Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Media: Mainly 'Pro-Conflict'

For anyone who tries to work with influential journalists, Ken Auletta has written an insightful if depressing analysis of the new media landscape, at least as it plays out in Washington. His article, “Non-Stop News,” appears in the Jan. 25 issue of The New Yorker, but is summarized in this New Yorker blog item. It contains lessons for every corporation or association trying to interest the key media in stories it believes is important.

The problem, Auletta writes, is that “the news cycle keeps getting shorter – to the point that there is no pause, only the constancy of the Web and the endless argument of cable. This creates pressure to entertain or perish, which has fed the press’s dominant bias: not pro-liberal or pro-conservative, but pro-conflict.”

President Obama’s team is struggling with the new pressures on the media, but so are the journalists themselves. As a former White House communications director said, “When journalists call you to discuss a story, it’s not because they’re interested in having a discussion. They’re interested in a response. And the need to file five times a day encourages this.”

These time pressures, says Peter Baker of the New York Times, has left leading reporters feeling like “eight-year-olds chasing a soccer ball. Instead of finding ways of creating fresh, original, high-impact journalism, we’re way too eager to chase the same story everyone else is chasing.”

The result: a never-ending appetite for new information, and a quick discarding of the old. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is quoted: “What used to drive one or two days of coverage and questions is now readily subsumed every few hours.”

- Potomac Communications Group

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