Everyone in high school is taught about the low water mark in yellow journalism — Remember the Maine.
We are taught that the era of “yellow journalism” died with the rise of editorial standards in the 1930s and 1940s in the wake of FDR and the master propagandists of the Second World War, yet the penchant for 19th century clickbait never truly died — it was merely cloaked.
As the PBS series on Vietnam is reminding folks, the American media had a hand in leveraging casualties and suffering for viewership in a way that could only be termed as pornographic today. The old phrase “if it bleeds, it leads” was coined in 1989 along with “sex sells” purely as a marketing diversion, and both by modern media moguls.
In short, the media simply can’t run away from its DNA.
This isn’t to say that journalism is dead. Journalism is very much alive and thriving in certain quarters and remote quarters. Certainly the Washington Post has its fair share of journalists.
Unfortunately, this particular standard of journalism is mucked by the coterie of reporters and editors looking for “good copy” and a quick story — and it is plaguing the media still.
In recent decades, the Washington Post serves as a favorite bogeyman for conservatives in Virginia thanks to its left-of-center lean and the ability to influence the Northern Virginia media market. Yet, its ability and power to swing the electorate and drive home a narrative has ebbed since its heyday in 2006. At the time, then-U.S. Senator George Allen had to endure a steady and relentless hammering from a WaPo editorial board that smelled blood in the water with an electorate willing to believe in the few shreds of objectivity the mainstream media might have still held.
It bled; it led.
…at least, until the new media came along. Some as bloggers, most as opinion writers trying to get their voices out into the open. Journalists continued to perfect their craft; rank reporters simply mimicked the bloggers.
The difference between the two camps of media was never tone, but the medium in which they chose to disseminate their ideas. Just as journalists and opinion writers continued to craft the virtues of their profession, so too did reporters and bloggers craft the viciousness of the modern “drive by” media.
The end result hasn’t been a net positive for those seeking dialogue in the public square. Over the last decade, the internet has not only democratized media — to some degree it has democratized truth, or at the very least, democratized the facts we as observers and citizens consume.
Of course, truth can never be democratized. There is no such thing as “two sides” to a story — there is the truth, and then there are mere approximations of the truth.
So when the veneer and form of objectivity is used to aid and abet a perspective, that’s a problem. When polls are generated to drive home a narrative, that’s a problem. When monologue media is used as propaganda, that’s a problem — and to introduce a counter-narrative to the propaganda of the left is always blasted as “fake news” or worse, simply fobbed of with the response of tell someone who cares.
Truth is, the Washington Post is getting a real-time lesson in the pitfalls of a monologue. No one on earth believes that embattled Democratic candidate Ralph Northam is up by 13 points. Every political observer and insider says that Gillespie is within the margin of error (and not on the outside edge of that margin). Northam continues to sell a game change; the WaPo continues to lap it up. One really has to ask — why?
Perhaps the reason why is simple enough — yellow journalism hasn’t died; merely morphed into more respectable forms.
In the meantime, President Trump’s approval ratings after Puerto Rico and the NFL “kneelers” shows him with yet another bump — this time to 43%.
For Northam to win, he needs Trump to be closer to 30%, which is why folks have seen Northam soften his “narcissistic maniac” tone against Trump towards a more conciliatory “I will work with him” approach — one that soothes independents but horrifies the hard left.
At this rate, the Washington Post has thrown just about everything it can towards Gillespie, trading reputation for leverage. Will it work? Surveys say no…
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