Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kingmakers No More

About two weeks ago, a white couple is driving in Norfolk, Virginia when they are attacked by at least several dozen African-Americans.  The woman calls 911, but the lines are busy.  She tries again.  Still busy.  All the while, the attack continues.  On the third call, she finally connects.  The responding officer treats it as a simple assault and can barely muster enough effort to take the cap off the pen.  No witness interviews, no follow-up.

That's bad enough, but what troubles me more than anything else, involves another set of facts.  The man and woman were attacked four blocks from the offices of the local newspaper, the Virginian Pilot.  The man and woman were employees of the newspaper.  The newspaper reported nothing about this story (and still has not reported anything).  The only reason we know about this is because Michelle Washington wrote an opinion piece (link below).  Not a news article, but an opinion piece.  It must not have fit the narrative.

Back when I was in college (in the early 90's), I took a class, the subject of which has left my memory a long time ago.  There was one lesson, however, that stayed with me.  It was a lecture on what the professor called "Kingmakers."

The Kingmakers, according to the professor, were the news media editors and governing boards.  With limited space on paper and limited time on the screen, these kingmakers made decisions as to what stories would be covered and what would be ignored.  Because both time and space are limited resources, every day, important and critical news stories would fall to the editor's knife.  Sometimes, popular reaction would dictate coverage, but more often than not, it was easier to run a negative story attacking something they found disagreeable.  After all, they didn't have time to cover it all, so it was perfectly legitimate to make editorial choices.

Even letters to the editor were edited for "clarity and available space" or maybe just not printed altogether.  Again, they didn't have a lot of space, so they had to work with what they had.  Of course, if anyone wrote to complain about that, their letters may be lost or edited as well.  No one would know.

Nowadays, the Kingmakers are still there.  They still sit around a conference table discussing what stories will be covered.  They stand firmly at the gate of our attention, trying to decide what gets in and what stays out.  But now, there is a problem.  The gate is still tall and strong, ably protected by the Kingmakers.  The fence, however, is gone.  While the Kingmakers try to control the dialog, social media has taken over.  And social media does not respect the gate or the Kingmakers' "authoritah."  It jumps the fence.

From the stunning fall of of Dan Rather when CBS was caught with its pants down in Rathergate, to more modern examples of social media forcing the narrative on new stories, the Kingmakers no longer control all we hear and can no longer dictate what we believe.

If you trust any media, whether mainstream or social, without researching the issue or story yourself, you deserve what you get.  More importantly, if you make political decisions based on news stories or advertisements, you merely confirm you are the fool the press thinks you are.

Story:  A Beating at Church and Brambleton

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