Friday, August 19, 2011

Today's Shocking Headline: Corporate News Media Suck!

Remember a couple weeks ago when Newsweek published a batshit crazy picture of Michele Bachmann and called her "Queen of Rage"? Both the Washington Post and Slate called it sexist and in bad form. Bachmann is a legitimate presidential candidate (!!!!), they argued, and should be treated as such.

I suppose they have a point. Newsweek editor Tina Brown approved an unusually unflattering picture of the presidential hopeful. They could have done like they did to Sarah Palin and put a cute picture of her in her running shorts - a picture also called sexist by some people - or! A novel concept! They could have treated her the way they treat dudes like John McCain, Mike Huckabee, and Bill O'Reilly, and made her look neither insane nor sexualized. But that'd be cray-cray, y'all.

I mean, Bachmann IS nuts. And as Cher pointed out, Michele may be the queen of rage, but her husband may be a raging queen. [Yes, I'm okay with making fun of people who read as really gay when they're trying to discipline the barbarians. It is a controversial statement, I realize. I'm with Dan Savage and Jon Stewart on this one, though.] So while I'm not unwilling to say that sexism is at play here on some level, I also had a big old snort at this cover. Not that I read Newsweek, let me be clear. Autostraddle has already demonstrated that they hate the gays. Just like Michele Bachmann! So I'm surprised they don't get along better.

ANYway. We shouldn't have much hope that Newsweek will treat its subjects fairly or its audience like adults. Where is the truly fair and balanced news? NPR, beloved home of Prairie Home Companion and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me?

Not so fast there, grrls and bois.

Turns out that NPR can try so hard to be "balanced" that it circles back into insanity. In this piece on whether gays can be cured through reparative therapy, they basically take the "here are two positions on this point! Who is right? WE'LL NEVER KNOW."

The criticism of this piece is that it presents two positions here - one that reparative therapy works, and one that it doesn't - and gives them equal weight, treating the matter as unresolved. It is not. The American Psychiatric Association, which has over 154,000 members, has said that reparative therapy is harmful. If you've gone through it or know someone who has, you're probably well aware of that. Interestingly, Marcus Bachmann has a clinic that offers to "cure" the homos of our fabulousity.

Sidenote: A friend (and fellow queermo) and I were at a bar talking to a strange dude whom we both read as straight. This NPR story came up, and he was like, "Listen. Everyone has different views. Some people like toe shoes, but they are harmful to the feet!" My friend and I looked at each other, finished our drinks, and split, rather than throwing the drinks on the dude and glitter bombing him. I don't care about toe shoes or whether you wear them, but I care a lot about whether gay people are being told there's a cure for their gayness. Gayness is awesome, you guys. It needs no cure. And that is a false equivalency if I ever heard one. Toe shoes? Really?

So if the news media isn't supposed to post batshit pictures of batshit politicians and it isn't supposed to act as though all opinions are equally valid, what IS a struggling form of journalism supposed to do? Well, I'm glad you asked. I have an idea that I think is pretty revolutionary: Don't be a douche.

Not being a douche can be achieved in a few easy steps.

1. Don't take corporate money. It makes you look like a tool of our corporate overlords. Which, um, you are. Try the Democracy Now! approach of listener/viewer support. It works wonders. The news is trustworthy, nuanced, intelligent, and covers things that GE doesn't want you to know about.

2. Consider whether it makes more sense to cover things like whether toast can save your diet or
the Verizon labor struggle or the increased violence in Iraq as the US tries to extend its December deadline. I have an idea about which is more important for citizens in a democracy to understand. There are lots of protests all over the place all the time, but mainstream media doesn't cover them. See point 1.

3. Don't act like all sides of a debate are equal. They are not, and that is a silly position to take. You can't have a "debate" about whether, say, reparative therapy is okay, or whether the poor people have enough stuff because they can microwave Hot Pockets if you have one mainstream Democrat and one foaming-at-the-mouth Tea Partier. Get people with interesting and informed views who can behave like adults. This right here is why I don't watch TV news anymore. The discourse has shifted too much for it to make any sense anymore.

4. Using batshit crazy pictures of people is okay, I think, in certain circumstances. Like, you are a tabloid. Or, that person routinely looks like a lunatic so you don't have to go digging to find a photo of an otherwise photogenic person. Or, they are actually engaged in something weird at the moment the photo was taken, and didn't just get caught with a weird facial expression.

5. It's also okay to talk about things like reparative therapy, but don't present it as though there are two equally valid sides to something that no one with any credibility can possibly support.

6. Don't take corporate money. Just don't. That means shutting down all cable news, and I am COMPLETELY fine with that. We'll find Sir Don Lemon another job. I'll bet Amy Goodman would hire him.

1 comment:

  1. "Don't act like all sides of a debate are equal. They are not, and that is a silly position to take."


    So as a teacher educator, how might I convince teachers to teach and allow their students to engage in meaningful discussion around controversial issues without treating all sides of the issues as equal and worthy of equal coverage?

    That sentence sucks.

    But seriously, ya'll. This is actually a really tough point to make to teachers.