I was reminded though, of some of the thoughts I have had on the blogospheric overreliance on the MSM, and the demand or expectation that they perform as we think they should. I wrote this piece in January of 2010:]
Periodically, the blogosphere gets its collective panties in a wad because of some awful thing Teh Media does or doesn't do, says or doesn't say, publishes or doesn't publish, presents or doesn't present, and for weeks on end, the keening and rending of garments, the gnashing of teeth and the covering with ashes doesn't stop.
It doesn't matter whether it's the Right or the Left Blogistan in eruption, Teh Media is the perpetual target and the fundamental culprit. Betrayal! And that's just one of the nicer epithets.
Let's be clear though. The issue is the Major Mass Media, the so-called MSM (MainStream Media), which has a somewhat elastic definition among its endless numbers of Blogospheric critics. All the major papers and all the cable teevee "news" and all the network teevee "news" and all the mass circulation magazines generally fall into the category of MSM, except for FOX News all the time and MSNBC sometimes, and the New York Times sometimes, depending on who wrote the story, and then there are certain exceptions for certain things that appear in other publications like Time or Newsweek, sometimes.... it all depends on what is being said and who is saying it, at what point in the News Cycle.
"MSM", though, is generally used as an epithet for every major news outlet you don't agree with. Depending. Sometimes you do agree with it. So then it's "Not MSM." Until it becomes "MSM" again.
Some book by some DC gossips has just been put in pre- release and all the demons of Anti-MSM Hell have hatched out of their swamps yet again. The book is (apparently) quintessential "MSM", because it consists (apparently) of nothing but unsourced gossip and vicious backbiting. Gee. And this then becomes a Major Story in all the press and media for days on end, the authors feted and celebrated and put on all the shows, given endless reams of free publicity, and criticized (along with their MSM enablers) endlessly.
The cycle repeats and repeats and repeats.
Usually based on a series of erroneous premises: 1) that the MSM is the only source of information Americans have; 2) the MSM has an obligation to report thoroughly and accurately; 3) investigative reporting is the principal function of news media; 4) it was Better Before.
All of these premises are demonstrably false.
A more cogent problem is the information overload that many Americans experience with hundreds of teevee channels, thousands of publications, and millions of Inernet sites providing information, some significant portion of it bogus. Add to the overload the consistent lack of critical thinking skills (deliberately driven out of public education during the last 30 years) among so many Americans, and you have a recipe for mass confusion. People believe what they believe based on what their friends, relations, community, and whoever they consider to be in Authority tell them is True and False. Individuals can't afford to do -- and don't have the skills to do -- their own investigative research and reporting, and they don't (for the most part) have the critical thinking skills to sort through a bunch of competing claims made by the crews of hucksters and flim-flam artists that constitute so much of the information overload the public experiences. So, they rely on "what they know." And that leads to deteriorating levels of curiosity, knowledge and understanding.
This occurs independently of the perfidy of the MSM, though the MSM is delighted to play along and take advantage of the general level of frustrated ignorance.
Some outlets, in this free-for-all media environment, will inevitably do the kind of journalism that critics of the MSM say they want the MSM to do (but sadly it doesn't, except sometimes when it does.) There simply is no obligation that the popular mass media must perform to a particular standard of journalism, or else. What they must perform to is a standard of profitability and/or propaganda. Or else.
So no. It wasn't Better. And in some sense, the popular mass media can't be more to the liking of certain of its critics without losing the very popularity and mass appeal that characterizes it. It would no longer be the popular mass media, the despised and reviled MSM.
And yet, if the story isn't "plastered all over the MSM" -- as I often see claims that some outrage or other should be -- it's absence from the MSM seems to imply the story didn't happen or it's not important. The fact that the story may have been carried in alternative outlets that need to be featured rarely occurs to critics of the MSM. The only Important Media is Popular Mass Media.
How many times have I run into complaints that a story isn't being "covered" when it's repeatedly been featured on, say, "Democracy Now!" or in "The Nation" magazine, but there is no mention, by the critics, of either alternative outlet. It happens so often, it's routine. The failure of critics to mention or feature the alternative outlets where the stories can be found is not as bad as it once was, but it is still a remarkable failing on the "Left." The Right, on the other hand, while criticizing the Mass Media as much as the Left does, also provides constant reinforcement, mention, and interlinkages to their own alternative media. That's how, for example, FOX got to be where it is. How the "Weekly Standard" is taken seriously.
Too many "Progressives" are still locked in the notion that the only news worth their time is in the MSM, and they somehow have to "take it back" from the Conservatives who stole it from them.
The problem is those who call themselves "Progressives" these days never had the MSM in the first place; it's always been Conservative, business oriented, money-making/propaganda outlet, primarily serving the interests of wealth and power.
And then you have Chris Matthews.