Archive for April 11th, 2007

by Jay Stevens

This story on how one of Katie Couric’s “personal comments” was cribbed from a WSJ op-ed really hits home the points made in Gary Kamiya’s Salon piece, “Iraq: Why the media failed.”

Kamiya’s piece is a must-read withering attack on the media passivity that plagues big-corporate traditional media outlets. Basically Kamiya argues that, due to psychological, ideological, and institutional reasons, big media have become an “info nanny,” guardians of the mythical “national center,” who filter out information that might counter a perceived national consensus. (I’ll let you ponder how DC journalists know what people outside the Beltway are actually thinking.) Basically, big media is easily cowed, bullied, and subservient to their cocktail party buddies, the government’s big power brokers.

The key section of Kamiya’s piece that brings me to Couric is this:

The decline of newspapers, the rise of infotainment, and media company owners’ insistence on delivering high returns to their shareholders have diminished resources and led to a bottom-line fixation unconducive to aggressive reporting. There are big bucks to be made in being aggressively adversarial, but most of those bucks are on the right, not the left. The meteoric success of right-wing media outlets like Fox News and ranting demagogues like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter has not encouraged media owners, too shortsighted to see that there are viable alternatives to the kind of bland national nanny-ism manifest on the networks, to pursue real journalism….

Another is the opiating effect of corporate culture: Major media has become increasingly bland and toothless, just like the huge bureaucracies that own it and that are increasingly indistinguishable from each other and from the federal government. It is harder to “monitor the centers of power” when you work for a gigantic corporation that is itself at the bull’s-eye of power.

There are two maybe-not-so-shocking revelations from the Couric plagiarism debacle. First is that Couric’s writers are not talented enough to come up with original content. And no one recognized the text! Apparently these people don’t read the Wall Street Journal — other than to steal from it – a pardonable sin for the majority of Americans, who have jobs and kids to tend, but unforgivable for a national television news team.

The second is that Couric doesn’t write her own personal commentary. That’s right, she either doesn’t have the skill, or can’t be bothered with penning one minute of personal material a day. How far network journalism has fallen since the days of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite!

Let’s be frank. Katie Couric is not a journalist. She’s an entertainer, a gussied-up teleprompt reader. Period. She’s the anchor for one of the nation’s most influential and powerful news outlets, likely representative of the future of network news.

And you wonder why we’re mired in Iraq?

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