Jul 26, 2010

Rooting out the "undermedia"

Media watchers have produced one-week-after reflections on the two Big Stories that surfaced out of the conservative's activist media: Andrew Breitbart's take down of a USDA employee on a bogus charge of reverse racism and Tucker Carlson's attempt to expose a liberal media cabal by publishing the musing of self-identified liberal commentators.

David Carr describes the stories as "provocateur" journalism, a radicalized form of the advocacy journalism practiced by more traditional media:
As content providers increasingly hack their own route to an audience, it’s becoming clear that many are less interested in covering the game than tilting the field.
Carr's colleague at the New York Times, Brian Stelter, writes about an "undermedia" (a Breitbart term) that pushes stories meant to reinforce and amplify a set of beliefs, or fears, rather than to test conventional wisdom. Thus, Breitbart runs a false story because he sees his job as constructing a conservative narrative, not chasing down facts.

Breitbart told Stelter:

"It’s my business model to craft strategies to make sure that the mainstream media is forced to reckon with stories that it would love to ignore because it doesn’t fit their narrative."
Breitbart and Carlson desperately want us to treat news as a series of competing partisan narratives. It is an effective way of neutering facts that contradict one's own views and emboldens like-minded thinkers to ignore any argument that support the other side. It tells readers that they have a choice of ideologies, and that they must identify with one or the other, and in doing so deprives them of the facts they need to evaluate these partisan narratives for what they are: the tools of the entrenched to manipulate votes. Breitbart's folly, a result of giddy over-eagerness, hopefully pulls back the curtain.

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