PorNEWSgraphy: It’s airing 24/7 in the Fourth Estate

In 30 years as a career communicator and public relations specialist, I’ve become a media junkie. I track developments in the media, particularly news media or the “Fourth Estate,” in the same way that some people play golf or follow their favorite college sports team. I suspect that many of my fellow “flacks” share a similar passion.

That said, I’ve grown increasingly dismayed in recent years about the ongoing – and accelerating – devolution of journalism in the United States. Trends like infotainment, sensationalism, “advocacy journalism” (an oxymoron, to be sure), and unapologetic political bias in reporting (thank YOU, Fox News, MSNBC and others) have made it difficult in the extreme to rely on national news reporting as a source of objective, accurate information. To be sure, there are still many good journalists out there who are eager to practice their trade in an objective, reliable way. The sad irony of this is that, in too many cases, forces beyond their control won’t let them.

Consider this alternate definition of “pornography” from  “:  the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction <the pornography of violence>” (emphasis added). Applying the same cause-effect paradigm to the way most “reporting” nowadays is geared toward pathos (emotions) rather than logos (rational thinking), isn’t it fair to apply the term “porNEWSgraphyTM?” Given the dreck that spills forth daily from many of the new operations in America today, is the term unreasonable?

Meet the Press - Dana Carvey
NBC’s Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press” discusses political impressions with comedian Dana Carvey. Apparently, it was a REALLY slow news week.

One does not have to look far for examples of pornewsgraphy. As I type this, NBC’s “Meet the Press” has just finished airing an interview with renowned statesman Dana Carvey regarding the impressions he does of George H.W. Bush and others. Yes, that’s Meet the Press – the iconic Sunday morning news program that has provided insights on key issues and access to world leaders since 1947 – acting as a promotional vehicle for “Saturday Night Live.” What’s next? Former presidential advisor David Axelrod juggling to promote his new book? New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand reading a few steamy passages from “50 Shades of Grey” before discussing women in the military? Apple CEO Tim Cook plugging PornHub as part of a discussion on online privacy and data breaches? Somewhere, Tim Russert is banging his journalistic halo against a wall.

In fairness, NBC and MTP are by no means alone in offering such pathetic fare under the guise of “news.” The aggregate total of this problem on a daily basis is stupefying, particularly in terms of its implications. Whether one looks at it from the vantage point of a communications professional, a journalist, or “just” a citizen, the long-term damage caused by the lack of a credible journalism industry is ponderous.

So, sit back and tune in to your favorite news program. Regardless of what network you watch, it’s bound to be “entertaining.”


2 thoughts on “PorNEWSgraphy: It’s airing 24/7 in the Fourth Estate

  1. I agree. To me, the most disturbing thing about the decay (it’s far beyond devolution in my book) of journalism is the pervasiveness of advocacy journalism. It goes WAY beyond MSNBC and FOX. On NPR, “All Things Considered” does NOT consider all things, i.e., all sides/facets of important issues. Most of what are still our most respected sources of news, e.g., NPR, PBS, CNN, BBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. — are now too often cheerleaders for “progressive” causes, policies and fads. They omit, often deliberately, pertinent facts. (The coverage of the recent conflict in Gaza presents hundreds of examples. One might suppose from most of this coverage that the side that was pushed into war by a rain of missiles on its civilian centers was guilty of war crimes for having struck at military targets deliberately and cynically placed behind human shields. And this after having gone far out of its way to warn civilians and urge them to evacuate!) The media has lost its right to be respected, but, tragically, most people — including, frighteningly, most people who try to be well-informed and who think they ARE well-informed — are not getting anything like the whole story. Historical context has always been scarce in the media, but in today’s politically riven society, the situation is worse than ever. Far worse. Thomas Jefferson said that “an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” If he were alive today he would probably have added “and well-informed” to “educated.” I fear for the future of our nation.


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