday, December 04, 2008

Deconstructing Brummett on the New Media

Old Media Sounds Off About New Media
Arkansas columnist John Brummett has launched a new series of attacks against the new media, the latest of them here. The center of the dispute is with KATV’s “Choose Your News” whiz kid Kristin Fisher, but as in previous screeds, Brummett lashes out at various new media which do an end-run around him and his gate-keeper buddies.

Most of his criticisms are childish attempts to pin on the new media things that the old media has also been guilty of to some extent. He writes....

"The other day voters by the thousands elected a Channel 7 story for the next day on C-SPAN's big truck coming to Arkansas. As if that were news. But the big truck got snowed in up north. Uh, oh. They chose nonexistent news. I suspect it wasn't the first time."

So has there never been a time an editor sent a reporter to cover something that turned out to be a non-event? Sure. It happens every day. Why is it only a problem when it happens to the new media? My guess is because John Brummett is grasping at any straw to support his delusions that it will be a terrible tragedy if the news and opinion business gets decentralized.

He writes;"Children need to be made aware that interactivity, which is the supposed virtue of choosing your news, did not begin with the modern advent of the Internet with its cowardly anonymous personal attacks in the comment sections of blogs. "

Again, the old media does character assassination on a regular basis. They are just upset because now someone else has a chance to do it, or even defend themselves from old media character assassinations- which to the old media may be even worse! Remember that weasel Carl Cameron from FOX news last month breathlessly reporting that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent rather than a county and assorted other astounding instances of ignorance? Cameron was using " an anonymous aide high up in the McCain campaign" as his supposed source.

It turned out the stories were either gross distortions or outright fabrications, and the unvetted source was an imposter who did not work for McCain. The left does it too, for example remember Dan Rather and the "Fake but accurate" documents he insisted were newsworthy? In that instance, it was the bloggers of the new media who held that icon of the old media accountable for his fraud and led CBS to partially and temporarily clean up its act.

Newspapers use anonymous sources, and editorial pages issue unsigned attacks (though you can usually narrow down who wrote the attack) all the time. In addition, there is more than one way to issue a "cowardly attack". You can do it using anonymity, or you can do it by attacking someone who is unable to fight back because Brummett has a newspaper and they don't.

(I am going to need room here, the rest is on the THURSDAY below)


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

In other words, when Brummett calls someone insulting names in a newspaper column read by half the people in NWA, there is really nothing most someones can do about it except explain to the few people they come in contact with that Brummett is a feckless boob who is distorting the facts.

I suppose they could write a letter to the editor, and some of it might even get printed, but realistically it will not be a timely and widely-read response. Buying ad space might be an answer, but why should they have to pay a bunch of money to a paper to defend themselves from that paper's attacks?

Blogging is much more noble. If attacks are anonymous, you or one of your friends can challenge them on it right there, right on the place the attack is given. Accusers have to defend their accusations in the give-and-take of a blog. Not so in the newsprint format. They get to tell their side, and you don't get to tell yours.

Brummett is crazy (from the perspective of a classical Western thinker), not stupid in the least. He anticipated the point above in his work and he tried to deflect it by saying....

I've stood in front of their civic clubs and chambers of commerce and trade group conventions to speak to them and take their questions. I've received their column ideas and acted upon them. I've fielded their criticisms to my face, without cowardly anonymity

OK, so he was an invited guest to some civic clubs. He thinks they are going to rake him over the coals in public like he does to people in his columns when he is the invited guest at their CIVIC CLUB? There is simply no comparison to having to defend your criticism in writing in public right there on the net where you put it.

Even if he got feedback "to his face" it cannot counter the weight of his attacks on people in a column read by 100,000 souls. With a blog, the feedback can be right there with the attack. If the attack is not fair, the attacker gets his rear end handed to him right there.

If Brummett had to face that on his newspaper column in front of 100,000 people every week instead of the occasional irate little old lady at the Kiwana's club meeting then he might be more judicious in the use of his power.

Democratic news, which these modernists espouse, and interactivity, which these modernists advocate, net you such things as the online spreading via blog comment sections of horrible, absurd, vicious and disgusting rumors, such as one the last few days I dare not repeat. I was taught as a kid in church and as a young reporter for the Arkansas Gazette that it is wrong, simply wrong, to tell things you don't know to be true

And I have seen his media organ spread the same kind of stuff. I am not defending the spreading of lies or salacious rumor, I am simply saying that the new media is not the only place this is happening. It can happen faster there because everything happens faster, and because lots of people can make small low impact mistakes instead of one editor making a single high impact mistake.

It's not just modernists who advocate the interactivity, I am a classical thinker and I am for it too. It is a continuation of a tradition from the days when the Greeks sat around and discussed philosophy and state.

Actually, Brummett et al are the modernists, because the hallmarks of modernists are an emphasis on expertise and central planning. Some of the "kids" Brummett chides would be more accurately described as POST-modernists. They see all truth as relative and thus "everyone is their own expert".

In some ways, the classical mind has more in common with the modern mind than the post-modern. I simply disagree with Mr. Brummett vis-a-vi his views on the new verses the old media.

There are a lot of lies spread on the internet, and in the old media too. I condemn lies no matter who tells them. I also condemn distortions by someone who does not technically lie but colors language so as to deliberately lead someone to believe something that is not true.

I am glad that John Brummett brought what he learned in Church into the discussion. Hopefully it was a bible-believing church. The scripture is true, and is profitable for teaching and instruction. If two men look to the same God, they can come to the same place, no matter how far apart they began.

12:25 PM, December 04, 2008  

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