Category Archives: media

Lewis Carroll 1876 and 2016 American Media

Hunting Snark Quote

The fake news issue is very serious, and should be addressed in a serious way.   No, the Pope did NOT endorse the Republican candidate for the Presidency. No, the Clinton Foundation doesn’t rake off 80% of the donations… No, No, and No.  Information is power, and power needs to be exercised with judgment.

Normally we think that organizations with a lot of power have an obligation to use that power responsibly. But the leaders of the largest technology companies have resisted thinking of themselves in those terms. They like to think of their sites as neutral platforms that help users share information with each other — without the company making value judgments of its own.

But this isn’t how power works. When an authority figure turns a blind eye to a problem that’s happening under his watch, the problem doesn’t go away. It festers, often becoming an even bigger problem over time. [Vox]

Perhaps the most chilling argument is that we can’t restrain fake news because it will have a devastating impact on conservative communications.  Nor are more traditional media outlets immune from fake or distorted “news.” Hypothetically:

Mr. X Tweets, “New proof emerges of deliberate attempt to have all guns registered in the U.S.”  The message is retweeted .  No one questions the source of the information, no one checks to see if the links are valid. No one checks – anything.  The retweets continue until some news organization picks up the “story” because “people are interested in it.”  Now, the headline becomes: “Is there a movement to register all guns in America?”  Followed by some generalized arguments from proponents and opponents of the idea. Followed by more “interest” in the “story,” which no one has checked in the first place.

This isn’t journalism.  It’s the old Telephone Game we played as children, seeing how garbled the message became after passing through several repetitions.   It’s dangerous because:

1. It plays into the hands of those who would diminish the credibility of reporting.  Several right wing radio personalities have used this platform: You’ll only get the Truth from Me.  A statement which isn’t true and never has been.

2. It ultimately destroys the legitimacy of reporting.  How is the average consumer supposed to know that the “Denver Guardian” isn’t a real newspaper?  How is the average news consumer supposed to know that what appears to be an online news organization is simply a fictional page of fantasy and filibuster for a right wing neo-Nazi organization?

There are enough problems with media today (chasing shiny objects while ignoring major issues) without adding pure fiction to the mix.  Someone, somewhere needs to be the Adult In The Room.

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To the Corporate Media: This paragraph sums it up

“6. All our media friends. Thank you for preserving reportorial balance. You balanced Donald Trump’s proposal that the military execute the innocent families of terrorists, against Hillary’s emails. You balanced pot-stirring racist lies about President Obama’s birth, against Hillary’s emails. You balanced a religious test at our borders, torture by our military, jokes about assassination, unfounded claims of a rigged election, boasts about groping and paradoxical threats to sue anyone who confirmed the boasts, against Hillary’s emails. You balanced endorsement of nuclear proliferation, against Hillary’s emails. You balanced tirelessly, indefatigably; you balanced, you balanced, and then you balanced some more. And for that — we thank you. And thank you all for following Les Moonves’s principled lead when he said Donald Trump “may not be good for America, but he’s damn good for CBS.”  [NYT OpEd]

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Media Takes Some Well Deserved Hits

Press conference It’s been a miserable season for political reporting.  Some of the misery is self-inflicted.  Let’s admit that we’ve moved a long way from Murrow and Cronkite.  And, let’s also admit that what made the ‘Murrow Moment’ (March 9, 1954) significant when the broadcaster called out the invidious Senator Joe McCarthy was a matter of personal courage when most other stations were satisfied to repeat what the Senator had to offer without comment.   Many of the broadcasters today weren’t around on February 27, 1968 for Cronkite’s epic Vietnam War comments.  No anchor today has the gravitas to make the President say, as Lyndon Johnson remarked that day, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

Nor can we look back to some Golden Age of political reporting without noting that Robert R. McCormick reigned supreme at the  “America First” newspaper, the Chicago Tribune – arduously attacking Franklin D. Roosevelt, all things New Deal, and any question that the U.S. should enter World War II on the side of the British.  The currently resurgent “America First” slogan got its initial patriotic veneer from the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst. [Atlantic]  The unhelpful press has always been with us.

“Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.” [SPJ]

The statement above is the standard by which journalism is to be delivered.  There are two key words in that simple statement which seem to have become blurred — “accuracy,” and “honest.” The reading and watching public have been let down several times.

It took until 2004 for the New York Times to admit that the articles written by Judith Miller concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq 2001-2002 were inaccurate.  When they did, the blame was deflected to “bad sources,” and “everyone makes mistakes.”  There is a difference between being a journalist and being a stenographer using unexamined, “unreliable, and possibly partisan sources.” [MMA]

MSNBC host Chuck Todd received well earned flack for this bit of commentary in 2013:

“MSNBC host Chuck Todd said Wednesday that when it comes to misinformation about the new federal health care law, don’t expect members of the media to correct the record.” [TPM]

Really?  What was that first standard from the Society of Professional Journalists again?  Accurate and fair?  Yes, it definitely is a journalist’s responsibility to the accurate.  And, if your reporting isn’t accurate why should anyone watch, listen, or read what you have to say?

Todd got into similar territory during an interview with Senator Ted Cruz in April 2016:

“Cruz went onto accuse the Department of Justice of letting Planned Parenthood off the hook for supposedly selling baby body parts, which as we all know, is a bald-faced lie, and cited those doctored videos as proof, and what was Chuck Todd’s response? You guessed it. Crickets.” [C&L]

One can be a reporter, a stenographer, or a microphone – Todd did not choose to be a reporter.

The New York Times writer, Roger Cohen, got into an instructive exchange with Norman Ornstein a day ago, leading to Ornstein questions about the Times’ focus on Clinton ‘scandals;’

“Roger this is not about ignoring these issues. It is about obsessing on them to the exclusion of everything else.” [Storify]

Ornstein refers here to the questions about Trump University, the investigation into the actions of Trump University, and the possible bribes to Florida and Texas authorities concerning the investigations into Trump University.

Fox News, Chris Wallace, echoed the Chuck Todd defense yesterday:

“That’s not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It’s up to the other person to catch them on that. I certainly am going to try to maintain some reasonable semblance of equal time. If one of them is filibustering, I’m going to try to break in respectfully and give the other person a chance to talk….” [MMA]

So, if one candidate, the other, or both are being untruthful, it’s up to the viewers to discern the difference?  This is the very antithesis of informing the public.

If the main point isn’t to be the accuracy of the information given to the public what is the public getting?  Not much. Not as much as we could be getting because the press is almost as interested in covering its own interests as it is in covering the news.

“The Press Conference Flap” is informative in itself. David A. Graham (Atlantic) Callum Borchers (WaPo) Oliver Darcy (Business Insider) and Jonathan Easley (The Hill) are among those who have wondered and opined about why Secretary Clinton hasn’t had a press conference.  Paul Krugman’s column may provide a hint?

“So I would urge journalists to ask whether they are reporting facts or simply engaging in innuendo, and urge the public to read with a critical eye. If reports about a candidate talk about how something “raises questions,” creates “shadows,” or anything similar, be aware that these are all too often weasel words used to create the impression of wrongdoing out of thin air.”

If all the press conference is to be is a mob format Q&A in which Secretary Clinton can’t possibly say all the right things in just the absolutely right way to dismiss the innuendo and outright falsehoods of the email and foundation manufactured scandals, then why should she bother?

Besides which, contemporary press conferences don’t seem to get much accomplished.  I’ve (almost) joked before that press conferences are sessions in which reporters ask ten minute questions and then expect a ten second response; or, press conferences are where reporters ask complicated questions to which they seem to want simple, sound byte, answers.  Or, a session in which a reporter is asked for one question, squeezes in three, and then later complains that the respondent didn’t answer the second and third?

A sample:

“Chicago — August has been the worse month in violence and homicides in several decades.  Obviously, we focus on these things when we hit these milestones; I’m sure the President thinks about it all the time.  What is his response to this?  And more specifically, what is his response to the Trump statement that, essentially, he’s going to make these shootings stop, and that he’s the law-and-order candidate, and that the President has not done the job in this area generally, is the criticism?” [WHPC 8/30/16]

We could have shortened this question easily because it’s relatively obvious the questioner isn’t focused on the President’s reaction, but on the President’s reaction to Mr. Trump’s reaction.  So, the question becomes – do reporters want a press conference because they have essential, policy related, questions about Secretary Clinton’s domestic and foreign policy statements, or do they want to get on TV asking about emails, foundations, and a personal aide’s domestic arrangements?  Or, just to get themselves on TV?

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Dear Broadcast News Media, I Give Up Again

Television dump

At 9:05 AM this morning I gave up on cable news – again.  I’d finished washing up the breakfast dishes and a few of their comrades from last evening, and was ready to watch some “news” for an hour or so.  Five minutes into the viewing, including two channel changes, I remembered why I gave up on watching cable news broadcasts a short while back.  The three V’s: Vapidity. Vacuity. Vagueness.

Vapidity: Or, in the long form, a lack of stimulation, challenge, or sharpness; tepid, insipid, and bland.  This is characteristic of those broadcasters who believe that I might be remotely interested in yet another presentation of punditry discussing the semantics of e-mail transmissions.  Digging actual facts out of the morass of “process” punditry reveals that FBI Director Comey was correct – there is NO indication of any criminality in Secretary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. NONE. Done.  That someone has discovered a possible discrepancy in variations of the explanations isn’t news, it’s not even new.  It’s part of a continuous piece of propaganda floated by the Republican Party, and its allies among the Beltway Villagers, for some “Watergate-esque” issue to continue the Clinton assault they’ve enjoyed for the last umpteen years.

If the e-mail non-story were the only example I might not be so dismissive of cable news, but it isn’t.  There have been precious few attempts by the cable networks to treat any story with any depth. Sadly, many items are mentioned and the presenter quickly shifts to “what does this mean for Senator Sludgepump’s campaign?”  For example,  MSNBC, to its credit, did offer some actual context for the Flint Water Crisis.  And now the parallel universes take the stage – in the broadcast world the issue is “old news” even though the aftermath of the water contamination is far from over; in the real world we are discovering more communities with water supplies which do not meet the maximum contaminant levels for lead – and these are getting back page, below the fold, treatment – and not a minute on cable broadcasts.

The broadcasters are content, it seems, to offer a stream of sequels to stories of limited interest to the general public instead of presenting stories involving critical national issues.   Case in point: Immigration policy reform.  There is a bill, passed by the Senate, languishing in the House which offers comprehensive immigration policy reform, and the GOP House leadership can’t or won’t move it.  Instead of seeing and hearing intelligent discussions of the POLICY issues we are being treated to “how is the Hispanic Outreach project of the Trump campaign” doing?  How is the Clinton campaign doing in the polling among Hispanic American voters?

Vacuity:   In order to hit this level a broadcast needs to wade through Shallow and into Inanity.  Here we go again, we all know that U.S. national elections are composed of 50 individual state elections, and still the cable news networks – months from the general election – tout their national polling.  This adds a new level of nothingness to the abyss.  I might as well inform readers that I have five fingers on each hand and try to pass this off as “news.”

Vagueness:  This is the point in a campaign when the parties should be sharpening their messages, and providing actual examples of policy statements and plans on offer to the voters.  We’re not getting that from the Trump side of the ledger – we get speeches, analysis of the speeches, and follow up interviews with surrogates who inform us that the details will be provided later. When’s ‘later?’   At what point will the reporters on camera demand some solid answers? And, should that fail, when do they point out that those Statues in the Park have no more ‘clothing’ than the policy non-statements issued by the Trump campaign and its surrogates.

There’s nothing that pleases the Press quite so much as whining about the treatment of the Press.  The current whine is that Secretary Clinton hasn’t had a “full blown press conference” for X number of days and counting.  Really? Since when was August a major month for press conferences by any national campaign? And, Secretary Clinton attended a fund raiser and the Press wasn’t invited! Oh dear, and we saw Governor Romney’s comment about the 47% in pool tape? Or, uh-no, it was from a bootleg tape and the press hadn’t been invited to that fundraising event.  How this tells us anything about the POLICY of and plans for an administration is anyone’s guess; but, what it does tell  us is that the media loves to talk about the media.

At least I know I’m not alone.  There’s some comfort in reading this analysis of the situation in Crooks and Liars,

“People want truth. They don’t want talking points, or “both sides do it.” Donald Trump has broken all of the rules of party politics, and also the cable news formula. Some, like Stelter, Bolduan, Keilar and Reid have taken the cue, choosing to aggressively pursue truth-telling. Others are not.

To those who refuse to pay attention, beware. Consumers have moved on from the political pablum you serve. Only those who are bold enough to speak truth to the professional liars will survive.”

And Salon’s article about the long-lived conservative obsession with all things Clinton, especially from Judicial Watch:

“This is the same Judicial Watch that currently has the press panting over every release of the Clinton State Department emails they’ve received from their FOIA fishing expedition, rushing on the air and to print based upon the organization’s often erroneous and misleading press releases. Tom Fitton, the organization’s current president and author of the book “The Corruption Chronicles: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government” proudly declared, “Judicial Watch has had more success investigating the IRS, Benghazi and Clinton email scandals than any House committee.”

Considering the outcomes of the IRS and Benghazi “scandals,” it would behoove the press to show a little skepticism. The history of this group is very clear. The first time it waged its campaign of character assassination against Bill and Hillary Clinton, it’s perhaps understandable that the press failed to recognize they were being manipulated by political operatives. The trumped-up Obama scandals added up to nothing as well. There’s no excuse for the media to fall for it again.”

However, it’s my guess they will fall for it – as long as the Three V’s are the mainstays of cable broadcasting practice.

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We talk about talking about race, but won’t talk about race

I made the mistake of watching some cable news coverage of the DNC this morning.  Several of the reporters were concerned – how I truly am beginning to loathe that word! – that Secretary Clinton’s polling numbers among white males weren’t as high as those of Donald Trump.  A couple of the presenters got close to the mark and then appeared to divert the channel into safer, softer, soil – they, meaning white males, are “angered,” or “feel outside the system..” or whatever.  No one mentioned R-A-C-E. Now, please consider the following three items:

“There’s a good deal of evidence that white resentment of minorities is linked to support for Republican candidates, their policies and conservative ideology in America,” said Robb Willer, a political psychologist at Stanford University. [WaPo]

“As the country has become more diverse, the Democratic Party has, too. But the demographics of the Republican Party have not changed much in recent years, according to Gallup. As of 2012, 89 percent of Republicans were non-Hispanic whites, compared to 60 percent of Democrats.” [WaPo]

“Across time points, racial prejudice was indirectly associated with movement identification through Whites’ assertions of national decline. Although initial levels of White identity did not predict change in Tea Party identification, initial levels of Tea Party identification predicted increases in White identity over the study period. Across the three assessments, support for the Tea Party fell among libertarians, but rose among social conservatives.” [PLOS journals]

The shorter version is the common summary: Republicans are not necessarily racist, but more racists tend to identify with Republicans; and, Tea Party identification was closely associated with “white identity.” Which goes a long way toward explaining this sighting at the recent RNC:

Trump Supporter Check List

No, Secretary Clinton is not likely to poll well with people who tend to focus on their white identity, white grievances, and white dissatisfaction.

If the cable broadcasters would like to fill up some vacant air time, there are deeper, more systemic questions that should be discussed.

Why are disaffected white males supporting a candidate who is not essentially Republican and not primarily a true conservative in the Everett Dirksen, Barry Goldwater, Sandra Day O’Connor, or William F. Buckley mold?

Perhaps interviewing Ezra Klein or Jonathan Chait might offer some insight:

“[Trump] … has exposed a Republican Party many in the GOP will wish had stayed hidden. The core truth he has laid bare is that Republican voters are powered by a resentful nationalism more than a principled conservatism. “Republican politics boils down to ethno-nationalistic passions ungoverned by reason,” writes Jonathan Chait. “Once a figure has been accepted as a friendly member of their tribe, there is no level of absurdity to which he can stoop that would discredit him.” [Vox]

Chait continued:

“…since reason cannot penetrate the crude tribalism that animates Republicans, it follows that nothing President Obama could have proposed on economic stimulus, health care, or deficits could have avoided the paroxysms of rage that faced him.” [NYMag]

If 89% of a political party in America is non-Hispanic white, and if women lean toward the Democratic Party by a split of 52% to 36%, then how do we describe the Republican Party other than a political party of white men? Or, as the Pew Research study found in 2014, a party of older white men:

Age GOP/lean Dem / lean
18-33 35% 51%
34-49 38% 49%
50-68 41% 43%
69-85 47% 43%

A better cable roundtable discussion might focus not on how Secretary Clinton is not capturing the votes of white males, but on why the Republican Party can’t seem to attract more women, minority group members, and younger people?

Pundits tell us solemnly that we “need” a national discussion about race relations in this country, however that is very difficult to do when broadcasters themselves shy away from the topic.  Simply having a few “specials” with “both sides” isn’t the solution.

Whether the corporate media likes it or not, race and ethnic divisions have significance when we converse about any major social, economic, and political questions.  It’s part of the mix, and can’t be separated out like an egg yolk from national conversations.

Someone, somewhere must have perceived the ludicrousness of the proposition that merely talking about racial relations is “racism.”  What this too often boils down to is the assertion that anything which makes white people uncomfortable is “racist.”  Witness Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly’s recent over the top whine about those who criticized his attempt to “soften” the plight of slaves in 19th century America.

Speaking about the unequal and deleterious incarceration rate of young African American men isn’t racist, it’s an acknowledgement of a problem, and therefore an opening to use the discourse as a way to solve or at least mitigate the issue.

Speaking about income inequality isn’t racist. It’s an acknowledgement that working people in this county, especially people of color, aren’t able to scale the social and economic ladder as easily as in times past.  We could help with this but we have to talk about it.

Speaking about police reform isn’t racist. It’s an acknowledgement that too often for our liking there are law enforcement personnel who are not helping resolve issues between the police and the communities in which they are assigned. There are some police forces which have made great strides, Pittsburgh and Dallas for example, and those can be models. But, we have to talk about it.

Speaking about climate change isn’t racist, but we have to acknowledge that people of color are more likely to be residents of communities and neighborhoods which are the most afflicted with pollution, water problems, and devastation from climate events which become more serious each decade, if not each year.  Again, all the stakeholders need to be at the table for this national discussion.  It’s not enough to worry about the beach front property in Miami, we also need to be aware of the 9th Ward in New Orleans.

Race certainly isn’t the only issue facing this country, but it does tend to permeate most of the major challenges we face.  NOT talking about it is actually hurtful – it allows the tribalism to grow and fester, it allows the problems to remain unresolved, and it feeds the polarization which leads to political gridlock. 

However, the most egregious part of the Great Silence is that it allows us to cling to our tribe, ever more unwilling or unable to discuss, converse, or debate our issues or to practice the great art of any democracy – compromise.

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Media Circus and Freak Show

Freak Show Cable News

It must be remarkably hard to fill cable news air-time. All too often the broadcasts are filled with anchors asking reporters for their opinions about what the anchor just proposed.  The questions are almost as long as the answers, and those answers are all too often not very illuminating.

When the reporters aren’t asking other reporters for their opinions about what was just reported, we are treated to “analysts.”  What passes for analysis is generally little more than conjecture at best and hyperbolic rants at worst.  In the best of times we get a bit of fact-checking as the dueling analysts structure their responses to fit with the quick retort formula. Nothing too deep, nothing too long, just a nice punchy sound bite.

The national audience is treated to whatever topic has grabbed the attention span of the Villagers within the Beltway.  The Republican Party has played the cable news media like the proverbial harp.  Get “outraged,” get on TV, and stir up more “outrage,” all manufactured of either whole cloth or thin threads, and repeat as necessary to hold the attention of the producers and broadcasters.

“News” is supposed to be entertaining, and thereby attract ratings, and thereby attracted advertisers… erectile dysfunction medication, strange household gadgets, aircraft manufacturers, automobiles, prescription medicines for conditions that used to be solved with a dose of aspirin or  baking soda.

There were a few bright spots in the recent spate of broadcasting in regard to the Black Lives Matter campaign, the killing of two more African American men at the hands of police officers, and the attacks on the police officers in Dallas.  At least one network actually interviewed one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter organization. One offered air time to a professor who has made a study of policing reforms.  But all together too much time this week was devoted to the Freak Show Media Circus.

There is a difference between presenting “both sides” and broadcasting nonsensical polemics.

Case in point, for some reason, known but to the management of CNN, it was decided to put a right wing radio jockey with absolutely no expertise in race relations, policing, or evidently not much of anything else, on the air. And then “let him defend” his threats against the President of the United States and African American supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. There is no rational defense possible. Nor did any of his comments enlighten the subject or provide historical context.  His air time was simply part of the Freak Show.    So much more could have been done if news were news and not merely vapid offerings for distraction and entertainment.

Perhaps if a cable news network were serious about broadcasting news there would be a higher standard for content?  For example….

Merely because an individual has an opinion on some matter doesn’t mean that the opinion is worthy of broadcasting.

Those who wish to place their opinions before the public have all manner of opportunities to do so in this technological present.  Write a blog, get on Twitter, Facebook, or do it the old fashioned way – stand in a corner of the park with a bull horn.  However, in order to be considered newsworthy the opinions must be supported by facts. Facts presented in context.  Adherence to this simple rule would banish many of the denizens of the Freak Show Media Circus to the margins they inhabited in the first place.

Fact checking is a fundamental part of good journalism.

It doesn’t take any great journalistic acumen or effort to do basic fact-checking prior to an interview with anybody.  News is supposed to be factual. The avoidance of fact-checking, or the assertion that fact-checking is someone else’s responsibility is simply LAZY.

A person allotted air time should have something relevant to say.

Unfortunately, this rule would cut off the microphones for several prominent current and former politicians. Not only should the commentary be factual, it should be enlightening.  Senator Sludgepump may believe to his core that global climate change is a hoax, but his position in government doesn’t necessarily mean he has anything either factual or relevant to say.  Though he may charge through a stampeding herd of bison to get to the first available microphone, that still doesn’t mean he has anything illuminating to reveal on the topic.

Speculation is not analysis.

If we want to have all the air time on a sports talk radio program filled to the brim – ask which major league pitcher was the best in the modern era.  Then, sit back and listen while the audience debates the merits of Bob Feller, Nolan Ryan, Warren Spahn, Randy Johnson, Bob Gibson….ad infinitum

If we want to fill up air time without actually doing much of any real work, ask “What will be the effect of a potential  great carrot shortage on the ______ campaign?”  Bring on the “strategists, analysts, and activists,” and let them blather on about the hypothetical to the hypnotic.

So, the television set was turned off again. I moved on, there was nothing much left to see.   And, I was never one for freak shows.

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DIY Business News: How to stop yelling at the TV screen and get some real news

Stock Ticker Old

Spare me the whining about Americans and their financial illiteracy.  It’s not like they are getting any help from institutions which ought to be assisting them. 

Media bashing gets a bit cheap at times, but in this realm the broadcast media isn’t delivering anything close to real “business news.”  For starters, most of what passes for “business” news on the cable TV outlets is nothing more than financial sector gossip and stock market reporting.   When everything is said and scrolled across the screen, what the consumer has gotten is information of the stock markets, by the stock markets and for the stock markets.  

If we take the most generous definition of an investor possible – one including individual investors, investors in retirement 401(k)’s, IRAs, mutual funds, and ETF’s – then we can claim that 48% of the adults in the U.S. have money invested in “the market.” [CNN]  Meaning, 52% of Americans have no investment in “the market” at all, and one could question how carefully those who have funds in the retirement accounts are attending to the investments made on their behalf.  Drilling a bit deeper into the numbers we find that only 13.8% of all U.S. families held any individual stock. [CNN] “Ownership of savings bonds, other bonds, directly held stocks, and pooled investment funds sustained sizable drops in ownership rates between 2010 and 2013, although none of the four types of assets are commonly held, with ownership rates in 2013 varying between 1.4 percent (other bonds) and 13.8 percent (directly held stocks).” [FED pdf]

The best face we can put on this is that what passes for business news in this country is stock market information of direct interest to at best 14% of the nation’s adult population.  Why? We can guess — (1) It pleases the managerial types who are focused on short term gains in stock prices? (2) It’s cheap to produce?  Reporting on stock prices is really easy, especially if the big driver is something accessible like the Dow Jones Industrial Average. (3) It gives executives an opportunity to tout the value (whatever that might be) of their companies, thus moving their stock prices up?  However, what it doesn’t do is give anyone a clear overall picture of business in the United States of America.

Do It Yourself

If business news isn’t what’s on offer from the news channels which purport to provide it – then where to find it? 

The Federal Reserve has all manner of publications available online which will inform the inquisitive about consumer and personal finance.  Auto and Student debt is up at the moment, while the home ownership rate is falling, but not as many homeowners are now in default.  Interested in income inequality, or wealth gaps? Information is available from the FED on those topics as well.  Look and one can find all manner of information and analysis, unfettered from political punditry, on the subject.  In fact, one can discover that the way we talk about income inequality may be a function of how we measure it.

The San Francisco Federal Reserve is pleased to highlight its blog, with features ranging from how the FED recycles old currency to how Medicare payments may be curtailing inflationary trends.  If more generalized information is the target, then the Beige Book is as good a source as any:

“Commonly known as the Beige Book, this report is published eight times per year. Each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. The Beige Book summarizes this information by District and sector. An overall summary of the twelve district reports is prepared by a designated Federal Reserve Bank on a rotating basis.” [FED]

Think of the Beige Book as “one stop shopping” for general economic news in each of the FED’s regions.

 Hard Hat

Labor:  A steady diet of cable business news might leave a person with the idea that labor news doesn’t exist except so far as it concerns minimum wage issues, or the latest protest of less than living wages. It’s more difficult to find than information about economic trends, but it’s there.   A person might want to start with Labor Press.OrgLabor Notes, is another source.  Union labor issues are well publicized in AFL-CIO sites.  There’s more information available from the SEIU, and AFSCME.

Those cable shows – and they are just ‘shows’ – could fill a goodly amount of their time just from Department of Labor information.  They won’t because they’re too busy tossing softballs to CEOs, but they could for example offer the investor’s side of the argument about fiduciary responsibility and financial advisers from DoL information.  If it’s numbers that are wanted, there’s a whole bureau for those – the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Want the current consumer price index, the unemployment rate, payroll employment figures, average hourly earnings, the producer price index, productivity statistics, or the employment cost index? All these are available from the Department of Labor.

Doing Business:  Republican presidential candidates Cruz and Kasich both proposed eliminating the Department of Commerce.  This is taking the Tea Party Express right over the edge into the Silly Swamp.  One excellent source of information about our economy is the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which compiles data regarding personal income and outlays – read: income and spending – what could be more “economic” than that?  Want information concerning the Gross Domestic Product? Consumer Spending? Corporate Profits? Fixed Assets?  Balance of Payments? State and Metropolitan GDP? Quarterly GDP by industry? It’s all available from the Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis.

When thinking of broadcast media it’s important to remember that what keeps the cable ‘business’ news going are advertising sales, and a commercial which might cost $2,000 to $3,000 for a network broadcast sponsorship could be as cheap as $175 on cable.  Little wonder their business seems to be limited to softball interviews and streaming the DJIA numbers on the screen – which you could do at home on any computer monitor.  Those shows are relatively banal because they probably can’t afford anything else.

Enterprises like Bush’s Baked Beans, Chef Michael’s Canine Creations, and Slap Chop are right in the mix with Ford, Chevrolet, and Wal-Mart sponsoring what passes for business and news reporting. [HuffPo] We’d be better served to Keep Calm and Do It Yourself.

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Filed under Commerce Department, Economy, labor, media, Tea Party Express