Saumya Narechania: Searching for “No-Spin Zone”

Chad Johnson announced that he has 16 touchdown celebrations planned for this season. Considering he missed an opportunity to use one of them this past week, and since the Cincinnati Bengals increasingly resemble their 1990s version, he might not get a chance to use all of them. It must be fun though to think to yourself, “This is an occasion on which I can celebrate.” We celebrate end zones or Michael Jordan being in the zone, but we rarely celebrate the “No-Spin Zone.”

Why isn’t entering this artificial area an equally gratifying experience as entering the end zone? Should we congratulate ourselves that we might have one hour to receive unbiased news reporting? This is taken with a grain of salt, of course – Bill O’Reilly entering the “No-Spin Zone” is much more like experiencing the nausea of a Paris Hilton hangover then the crispness of the first beer of a relaxing night. We really have no reason to pop open a bottle of bubbly when it comes to the status of today’s media.

The fundamental problem I’m describing is that the public can no longer trust the mainstream media (or MSM in blog speak) to provide fair, balanced, informative, necessary and important headlines and stories. I hesitate to call this problem new, considering the Spanish-American War happened.

The first key issue concerning today’s media is that news is being treated like reality television – simple entertainment. The important news doesn’t sell, so there’s a disincentive to show it. While I find the increase in O.J. Simpson’s head size between his 1994 mug shot and his 2007 one interesting, I don’t think I’d miss anything if I wasn’t exposed to that story. However, the fact that I only recently realized that several nuclear weapons were left unguarded for 36 hours is something I might want to know and learn more about. There’s also the unique melding of these two spheres of “news.” Instead of hearing about President Clinton’s Kosovo policies or budget recommendations, we hear about his sexual indiscretions, because the former might just be too complex and the latter is hilarious.

In today’s media we treat news operations as normal corporations instead of agents of a public service. Take, for example, Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch’s News Corporation owns more than 40 newspapers worldwide, several dozen magazines, a publishing company in HarperCollins, a few radio stations, MySpace and the Fox empire ranging from the Fox News Channel to the film studio, 20th Century Fox. Theoretically, Murdoch could have a book published by HarperCollins and go on to publish numerous favorable reviews in his newspapers and parade the author on his radio stations and different Fox News subsidiaries to create free publicity. While Murdoch makes a quick buck or million, the American public may learn nothing substantial except that if O.J. did do it, he did it. Murdoch can tilt his reporting to any bias he wishes and could have numerous other sources substantiate that point of view. But as Wile E. Coyote showed us through his use of Acme products, a monopoly cannot serve the public well. I contend that a monopoly in the media is even worse, considering the media shouldn’t even act like a fair company.

Even though we understand these phenomena, we are, unfortunately, unable to stop them. We allow the Clinton campaign to stop GQ from publishing a negative story by threatening the loss of a more profitable story. We realize that CNN is a business first and an educator second, but we still work within this establishment instead of fundamentally trying to change the system.

Some would argue that the advent of blogs has allowed the common people a chance to rebel against the media. I, in my continued pessimism, doubt that this rebellion is working in the best way possible. By organizing DailyKos and HotAir, all we are doing is dividing ourselves into pre-existing groups set by our ideologies. A DailyKos reader already thinks like a DailyKos reader, and by not being exposed to other ideas, he loses an important perspective. The question remains how to become the Mahatma Gandhi of the modern media.

It comes down to us. We need to change ourselves to change the broken system. That is, at its root, the fundamental solution. We need to acknowledge that news should be separate from entertainment and we need to realize that news corporations should act as a public service and not a private enterprise. The only real challenge to these changes is whether we can step back and effectively evaluate ourselves from a “No-Spin Zone.”

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