When asked in an interview with Sarah Palin on FoxTV, her first public interview after the election, if there were false allegations made that needed to be addressed, and Sarah Palin blames the media, with a minor slap against bloggers that is making the rounds of the blogosphere.
…if the media had taken one step further and investigated a little bit, not just gone on some blogger – probably sitting there in their parent’s basement, wearing their pajamas, blogging some kind of gossip or lie regarding, for instance, the discussion of who is Trig’s real mom…and that was in mainstream media, the question that was asked, instead of just coming to me and setting the record straight. And when I tried to correct that – that yeah, I’m truly Trig’s mother – to take days for everything to have been corrected…
Rumors are flying around that she is attacking and judging bloggers. While she does make a sweeping generalization about bloggers, one that we bloggers deal with daily, her point is to actually take the media to task for using blogs as a source of fact and fiction.
Traditional Media Using Blog Content
While traditional media sources are losing traction economically as well as visibly, many are turning to blogs for their stories. If not for the facts, then for the entertainment value.
Why didn’t the media investigate thoroughly before reporting on a log of the various myths, gossips, and rumors that flew around the entire US election campaign, covered by mainstream media 24/7? It would be so easy to check a birth certificate, check with family and friends, or even check the hospital staff to verify the facts behind her son’s birth. Sure, privacy issues might get in the way, but they didn’t verify immediately before reporting, and if they did verify the facts, they let the attention-getting rumors fly around to drum up much needed business long before they reported on the truth.
When the truth was reported, it was third page news reporting not front page. The truth is often so much more boring than made up crap.
Why didn’t they? Why did the mainstream media deliver gossip and rumors instead of facts?
It’s Easy to Avoid Facts
First, it was easy to ask the same questions that blogger’s and others were asking. It’s naturally to be suspicious of a woman Palin’s age, especially with much older kids, to wonder why she would knowingly risk having another child. It’s natural to be curious, too, about why a woman, fresh from pregnancy with a special needs child, would accept the nomination of vice president of a very busy and huge country at a time when her child and family needed her more than her job. With such overwhelming responsibilities, maybe we could conclude that her bonds with the child aren’t as tight as they should be if she really gave birth. That’s human nature to ask yourself these things. This aren’t evil questions. They are natural.
When natural questions come up in the media as stories rather than questions, they aren’t facts. They are entertainment. Big entertainment. Let’s all muse together and avoid the truth because it’s juicer!
Actually, it’s is a truer statement that truth is stranger than fiction, and often more entertaining. Why didn’t someone do a story on the struggles Palin must have gone through after finding out her child had Down’s Syndrome, trying to make plans for the future and her family dealing with the responsibilities, and then getting the invite to be a vice presidential candidate and having to struggle with the decision and impact on her life as well as the life of her child and family. That’s a better story. It’s got heart and spirit and courage. Instead, we all groaned when she didn’t know some geographical or political information about Africa.
If the media followed the daily struggle by Palin to deal with the impact of being thrown from anonymity into the spotlight of the world instead of whether or not the Republican Party funded her wardrobe, the election might have gone a different direction. So why didn’t they? Why did they revel in the fiction instead of the facts?
Probably because it was easy.
It’s Expensive to Find the Truth
Second, it’s expensive to send out people to research the facts. The old journalist days of spending days or weeks working up a story to ensure that all the proof is in before reporting, to keep the journal’s bias out of the story, having the truth mean more than assumptions – those days are gone. Newspapers, magazines, television, cable, they can’t afford to have reporters and investigators investigating. What they can’t get in a few minutes on Google or other Internet research, they won’t get because they rarely send someone out in the field. It’s just too costly.
So what are they left with? Bloggers? The new in-the-field reporters.
There are a lot of rights and wrongs that come with relying upon citizen reporters. Some bloggers do uncover the truth long before the media does. Some ask the hard questions and find the answers. Some ask the hard questions, and wait for others to come up with the answers. Some also sit around in basements wearing pajamas and just wonder loudly enough, and with enough certainty in their wondering to make people believe their legitimacy. Some of those who wonder also sit in well lit rooms in office buildings wearing modern office attire.
And some bloggers ask the hard questions hoping the media, the source for truth in news, to do the research and give the world the right answers.
When the wonder becomes a story, and that story is taken for legitimate fact, that’s when things break down in the system and people get hurt. More importantly, the sources can also get hurt.
Part of the loss of integrity and trust in the news media is self-imposed. Do you trust the media any more? After years of mistrust, is it any wonder that people are turning from mainstream media towards other sources?
When did we stop trusting the news? We should have never fully trusted the news, but we had confidence it if for many years. It was the nightly news with the trustworthy white man with the comforting and strong voice who led us through the confusion of the world around us and made us feel safe. Right? When did it start falling apart?
Some blame CNN, the first 24 hour news source. With 24 hours to fill, and only so many news stories worth reporting on, they had to find filler. As more challengers to CNN’s reign rose up, they, too, had to find more filler, and competition to the dry news. News around the world today is now more entertainment based rather than factual just to fill in all the time slots and keep viewers returning for more fun – not always the truth.
We have more sources for information and news than at any time in history, available instantly via the Internet. The next ten years are going to prove very interesting to see how these shifts and changes in the news media, online and off, will go.
Media Dictates Public Opinion
As Palin found out, the news media, hawking fact or fiction, does dictate public opinion.
In “Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now,” she describes modern television and cable news as enough to make us want to take anti-depressants:
Was watching the news the other day…when I was a kid, the news was on once a day. You either caught it or you missed it. Now, the news is on 24 hours a day. And that’s not enough. They got a guy talking, they have a crawl down there…you’re online, you’re putting in your opinion on the poll – I said NO! …and if you stop paying attention to the crawl, you go back to the guy for a minute, and you go back to the crawl, and you catch the end of something – about Madonna’s left foot – what about Madonna’s left foot – what happened! You’re waiting for it to come back around again and it goes to commercial. There should be one crawl that goes around over and over again that says “Things are getting worse.”
There are a lot of people saying and thinking that the economy around the world wouldn’t be so bad if we could wake up in the morning and hear the news telling us that things were looking up – instead of being greeted with non-stop interviews with horrible bad news, assumptions, estimates, and predictions that things are indeed going to get worse. Worse sells.
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.