Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Media Thumbsucker Watch

Today's quiz: What is the issue that gets media research outfits up in arms?

A. Media bias
B. Media inaccuracy
C. Journalists at the UN accepting payoffs
D. Overuse of anonymous sources
E. The gender of people quoted in stories

If you chose "E" you are, of course, correct. None of the first four issues that I cited is of any major interest to media watchdog groups. Sure, they occasionally will touch on those subjects, but usually to just defend the media from such accusations, or to take such a mushy position that nobody notices.

But if you're the Project for Excellence in Journalism, what really rings your chimes is the gender of people quoted in news stories. Are there enough women quoted in articles? Well, you'll be horrified to know that there aren't, according to the "Excellence" people, quoted in Editor & Publisher:

Cable news and the PBS NewsHour ranked lowest in terms of percentage of stories with at least one female source, at 19% and 17% respectively. Network TV came in at 27%, morning shows at 34%, news Web sites at 36%, and print newspapers at 41%.

In other words, what matters is not whether the sources are appropriate to the story or what they say. It is OK for a newspaper, for example, to quote a spokesman for a terrorist group justifying a suicide bombing--so long as that spokesman is a spokeswoman.

If you ever wondered why journalism is as abysmal as it so often is, one of the reasons is that the watchdogs are either wrapped up in trivia--such as writing puff pieces about each other--or focusing on this kind of PC pap.

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