So who exactly is “the media” anyway?

Air America Radio has shown up here in Boulder, Colorado as AM 760, and I’ve been listening to it to see what “liberal” talk radio sounds like. And here’s what I’ve concluded: it sounds just as asinine and insulting as “conservative” “right” radio sounds, and while I had hoped for more erudite and thoughtful discussions coupled with entertaining and informed hosts, it’s not something that’s going to last long on my radio dial.

Listening this evening, though, I heard something that surprised me…


When I spin the dial and listen to an avowed conservative like Rush Limbaugh or a rabid host like Michael Savage, I’m not surprised to hear them talk about “the media” in sentences like “Did you catch Kerry picking his nose in the last debate? My question to you is why isn’t The Media covering this story like I am?”

Based on that, it’s not a surprise to hear them talk about “the liberal media” and explain to their listeners that if it wasn’t for their show, you wouldn’t have any way to learn about The Truth, because, of course, The Liberal Media won’t air the real stories.

So you can imagine my surprise when Air America‘s late night on-air personality (Mike Malloy) started blathering on about how it’s lucky that Air America is on the air because otherwise you would never hear The Truth because of The Media!

Which leaves me with a bit of a dilemma: who actually runs the media in the conspiracy infused world of talk radio? The conservatives don’t run it, according to Rush and Michael, and the liberals don’t run it according to the folk on Air America. So who is left? The centrists? Ross Perot and his merry band of faux anti-establishment folk? The libertarians? Or is it finally that everyone agrees that the Illuminati have taken over and, in cooperation with the Skull & Bones Society, are now running everything?

I’m being a bit facetious because it’s fun, but in terms of Air America, I have to admit that while I am much more “left” than “right” and am not a supporter of our current President, I have a tough time listening to the crude and disrespectful tone of some of the Air America hosts.

This evening, I was listening to Mike Malloy and it was really appalling to hear him rant about “that idiot Bush” and the “stupid President we’re stuck with” and more. I mean, for better or worse, I’ve never heard any conservative radio “personality” (and I use that in quotes, notice) refer to any liberal or left-leaning person so disrespectfully, even when Savage is foaming at the mouth about John Kerry or John Edwards.

So, Air America, if you want to be a viable alternative to the same old conservative radio programs, I suggest that you encourage your radio personalities to be a bit more respectful and offer something partway between the most rabid of the conservatives and the always pleasant and engaging National Public Radio (which I consider pretty “left” or liberal too).

Just one listeners opinion, at least.

8 comments on “So who exactly is “the media” anyway?

  1. A few fair-minded assessment, Dave. I, too, have held my nose and listened to Air America just to get the flavor. I couldn’t listen very long. They were quite disrespectful and crude.
    Savage is over the top most of the time, but I have found Limbaugh to be one of the most level-headed conservative hosts. He doesn’t do the knee-jerk stuff. Once you get past his ego (which I think is just part of the gimmick), he has some excellent insights and scores some great points.
    Air America ain’t gonna be around long, IMHO.

  2. I’m not sure I agree that they won’t be around for long, but I do have to concur that for all I disagree with Limbaugh’s politics, he is a very good, very engaging, and very interesting radio talk show host. I suppose that he’d call me a card-carrying liberal, so don’t tell him, okay? 🙂

  3. I assume you have seen the Jon Stewart/Crossfire clip. This is one of the biggest problems. The media is reporting to their own interests which means make politicians as happy as possible, and keep America voting for Republicrats. They keep hammering the sound bytes that each party releases without doing true analysis of each candidate.
    I also feel that _all_ of these shows should have at least one caller a day that repeats Jon Stewart’s “Please, please, please stop hurting America.” Maybe with enough of this, these pompous assholes (Savage, Limbaugh, Rather, and the rest of them) will start reporting the news, rather than spinning it.
    I mentioned a partial solution on my blog (linked above) with changing how political advertising works.

  4. Great stuff, Jon, but isn’t there an unstated assumption that news can be objective and unbiased? (Isn’t this going back to Plato and the nature of truth too?) If you accept that news reporting cannot be unbiased – as I believe – then it’s inevitable that the line between news and spin is going to be difficult to avoid, and that the same news item is going to be presented by different media outlets based on their spin/bias/skew.
    My thought is that a fair assessment of the leanings of a media outlet would be at least some help, so that MSNBC doesn’t claim that they’re just as unbiased and neutral as PBS, when we all know that neither is without its spin on the news.
    An interesting experiment in this regard: next time you’re at a newsstand, look at how dramatically the headlines for the same story can vary in different publications just based on their inherent bias. Here in Colorado it’s quite fascinating to see with the liberal Boulder pubs and the conservative Denver news.

  5. There are unbiased news organizations though. Factcheck.org does an excellent job of removing spin. Of course, that is the only one I can think of. I want mediamatters.org to be as good a factcheck, but they aren’t. They tend to ignore the inaccuracies that help the Democrats.
    Unfortunately, we only have the Des Moines Register, which is a Gannett publication, and is despised by both the Right and the Left, because they tend to bend to their own agenda completely. You should see the spin they are putting on a lawsuit against the Iowa State Foundation, which is getting sued to open its records. Thing is, they have a database that lists every alumni, and major and minor details about them that they get from the calls to them (dog’s names are in there). Gannett would love to have this database, so they don’t mention at all that the Foundation is a non-state organization (as all university foundations are), and that these records are closed to protect the donors that wish to remain anonymous.
    That is what my problem is. It’s not so much the bias, (which should be minimized, and announced up front). It’s that the large media conglomerates all seem to have the same agenda, which is to 1) kiss the ass of the guy in power, 2) kiss the ass of the upcoming guy if it does not interfere with 1., and 3)never truly give the people the news, rather they give sound bites.

  6. I’m just so skeptical of anyone that identifies themselves as “unbiased news organizations”, Jon. Whatever the organization, there’s an inherent bias that creeps in based on your world view: if you think the world’s a dangerous place, for example, then you’ll be more likely to find corroborating evidence for it. If you think it’s a safe place with some nut cases running around, you’ll find corroboration for that instead. Y’know what I mean?
    One good thing in all this is that at least we have a lot more options for news nowadays, even if they’re all perhaps fundamentally flawed in different ways. Fifty years ago you had your home town newspaper, the radio broadcasts, and perhaps a few news magazines that typically tended more to celebrity news (e.g. LIFE) than any sort of hard-hitting analysis. Today we have thousands of online sources. Yeha!

  7. With regard to Air America specifically, as an ex-radio guy turned geek (about 10 years ago), I am struck by the notion of how un-entertaining the whole thing is. Successful talk radio (regardless of leaning) is generally very good at the concept of ‘info-tainment’. Al Frankens’ show sounds too much like a farm report, and not enough like a dynamic forum. On the whole, AA just seems to be rabid (and sometimes VERY bland) blathering without much information or entertainment. If the plug doesnt get pulled altogether, one should at the least be prepared for a major shakeup sonner than later.
    btw – I consider myself to be politically agnostic. (I believe there IS a cause, I just havent SEEN one)

  8. Guess you missed this Dave:
    Right-wing radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Mark Simone served up commentary on former President Bill Clinton’s recent heart surgery. Limbaugh said that Clinton opted for quadruple rather than triple bypass heart surgery to increase his sympathy ratings; Savage said that Clinton would fully recover because “hell was full”; and Simone claimed that since the Clintons “don’t want him [Kerry] to win,” Clinton’s surgery “works out perfectly.”
    From the September 7 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
    LIMBAUGH: I understand it was gonna be a triple bypass, but then Clinton figured out his sympathy rating would go up to 87 percent with a quadruple. So [laughter] — bada-bump-buh. [laughter]
    From the September 7 edition of Savage Nation:
    SAVAGE: We heard, of course, that hell was full and therefore Mr. Clinton will be with us for a while longer — but we wish him the best nevertheless. But what’s the sanctity all of a sudden? All of a sudden everyone loves Bill Clinton. He reinvented himself.
    And suddenly everything he did to America’s been forgotten by George [W.] Bush, and everyone else. I seem to remember what he did to America. What’s he all of a sudden — hushed tones about Bill Clinton. I think he was the worst skunk that ever invaded the White House, to be honest with you. I think he was pure evil. The man was like a Caesar of ancient years. A Caesar, the man was a Caesar. He seized America, and almost destroyed the country — weakened us, degenerated us, and made us open to this attack by Al Qaeda because they figured we were all like him.
    I don’t wanna go through the whole litany. So what, I’m supposed to sit here because he’s a former president and go, “We wish him well” — why? Why? Tell me why. Tell me why. Anyone got an answer to that one?

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