Feb. 28, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • Hartford • 12:00 PM EST
After listening to Matt Stoller this morning, I am not so sure I want to be labeled a journalist.
"To say journalists have a system of ethics is false. It is not true," Stoller said. "It is an attempt to make a larger conversation that needs to happen in journalism, not happen...[Ours] is a corrupted and corroded media system."
Stoller pointed to the failure of the media to accurately reflect the viewpoint of 15 million people who marched against war in February 2003, and the fact that a majority of Americans wanted the U.S. to go through the United Nations in order to secure approval before invading a soveriegn state.
Some irony exists in the fact that the Courant, owned by gigantic media conglomerate the Tribune Company, hosted this discussion of bloggers like Stoller, Genghis Conn (Chris Bigelow) and CGG (Melissa Ryan) of CTLocalPolitics, Colin McEnroe and Tim Tagaris, formerly of Ned Lamont's campaign, currently the online director for Chris Dodd's presidential campaign. Courant editor Tom Condon moderated.
Go here for CTNewsjunkie's perspective on the events.
The concept of branded information being more credible must be questioned, McEnroe said. The emergence of voices like CTBob, Spazeboy and CTBlogger as sources who broke news during the Lamont campaign showed that the calcified, hierarchical structure of institutions like the Courant no longer serve the public.
The fact that newspapers and big media now gains its legitimacy from the amount of money they make for Wall Street destroys their credibility, Stoller said.
"It's a different conceptual framework," Stoller said. "The ability to generate profit as opposed to gaining your source of legitimacy from the public," your credibility becomes your arbiter of quality.
Most bloggers, according to CGG, are unpaid, and perhaps because they self-finance, their credibility increases. She stopped short of couching the volunteerism as public service. But Stoller did that for members of the Fourth Estate.
"If you are not serving the public, you are not doing your job," he said. "A newsroom has to reflect public diversity. "
And that means that newsrooms should reflect diversity of thought and skin color and socioeconomic background. Stoller pointed out clearly that everyone at the forum was of similar race and socioeconomic strata.
The explosion of blogs allows that, and the disenfranchised have grabbed the foothold.
McEnroe invoked Marshall McLuhan's famous tract, the Medium is the Message, saying that talk radio is more conducive to right wing propaganda, whereas the internet is a better platform for liberals.
Stoller repudiated that, noting that since Spiro Agnew, the right has posited the myth that the media is too liberal. With Reagan's media deregulation of the late 1980s, liberal talk show hosts, and many other diverse voices, were removed from radio.
"Individuals create the message," Stoller said. "They are spreading content. It is no longer coming through a received authority. It is part of a larger cultural trend of the internet re-empowering the public, and threatening the elites who run institutions...The public is helping to organize things now. "
The quality of discussion across the political spectrum, where people connect despite deep ideological divides, is the challenge for sites like CTLocalPolitics. Stoller noted how deeply divided America is, and that our national discourse lacks listening among the shouting, and perhaps people need to talk in moderated, dispassionate tones.
CGG added that a site like CTLocalPolitics, which positions itself as non-partisan and welcomes comments from all points of view, would have trouble surviving in a larger state.
Occassionally, a Hegelian moment occurs on CTLocalPolitics when people acknowledge the legitimacy of opposing points of view, McEnroe said.
To me, that discussion among level-headed fact-based people is what the marketplace of ideas is all about. Despite my overall misgivings about the navel gazing that went on at the Forum this morning, the hope remains that we can bridge the divide between left and right and find the best solutions for our country.