Saturday, September 17, 2011

Abortion Laws, NPR, Media Bias, Politics, Journalism and More - Some Light Weekend Reading

While scanning through some of my usual blog reading, I came across this post on Crooks and Liars. 'We Have No Idea Who's Right' - NPR Passes The Buck On Abortion Legislation Coverage and Jay Rosen Passes It Right Back, by Susie Madrak.
Jay Rosen's blog is Pressthink, and he's on the journalism faculty at New York University. (He's also the former chairman of the Department.) When he critiques your coverage, people tend to pay a lot of attention. Read his detailed take down of the NPR abdication of their journalistic responsibilities over a story about abortion regulation, and his response to the "both sides are mad at us, so we got it right" thinking that passes for actual journalism:
This led me first to the full post on Pressthink, We Have No Idea Who’s Right: Criticizing “he said, she said” journalism at NPR. It's a really interesting read. What I think you'll find in the piece is that it does a great job of elaborating and clearly defining many of the issues that people like Jon Stewart complain about when they criticize cable news -- only, in this case, Rosen is structured and comprehensive without pausing for laughs. It's a long piece, but after reading it, I went on the explore the rest of Pressthink.

My next stop was on this post, Why Political Coverage is Broken. It's another excellent post. But don't think we've just gone for a deep dive down the politics rabbit hole, there are some great marketing aspects to this piece. One concept that he touches on in the piece is the idea of politics as an inside game. Here's a snapshot.
When journalists define politics as a game played by the insiders, their job description becomes: find out what the insiders are doing to “win.” Reveal those tactics to the public because then the public can… well, this is where it gets dodgy. As my friend Todd Gitlin once wrote, news coverage that treats politics as an insiders’ game invites the public to become “cognoscenti of their own bamboozlement,” which is strange. Or it lavishes attention on media performances, because the insiders are supposed to be good at that: manipulating the media.
He also connects that with a couple of other themes, one being what he labels the cult of savviness. Here's his description.
In politics, our journalists believe, it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere, thoughtful or humane. Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.)
What I find interesting with this idea -- and his connecting it to politics -- is that one aspect of modern marketing also revolves around this insider / savvy approach to connecting with your base audience. From tech media and rumors about new products and roadmaps to fashion marketing and even the whole idea of restaurants, foodies and 'elite' patrons, there is an aspect of modern marketing that involves building an insider community. In essence, this insider-elite is community building, but it's something more.

In the case of politics, this perspective makes it easier for us to see the aspects of PR and business that are used to sell us candidates, legislation, and political positions. In some of the examples highlighted by Rosen, you get the feeling that, rather than being engaged in democracy and real efforts to improve our society, we are left with the meta-data of politics and something less than even the lowest common denominator. Can the same be said for products and services that find life through the insider game?

For years, critics of Apple have approached Apple product users as cult-like, blindly purchasing Apple products without regard to feature set or functional performance. The 'technology pundit' class of the media has promoted ideas like, Apple really needs to make a netbook or they are doomed; Apple is working on an oversized iPhone to compete with netbooks and it needs to be revolutionary or it won't sell and they are doomed; Apple introduced the iPad, it's ho-hum, it lacks features, and it will never sell; how is Apple's iPad going to keep up with the features of the XYZ product, they are doomed. The simple truth is that, in the world of products, there is an absolute quality that exists outside of the marketing and PR meta-data. While the first wave of promotion may lead to crowds around a product or a service, consumers ultimately build loyalty and repeat business based on actual performance. While a crappy, over-hyped movie may open to crowds, they usually loose audience quickly.

All in all, the Pressthink blog has some interesting content with some interesting insights that may make your marketing wheels spin. Take a look -- you may find yourself with a weekend of reading material.

No comments: