Monday, January 19, 2009

It's What's for Breakfast

As people have noted in the Q Tips section below, today's Morning Edition offers some pretty crappy breakfast fare - Mara Liasson on "post partisanship," Newt Gingrich redux, and Steve Inskeep jabbering on about Obama and cinematic "magic negroes." I also cringed at Renee Montagne's interview with Bill Cosby and co-author and professor, Alvin Poussaint. The two were on to promote the ideal of two parent families. Steve Inskeep introduced the segment with the following,
"Cosby played the perfect father on TV in the 80s and in more recent years he spoke out against irresponsible fathers, and teen pregnancy, and high drop-out rates in school."
In truly amazing fashion, Montagne managed to conduct the interview without one single reference to Bill Cosby's own shortcomings in the father/husband role that he is so keen on promoting. She didn't mention his own admitted affair and the child that may or may have not been his own. She also failed to mention the allegations of sexual abuse against Cosby, one of which resulted in an out of court settlement.

It's not that Montagne needed to demonize Cosby. He's still a cultural figure to be reckoned with, but for God's sake, to omit the most obvious references to his past was really astounding.


J. Sterling Ellison said...

Regarding the Cosby piece, why do you think it was Renee Montagne's responsibility to bring up the probably spurious claims of a woman with whom Cosby had a past relationship? Cosby admitted that he, unwisely, paid these people to go away. It's not uncommon. Cosby's been sounding off with his critiques of the black community for some time now. It's all been covered and debated before. I happen to think that most people in Hollywood should just keep their mouths shut, but they do indeed have the right to speak and, like all of us, are prone to contradictions. However, if reporters were always required to address their subject's entire past, regardless of the tone or intention of the piece, they would never get anywhere. I don't think NPR or Renee Montagne felt it necessary to touch on such things in this particular piece. Do White House correspondents, before asking today's pertinent questions, insist on answers to questions about Bush's alleged drug use or actions during his drinking days? When asking about soldiers in Iraq, do they insist on asking about Bush's own military service? I'm not saying these questions shouldn't be asked, but news stories can't ALWAYS be debates about the entire arc of a given subject, if for nothing else, because of the constraints of time. I think you expect too much from NPR.

Anonymous said...

JSE- I agree with the post and disagree with part of your comment. Indeed, too many personalities speak well outside their purview. However, in this particular case, Cosby should be challenged on the entirety of his experience, as it informs this particular discussion, even if to say that (a) he made a mistake and that (b) he learned from it. As well, Cosby is not your everyday personality, in that he holds an advance degree in Education, and he (as you noted) has been speaking about these issues for some time. As an academic, he should fully disclosed and be prepared to fully disclose what has shaped his point of view -- educated or otherwise. I agree, interviews can get tied down with too much "background," but when the background is particularly germane, it should not be omitted. When such a detail is so OBVIOUSLY missed, that is when NPR listeners (like the author of NPRCheck) chime in.

Porter Melmoth said...

This is one of the hardest things to accept about NPR: that, as a public news/information source, it is largely a failure. It is just another opinionated media organization that is subject to manipulation by the powers that determine how it is to be used. NPR and the public trust it supposedly serves have been grossly abused, to say the least. Yes, we expect too much of NPR because NPR should be much different than it is, especially if it is going to be publicly funded. Interviews such as the one with Cosby are flawed because an outfit like NPR should be approaching interviewees from a different angle than just another commercial media outfit. One should expect reality rather than artifice. NPR has committed itself so deeply to its own sort of spin that they can't see the forest for the trees, and that's the death of coherent journalism. That's what this blog is for, to identify the flaws and the failures.

Indeed, we expect a lot of NPR. Too much? Most definitely, because what NPR has become is a big problem to confront, because they aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing on many fronts. In this day and age, awarenesses have to be kept sharp and perceptive, lest we all succumb to the intentional blandishments of propaganda-producing forces, no matter how blatant or how subtle.

Regarding Cosby himself, he’s had a great career in showbiz, but he has not been immune to personal controversies. He’s not a ‘regular’ on NPR, so, as with many such intermittent guests, some background is called for. In this case, Cosby may appear to be somewhat hypocritical because we know of his controversy. It’s not to cut down Cosby so much as it is a recognition of plain facts. Since Cosby has a huge following, NPR’s delicate treatment of him seems unseemly, if not downright unnecessary.

Knowing Cosby as the confident personality that he is, I think he could have handled questions about his personal life without too much trauma, as he is used to being in the public’s scrutiny. Indeed, he might’ve expected to be asked such questions, but they might never have been asked in this instance. I say ‘might never have been asked’ because, even if they were asked, someone higher up at NPR may have ordered them edited out, whether to make both Cosby and NPR look better, or to tacitly avoid that issue and thus make it go away, and thus, to not ruin the intention of keeping the segment wholesome. This is standard procedure with any media outfit, to conform to time limitations if nothing else. Of course, editing is also a hidden persuader. In any case, you never know with NPR. Due to extensive experience, I just don’t find them trustworthy in many of their judgments, so I remain skeptical as a default.

Grimblebee said...

There are plenty of reasons not only to question Cosby's views, but to question the propriety of making him some kind of spokesman. First of all, I find his views noxious, and for that matter all those who bang on that old "family responsibility" baloney -- Barack Obama included, by the way. How many "moralists" have NOT turned out to be utter hypocrites -- the Larry Craigs and Bill Bennetts all their ilk. I don't doubt Cosby is any different, and I know a little of his background from some people I'm close to -- enough to know that he is an even bigger jerk in private. (By the way, I think he's a brilliant comedian and I loved his show, so it's possible to separate the two.)

In the best of all possible worlds reporters would question why our president is a drunk and a user and a coward, and how that affects his role as warmonger-in-chief. Why the heck not?

The story "arc" is whatever it should be.

Anonymous said...

NPR and the public trust it supposedly serves have been grossly abused, to say the least. Yes, we expect too much of NPR because NPR should be much different than it is, especially if it is going to be publicly funded.

That hits the nail on the head.

The people at NPR have abused the public trust.

They continue to misrepresent themselves as a viable "alternative" to commercial media when they are now largely driven by the very same money-making urge.

"Corporate underwriting" is just "paid commercials" in another guise.

The management at NPR obviously think their listeners are too stupid to see this.

They also believe that their ONLY responsibility as a "news" organization is to present dueling think tanks -- an opinion on the "right" balanced with an opinion on the "left".

In other words, they apparently believe that there IS no underlying truth (to anything) and that even if there were, they would have no responsibility to expose it.