Monday, December 08, 2008

not cheap nor easy

As people in the US struggle in the murk of the economic disaster, the international malaise, the unending Bush bravado, the inklings of the new administration, it would, one supposes, be up to the "fourth estate" to help it reach some stage of self-understanding - at least a couple of steps on the ladder. 

But alas, the thinking, the perspectives and the conceptual systems that people might now turn to to help gain some awareness of, some insight into the current predicament are not folks that are exactly household names. Look for viewpoints from Naomi Klein, Seymour Hersh, Amy GoodmanAndrew BacevichNoam Chomsky and the like and you find precious little in the pages of the major newspapers, let alone amid the radio and broadcast television news outlets. 

It's not that these non-mainstreamy folks are entirely right, or can explain everything. But it's that without their side of the picture, part of the picture remains obscure. Now that we're in deep shit, news organizations are having a difficult time explaining how we got here, because they left the conceptual apparatus behind - at the party where subprime mortgages were the toast of the town.

So when NPR and Bill Keller assume that newspapers "tell people what's happening," I have to beg to differ. They don't because they can't. They can't because they are beholden to advertising and marketing and their own industrial interests; it worked for them to ignore a portion of the spectrum of the thinking out there in presenting the world to their readers. 

It worked because times were good, advertising capitalists were happy without Roubini and Goodman and Chomsky and sundry others. As Mr. Keller says, "Good journalism does n0t come cheap." The inexplicability of "what's happening" was less problematic, because house prices were rising -- at least according to the "lights" of the Times (if Mr. Friedman and Mr. Kristol etc. can be so qualified without teh qualifier enjoying an aneurism). 

That home prices were rising and rising was, in fact, inexplicable. So long as the vector pointed up, that seems not to have perplexed the editors. How do they now imagine they can make this story intelligible?

Hit the lights on your way out, Bill.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alas, yes: Speculation, Philosophism, once the ornament and wealth of the saloon, will now coin itself into mere Practical Propositions, and circulate on street and highway, universally; with results! A Fifth Estate, of Able Twitterrers, springs up; increases and multiplies; irrepressible, incalculable. New Bloggers, new Twits, and ever new (so prurient is the world), let our Three Hundred text message and consolidate as they can!

12/08/2008 5:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

O Brave New World! It's remarkable but some sharp news minds - Jay Rosen, e.g. - are in fact building something out of twitter, along with its lattices, friendfeed, twitscoop, searchtwit, seesmic, twihrl, and more. Sadly, there's no brave new advertising model as yet that would enable Mr. Keller to brand this segment with his logo and release his litter of gasbags to tweet at will. But soon. Pange, Linguae.

12/08/2008 6:35 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

anyone who works at a for-profit company but thinks they were isolated from market forces is willfully self-deluded. Shirky

12/09/2008 8:35 PM  
Blogger Mike Golby said...

Considering Clay's statement:

South African financial headlines for 9 and 10 December proclaim "New data shows SA is 'fragile'" and "SA outlook deteriorating rapidly". To now, local 'business leaders' and 'economists' have swallowed the Central Bank and Finance Ministry's swill insisting on our insulation from the 'global downturn'. I do believe these people have yet to discover Al Gore's invention of George W Bush and the internets. Oddly, I read most of Stiglitz's Vanity Fair articles yesterday, while waiting for the year to wind down and the markets to collapse. The man is a wellspring of clear and lucid explication. But, as you point out, he probably receives few checks from the mainstream or network media.

12/12/2008 2:39 AM  

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