Posted by: Katie Hamachek | October 24, 2011

Intersection of Social Critiques: McChesney and Reiman

One of the tenants of professional journalism was the incorporation of owner class biases accomplished by the “dig here, not there” unofficial policy.  McChesney posits this promotes focus upon and coverage of areas that distract from the owners’ interests. This claim brought to mind another work of scathing systematic critique by Jeffery Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison (2010).

Reiman and McChesney’s theses intersect upon the issue of framing and sensationalism of news to dissuade from the immoral activities of the elites.  Reiman calls this distortion of crime reporting the “Carnival Mirror effect,” asserting that the image of a criminal is purposefully represented in a way that does not accurately reflect the majority of crimes or greatest harm done.    To sum up Reiman, the image of a criminal is portrayed as a poor, black male committing a crime of personal harm (such as robbery, mugging, something that directly infringes upon personal safety or property).  In reality, the crimes of the elite, white collar crimes such as ponzi schemes, do much greater monetary damage each year and arguably cause more lasting harm (losing life savings vs. a watch).

Reiman’s argument supports McChesney’s claim that the owner bias shapes the news to protect their interests.  By putting an identifiable face on crime (the poor black male) and sensationalizing the personal petty crimes, the owning class can frame the issue in a way that almost completely ignores their own indiscretions.  While I see the merit in both these arguments, I am distracted by what a conspiracy theme by both authors.  Are they a little crazy, or am I defensive of they system that raised me at the cost of seeing the truth?


Discussion Q’s:

1. Why are we so willing to trust the “experts” without questioning their data?  What would happen if we didn’t trust them?

2.  Apply McChesney’s statement “the bogus neutrality of professional journalism is evident in the manner in which it tends to cover anti-capitalist social movements” to Occupy Wall Street (94).

3.  How can we ensure journalists cover stories other than what the experts are talking about and cover dissenting opinions?


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