Starting over in a Post-Journalism World, Part Twenty-Eight.

When an industry or institution is incapable of admitting they have faults and flaws, you know the industry has been hijacked and corrupted by both narcissists and conmen who create a façade of perfection so no one would go snooping into their affairs.

They may pretend to criticize, but the verbal slight of hand always gives some sort of false Mary Sue excuse.

Such as The Hill’s recent spew from Jack Lule:

Hate the news? Blame TV

The entire column hinges on a single book by Neil Postman whose very flawed 1985 work Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business is, as usual, a backhanded indictment of a president the American press did not want to see elected. So how to justify it?.

The article offers this piece of sophistry:

With the advent of the telegraph and photography, in Postman’s telling, print is overtaken by new, electronic media with a different bias. Information is valued for its novelty and speed, not its usefulness. Beliefs are derived from images, not serious inquiry and discourse. Seeing, not reading, becomes the basis for believing.

That is assuming that print and radio before it offered serious inquiry and discourse, which it never actually did. The reading level for newspapers were for decades at a grade school level; so we can discount television for doing something different in terms of content. It has always been thirty miles wide, but one inch deep.

The piece rambles on, deferring to Postman without question, but it is this passage that I find the most telling:

“There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly — for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening — that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, ‘Now . . . this.’”

I wrote news stories for television news, and I know this is written by someone who never had any actual experience as a journalist.

The amount of scrubbing and sanitizing journalists do is absolutely shocking. I made those shot lists by watching the feeds at three o’clock in the morning, and those images were vile, brutal, and very, very graphic.

What made the news was not anywhere near the level of depravity. It is sanitized to an extreme, and I ought to know as I saw the footage daily: I saw religious ceremonies where worshippers stomped over the dead bodies of fellow worshipers who fell down — and far from being peaceful and helping their fellow believer, just stampeded over them. I saw governments forcibly removed homeless people out of their shelters with chilling violence. I saw corpses of young women who were raped, tortured, murdered, and left in shallow graves where even the skull betrayed the horror of the last few second of life. All those images burned into my mind and are vivid.

And this fact completely undermines Postman’s hypothesis.

If every facet of life is sugarcoated by television because the reality is far worse, then television is not actually providing any sort of spectacle. They are downplaying reality, not making it sound worse, but better than it really is.

So Postman didn’t know what he was talking about. He made uneducated guesses and completely missed the mark, as scholars are notorious to do as they dance around a topic, and never delve into the heart by walking in it themselves.

The ramblefest ends with a contrived observation:

Did decades of television news bring us to our current, degraded public discourse? Did television news take the world apart so that we cannot piece it together again?

We have generations of Americans who have accepted the lesson that news does not matter and, bitterly, it was a lesson taught by news itself. 

No, bad journalism did that. Journalism that never showcased reality. Journalism that was never empirical. Journalism that never operationalized its most basic terms, and hence could never get a pulse on anything.

And as a professor, Lule should already know this, but doesn’t.

So we have professors, journalists, and hybrids who don’t actually have a basic comprehension of their own profession. They are as oblivious now as they were since day one. The lack of self-awareness is a real cause for concern, and explains why journalism became a dysfunctional and dishonest mess.

The alternative can never be so sloppy or have a laissez-faire attitude toward the very stuff of its core. You have to see reality for what it is — not some spin to serve your selfish purposes, but reality.

Journalism never saw its own reality, and it is the reason it never saw its own collapse coming. It is always someone else’s fault because journalists are blameless and faultless.

Not a chance.

It is about vigilance. A profession without original thought and vigilance will always be dependent on tricks, stunts, and scripts to fake it.

And once fakery corrupts the industry, its product becomes divorced from reality, and can never truly connect to anyone.

There is nothing inherent about television to make it vulnerable to those games. There is nothing inherent about print, radio, or the Internet, either.

The only fault is the news producers.

No one else…