Pogo's Theorem?

I've been reading a fascinating essay on the state of journalism by Professor Jay Rosen at NYU. It is very much worth reading; but be sure also to read the comments, which are a gold mine for honesty in journalism. Several different descriptions of the mission of journalism are suggested by commentors, some pointing towards clear analysis of the world and others towards directing the attention of the public in a needed direction. But a few caught my eye as being emblematic of why much of the public is disgusted with the news industry.

Here is an extract from a comment by Dave McLemore:
One of the journalist's main jobs - one I haven't given up on yet - is to tell folks things they don't want to know.

Who the hell wants to know about corruption in the legislature, genocide in (pick a part of the globe) or the general failure of the political and social culture to live up to expectations. Journalism, at its best, records the facts of Pogo's Theorem: We have met the enemy and they are us.
The underlying sentiment, that journalism should not flinch away from unpopularity by suppressing the truth, is laudible; but note how it was phrased. Journalism, at its best, identifies "us" as the enemy. Other commenters note that many enter journalism in order to influence the direction of society, not simply to report and distill information. Here we see the ultimate expression of that sentiment: the people, because they do not do what I wish them to do, are the enemy. They must be defeated and made to submit.

The comment immediately following, by Barbara K. Iverson, reads in part:
Dominated discourse is a form of bias that occurs when the social position of the actors in any situation determines the truth and weight of their arguments, not the facts of the matter.

Notice that the majority of the stories about Cindy Sheehan include quotes from Pres. Bush, but don't include even a single quote from Sheehan. The press's deference to the President based on his status automatically skews the story. Instead of a story about opposing claims to truth which could be evaluated with good reporting, it becomes the story about how a powerful man is bothered by a nobody who apparently can't even speak for herself.
Aside from the questionable truth of this statement—most of the articles I have seen quote Ms. Sheehan extensively and the President not at all—Ms. Iverson is allowing egalitarian fantasy to color her judgement. "Dominated discourse," as she puts it, simply recognizes that the words of a staggeringly powerful man like the President carry far more weight than the words of a bereaved mother, because the President commmands the movements of armies. His words can mean life or death for millions, something that Ms. Sheehan cannot say for herself. While it is valuable to include well-reasoned dissent wherever it comes from, that should not force a newsman to consume valuable space with the tired slogans of the protester du jour.

I should repeat that many other commenters have also posted, many with great wisdom. But the understanding that we are the enemy, and the narrowed vision caused by ideology too broadly applied, are both leaving the average consumer of information with a sour taste in his mouth. Far better if the news companies seek to serve the people, rather than to manipulate it.

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