Joy Reid, an MSNBC Host, was exactly right when she dubbed the extensive and continuing news coverage of the disappearance of Gabby Petito a case of “missing white woman syndrome” and questioned if people of color involved in similar cases are given the same level of attention by the media. She correctly observed that when a white woman went missing, that missing person report received massive media attention. Women of color, crickets.
Ms. Reid missed the opportunity to report on the equally obvious and far more fatal “dead black man syndrome” where the 1% of black male deaths caused by cops are major and lasting media events, and the other 99% go unnoticed and unmourned.
That is the subject of today’s 10 minute episode.
Most so-called news sources are focused on pandering to their target audience; “details” like real news and the truth are not merely lower priorities–they are seldom considered at all. If you want the truth, and who doesn’t, there is no one source any more. You must go to several disparate sources, ignoring various amounts of anger and bias, and distill the truth on your own.
Joy Reid followed the example of researchers who came up with the name “missing white woman syndrome.” Michelle Jeanis, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, says it has been in existence for decades. Ms Jeanis studies the relationship between missing persons and the media. She contends the news media’s use of a “cautionary tale framing” around white women as victims is lucrative to the industry and reinforces systemic social biases, especially on social media. “Young, beautiful, typically middle class, white women are incredibly newsworthy when bad things happen to them,” she told the BBC.
The media have the right to focus on any stories they wish. Publications like People and Star Magazines and the National Enquirer have very different selection criteria than, say, the Wall Street Journal. From the Enquirer you will get headlines like, “Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby,” and from the WSJ, “China Declares Cryptocurrency Transactions Illegal; Bitcoin Price Falls.”
I have no problem with the National Enquirer publishing stories about Ms. Cinton adopting an alien baby. No one with a room temperature IQ takes that publication seriously. And People magazine is clearly all about so-called celebrities and gossip. But Fox News, CNN, The LA Times and many more hold themselves out to be hard news sources, when in fact they curate their content and editorials to play to their selected audience. In other words, they are frauds. These three and more are versions of Star Magazine masquerading as hard news sources.
It was not always this way; for example,Walter Cronkitewas an American broadcast journalist who served as anchorman for theCBS Evening Newsfor 19 years (1962–1981). During the 1960s and 1970s, he was often cited as “the most trusted man in America” after being so named in an opinion poll. Many people preferred to get their news from CBS because they liked Walter, but you could go to NBC or ABC, CBS’ rivals, and get the same information. Only the personalities were different.
Mr. Cronkite was a liberal, but more importantly to him, he was a professional. He had many wonderful qualities including sincerity, calmness and a professional demeanor and delivery. Perhaps the greatest compliment that I can give Cronkite is that I had no idea what his political leanings were until after his death in 2009; he simply never turned that card over, either explicitly or implicitly. No one can say that about a single news source today. Not. One.
Most of us know the story of the six blind men working to determine what was in front of them, then announce to the world what it was. Working with a different part of the elephant, each man came up with different conclusions. And each man was positive that he was correct–and that the other five were wrong. All six were wrong. The blind investigators were wrong because they could not see and were too egotistical to listen to the others. Today those in the media “investigating” news elephants can see the entire animal, and deliberately choose to report on only one part, deliberately claiming it to be the whole animal. They carefully focus on certain events and slants on events, deliberately claiming it to be the whole truth.
That is what we are doing today with our focus on only a single type source of fact and logic. “But, Will, that is not me!” If the vast majority of your sources of news and opinion agree with each other, with the same “facts”, assessments, likes and dislikes, it is you. And you are as wrong as any one of the blind men. Dangerously wrong.
If we listen to only one of the news elephant investigators about what they found, we would be as wrong as they are. In the same way, if we listen to only one, or one type of, news, political or financial investigators and reporters, we will be as wrong as any of the blind men.
Here are the news and opinion sources that I consult on a weekly basis, often all of them daily:
It used to be that you could trust the news pages; only the editorials and opinion sections were free to show bias. Journalism once had rules; it had integrity. Integrity has been replaced by agendas–agendas driven by a “whatever it takes to sell the agenda” mentality. Now the only thing you can trust is the rare instance where several disparate sources say the same thing. Each source type is going to declare whatever elephant may be in front of us to be a fan, a wall, a rope, a tree, a snake or a spear. And going one up on the blind men, once news sources have made their initial declaration, no matter what new evidence might be discovered, they will stick with their original declaration, doubling down as needed. Once they decide to declare the elephant to be a tree, it will always be a tree. Once a source has decided that Trump is an embarrassing evil, he will always be an embarrassing evil. In the same way, if a source has declared Trump to be the Second Coming, the savior of Western Civilization, nothing will change their opinion.
Today’ Key Point: We must all go to multiple and disparate, disagreeing, news sources–even the ones we can’t stand–on a regular basis. Listen and absorb. Distill. Pull things together for ourselves. Walter Kronkite is dead. We live. And we must find the truth on our own. Then act on it.
We all have the personal responsibility to look for and find the truth, ignoring labels and other excuses to create disunity at all points along the way. Speaking of personal responsibility, this principle does not stand alone; the two main and interdependent principles at Revolution 2.0 are:
1.Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
2. Be YourBrother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.
Where do you stand? What are you going to do? Remember, it does not matter where you stand if you don’t do anything. You can start by subscribing to these episodes, and encouraging others to subscribe with you.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:1.
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me onTwitter, @willluden,Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, andLinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device throughApple Podcasts,Google Podcasts,Spotifyand wherever you listen to podcasts.
This is Will Luden. We’ll talk again in a few days.