Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This is your media, people

Enough to drive a person the shrill, ranting insanity.

David Carr, writer for the New York Times media section (!!!), writes:
But at some point, ratings (which print journalists, unlike their television counterparts, have never had to contend with) will start to impinge on news judgment. “You can bemoan the crass decision-making driving by ratings, but you can’t really avoid the fact that page views are increasingly the coin of the realm,” said Jim Warren, co-managing editor of The Chicago Tribune.
Buh... snuh... I...

I'm sorry, my brains just exploded all over my monitor. Give me a moment to wipe up.

...

Alright. Let's go very slowly here. The New York Times media writer -- occupying some of the most valuable print real estate in God's creation -- says print journalists "have never had to contend with" ratings.

Let's see what history has to teach us about some of the earliest newspaper publishers in the United States.
In 1882... [he] purchased the New York World, a newspaper that had been losing $40,000 a year, for $346,000 from Jay Gould... shifted its focus to human-interest stories, scandal, and sensationalism. In 1885, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but resigned after a few months' service; it seemed that politics were not his cup of tea. In 1887, he recruited the famous investigative journalist Nellie Bly. In 1895 the World introduced the immensely popular The Yellow Kid comic by Richard F. Outcault, the first newspaper comic printed with color... circulation grew from 15,000 to 600,000, making it the largest newspaper in the country.

In 1895, William Randolph Hearst purchased the rival New York Journal, which led to a circulation war. This competition with Hearst, particularly the coverage before and during the Spanish-American War, linked [his] name with yellow journalism.
So at the very dawn of American newspaper journalism, "circulation" -- what are today known as ratings -- drove journalism. There's really no reason (especially for anyone alive and conscious during the Lewinsky "scandal") to think matters have changed.

By the way, the man cited in the above passage? An obscure publisher -- no reason a New York Times writer should know him, really -- named Joseph Pulitzer.

It might be too much to ask the media to understand basic military affairs, or complex economics, or any number of things. But surely we can at least expect the media to understand, y'know, the media?

No? Anyone? Okay...

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