Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Foaming At The Mouth: Who Bit Whom?

We are aware that other stories may be making the headlines elsewhere today. For example, the Senate vote on DADT (which is really the Defense Appropriations Bill), or that the NBER declared that the Great Recession technically ended in June of 2009 (even though no one really believes that). Still we're tackling a story today that's been brewing for several months, now.

As a part of the media, we take a look from time to time at the conduct of our colleagues and attempt to evaluate what in the name of Heaven and Heck they think they're doing.

We're not taking about the freak show appearances in the media like the GOP candidate for Senate in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell. The Republicans really don't want to claim her - and frankly, we can't blame them. We all agree she's an outlier, not really what most sane Republicans are like. That doesn't excuse the media feeding frenzy around topics like her - or the incredible amount of poorly researched journalism promoted throughout the media in this day and age.

The coverage of Islam - and the Islamaphobics - has been especially sloppy these past few weeks. The facts that were muddled surrounding the Islamic community center in Manhattan were shameful. The mistakes and missed facts surrounding the anniversary of 9/11 were inexcuseable. The elevation of the "Pastor" of a tiny church in Florida for his threat to burn copies of the Koran to a position far beyond what his sad little display warranted was an example of the media inmates running the news cycle asylum.

We understand that many times in our modern media landscape news consumers have a skewed view of their relationship to media. From "reality tv" to "iReports" and "reader sourcing", the amateurs continue to get the impression that they're in control of the media - and that they should be. But just as you wouldn't take your car to be repaired by preschoolers, or you wouldn't want your heart surgery assigned to an English major, media consumers shouldn't expect to get reliable information from "Some Guy With An iPhone."

That doesn't excuse those within the professional media from missing or failing to distribute key facts, like the existence of a real mosque four blocks from Ground Zero long before 9-11, or the existence of two Islamic worship sites WITHIN the World Trade Center towers - both of which were common knowledge in New York. If anything, the amount of legitimate user-sourced facts available to those in the media should make us BETTER journalists, not worse.

The time for the media's dog-whistle coverage and foaming at the mouth excuses is over.

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