Monday, June 22, 2009

Q Tips

NPR related comments are always welcomed.

27 comments:

Grimblebee said...

"EnvironmentalIST campaign." NPR adopts another meme from the Right.

Skeptic65 said...

Is anyone other than me really annoyed at the "soap opera" treatment NPR tries to give almost all of its stories? I'm referring to the way every story that's allegedly about some development--poverty, ways of coping with the economy, some story about technology--must be illustrated with an in-depth profile of some individual who allegedly illustrates the phenomenon under discussion.

My best guess is that this approach to stories is done mostly by journalists who are poorly-educated and not curious enough to do any research ahead of time: much easier to deal with personalities than with ideas.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

...development--poverty, ways of coping with the economy, some story about technology--must be illustrated with an in-depth profile of some individual who allegedly illustrates the phenomenon under discussion.

in da newz biz, that's called a "hook." It is supposed to link a more or less abstract issue to a definite, recognizable context. It is not an artifact of ill-education, or of a lack of research. It is a 'reader-friendly' means of drawing the reader into the story.

JayV said...

Woody's correct. Actually, I'd call for more 'human interest' on NPR, but more diverse, not pushing the biases of the reporter. In this way, NPR could return to its mission by including the public (and not some corporate contributor expert).

gopol said...

Trouble is, the story's are so often more hook than worm.

Porter Melmoth said...

Indeed, Naturally Pontificating Radio is a cheapie outfit, from start to finish. As the home of supposedly 'in depth' exploration of the news, all NPR has to do is grab a couple of 'hooks', attach a bit of bait (in NPR's case, caviar instead of worms, so as to appeal to the 'thinking' masses), and then fill up the time with 'creative writing', invariably sounding vaguely intellectual, but not TOO much, as the 'thinking' masses are a bit touchy about who's smarter than whom. Of course NPR's the smartest human aggregate in the universe, but better to be dainty with that power rather than crude.

It's like some people are really impressed with Dick Cheney because of his 'network'-quality voice, his confident-sounding elocution (despite the sick-making distortions of his, you know, mouth), and his balding virility, despite stent-works. But if you dissect Cheney, you find very little intelligent design. The mass is mostly banal, mediocre, and even primitive substance. You know, sort of like some guys who did some stuff in 1930s Germany.

Porter Melmoth said...

I dared to dip a bit into ME this morn and lo! Davy the Greene-horn was at the wheel. When he said he was subbing for Insfreak, I thought he was almost going to say that Steven was in rehab, or a psych-ward or something. Anyway, Cokee honored him with her best Coke-Knows-Best chuckle when Greene-horn made some stupid comment. That little gesture on her part made me immediately (and only momentarily) sympathetic with Greene. Even though he had to proceed with that unsavory hag, Greene kept smiling. (He's ALWAYS smiling when he talks - trying to out-smug everybody else.)

And then Don Gone delivered some merry analysis about Obama, trying to sound definitive. I can only think that Gonyeah's appointment for the NPR WH gig had to involve some form of kinky sex - on whose part, we shall probably never know.

Then Mike Sullivan gave a report on a Muslim minority in western Burma. A worthy subject for a story, but I'm not sure why he bought into the idea that it's a BUDDHIST vs. Muslim issue. Burma has many minorities, including the Christian Karens, who are equally repressed by the ruling military junta, who are ostensibly Buddhists, but hardly are in practice. (I once met a Karen man who'd been holed up in a cathedral in Rangoon for over two years.) Buddhism is not a coercive religion. The conflict Sullivan describes is wholly political/racial. He failed to properly explain that issue.

Skeptic65 said...

Porter Melmoth makes some accurate and useful points.

I've worked as a reporter and editor, and my experience overall is that media folk are really not very big on curiosity. Oh, they're interested in learning the details of others' lives, and how interviewees *feel* (the new substitute for who what where etc), but actually very un-curious about politics, science, etc. So instead of pursuing facts and ideas, they fill their stories with things like the color of an interviewee's eyes or hair, what an interviewee was eating when approached, etc.

gopol said...

Yeah, Skeptic, and curiosity kills the reporter. Google Gary Webb, Robert Parry, or try reporting on the KLA. Of course, tenured professors can get away with a lot that journalists can't. Report on the facts of the AfPak Heroin trade, for instance.

Skeptic65 said...

Ahh, I get it!: because *some* situations are dangerous for a reporter who is "too curious", reporters should check their curiosity at the door and focus on "how did that make you feel?" rather than important details.

miranda said...

Skeptic, I think gopol was being sardonic.

Nice interview today on Democracy Now with Nomi Prins on the record Goldman Sachs bailouts and related financial travesties.

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/6/22/report_goldman_sachs_on_pace_to

Anonymous said...

Glenn Greenwald >>>

NPR's Ombudsman: Why NPR bars the word "TORTURE"

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/06/22/npr/index.html

Anyone who believes that NPR is a "liberal" media outlet -- and anyone who wants to understand the decay of American journalism -- should read this article by NPR's Ombudsman, Alicia C. Shepard, as she explains and justifies why NPR bars the use of the word "torture" to describe what the Bush administration did. Responding to what she calls "a slew of emails challenging NPR's policy of using the words 'harsh interrogation tactics' or 'enhanced interrogation techniques' to describe the treatment of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration," Shepard hauls out every trite and misleading bit of journalistic conventional wisdom to dismiss listeners' concerns and defend NPR's Orwellian practice ( as I noted recently when writing about The New York Times' refusal to use the word "torture," NPR's compulsive use of Bush euphemsism has been a constant complaint of the excellent blog NPR Check ).

JayV said...

Anonymous: Good refutation by Greenwald, also the comments on his piece are thoughtful and show we're all not alone in our frustration with NPR.

Anonymous said...

national propaganda radio is not the only usa usa usa cheerleading shill network operating these days.

just try to read anything that the associated propaganda, er, press krew tries to shovel to the masses.

pure jingoistic rah rah rah crap.

very very very tired of the American Citizen referred to as 'consumer' every single day.

nauseating ......

Porter Melmoth said...

Yessir, that's a grand Greenwald statement. Most welcome.

And over at the corresponding webpage at NPR, a pretty darn conspicuous frequency of listeners who are seriously thinking about sending no more money from home.

Back in the glory days, I'm sure Big Corporate told NPR, 'Screw the subscribers. We'll support you...' (as in, 'buy you off'.)

And now NPR needs the cash. Badly.

Idea: have the Omsbuddy try to out-argue everybody by circling the wagons round the sacred Frank Luntz-Approved (TM) Terminology Standards and deny the 'T' word to all those perceived-as-delicate NPR ears out there.

A gamble - but it just might work.

pat1755 said...

So delighted to find this blog! I thought I was the only one shouting at the radio these days.

Just wait till you hear my Leigh Ann Hansen rant :)

gopol said...

Greenwald's post was, as usual, right on. GG quotes his commentator:

If NPR were sincere about their 'describe, don't label' doctrine, then they would forego the use of the words 'terrorist' and 'terrorism' in favor of something like 'harsh combat techniques'.

And, more importantly, NPR is, I think, the single most frequented source for news, especially by the "college degreed" people. As such, it is the main arena in the battle for hearts and minds of the citizens of the United States. Is that overstating it?

jaytingle said...

Special-- and important-- story about Obama and the mainstream media this AM. Who is their go to guy? Sean Hannity.

Skeptic65 said...

In this (or any similar) discussion, I think it would be more useful to focus on one issue at a time--viz., the *style* or *method* used by NPE in covering stories--and leave the discussion of possible bias, etc., to separate threads devoted to *those* matters.

So in particular, I go back to my original comment, and subsequent comments by Woody and JayV re the "hook".

And especially particularly, what I wonder, and what I know friends wonder, is this: "Why, exactly, does NPR (or other media) *need* a hook? Is there any empirical evidence that listeners appreciate the use of this device, find stories that use it more appealling and interesting, etc.?"

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

When I wuz in da newz-biz a buncha years ago, curiosity was very much valued, mainly by my editors.

But I wuz in da biz back before the era of media consolidation, when the corpoRat front-offices took over from the professionally venal assholes in advertizing in their perpetual desire not to offend any potential ad revenue source, and denature the editorial side commensurably. (I even used the word "commensurably," once; but it was in the Arts section, so it was okay).

Skeptic: (I was also a Journo Prof one time: my greatest crime thereby was not to have flunked the dreary Rod Dreher when I had the chance, in 1985, when he took a news writing course from me. I never asked for it back, and I should have.../sn...)
You ask a reasonable question, actually: Why a 'hook?'

I think it comes down to the long-standing presumptions (based on extensive research) about the reading competence of the Average Murkin Reader. Which is now, and for a while has been, abysmal. I'm sure you're aware that, according to 'reading comprehension' scales, the average newspaper is written so as not to challenge the competence of people who read no better than your "mean" 6th Grader (7th, tops). Such readers require all the help they can get (and that the paper can supply) to get them through the arduous task of self-information.

The hook is there not to "snag" the reader, so much, as to put the local story (whatever it is) to the larger context, to provide a reason for covering the story in the first place. It is not a presumption that reporters are incurious, but that readers are. From vast experience (15 years in print and radio news) I can attest to the truth of that assertion.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

And wTFFFFFFFFFFF was Sean Hannity doing on ME today?

biggerbox said...

NPR diving for new lows every day, it seems. Tom Gjelten, of all people, doing a primer on capitalism on ME? Did I miss it amidst the multiple mentions of Milton Friedman, or did he manage to get through the entire piece without even mentioning the name John Maynard Keynes? And funny how he went straight from Adam Smith to the free-market 1980s without stopping to notice a little thing called The Great Depression on the way.

To be fair, he did loop back around to give us Friedman's gruding acknowledgement that maybe government action could have stopped bank collapse in 1931. But we're left with the impression that the only suitable role for government is in delivering first-aid in a crisis, and that the only debate is how extensive and thick the bandages should be.

Absolutely no mention that "free market capitalism" depends on a massive aparatus of government-administered contract law and trade regulation, no mention of the disasters other countries have encountered in the past, nope. The history of capitalism goes straight from Adam Smith to Friedman (who could do no wrong), Reagan and Thatcher, to today, when we need to maybe admit we need government bailouts.

This from the correspondent who spent years covering the massive government intervention in the "free market" we call the Pentagon.
Spare me.

Skeptic65 said...

Here's what I think is a major part of the problem for all electronic media:

ALL media essentially want to leave readers or viewers or listeners feeling good, at the end of the paper or the broadcast. Commercial media want to do this to attract viewers; NPR wants to do it to ensure (or facilitate) "listener support". I think the problem is far worse in electronic media. So NPR structures its stories so as to instill a good feeling in listeners, the better to extract money from them at pledge time.

big?pink?fuzzy?bunny? said...

pat1755 - re your Lianne rant, oh do tell, do tell!

When ya feel ready to, that is...

gopol said...

I literally laughed out loud when I heard Hannity's voice on ME. This would seem to be a way to give BHO room on the right so he will seem more centrist when he (1) caves to the financial sector (2) expands the war for oil front (3) favors torture cover up (4) favors NSA/ATT illegal surveillance (5) hedges on civil rights for LGBT folks (6) pushes Charter Schools (7) continuous the drug war (8) ... wow, it's too easy to just keep listing to the right, isn't? Abandon ship!

Anonymous said...

skeptic:

much easier to deal with personalities than with ideas.


I think Marx said you had to "see" the issue from the macro-level . . . and NPR "sees" every issue at the micro-level.

edk

Skeptic65 said...

Skeptic, you've hit it dead-on. Tho I believe that the problem of preferring to focus on personalities, rather than issues, is something that;'s common to most media folk.

From what I've seen, most reporters do not have a broad education that gives them the knowledge to focus on issues (and to ask intelligent issue-oriented questions of interviewees).