Monday, April 9, 2012

NBC and the "tipping point"

Jay Ambrose has a fine essay on NBC's incitement to racial hate by altering the 911 recording in the Zimmerman-Martin tragedy, and on the implications of such media dishonesty and venality.


Sadly, very, very sadly, this NBC incident is one of many possible examples of an outlandish, rules-be-damned rush to judgment in which reporters and commentators are playing the roles of crazed prosecutor, judge and jury not about to wait for evidence. 
According to a news report on findings by the PEW Research Center, news outlets have been paying more attention to this story than any other. For a stretch, the MSNBC cable network spent half its time on it, and one of MSNBC's hosts, longtime racial agitator Al Sharpton, has been leading protests. ABC embarrassed itself somewhat less than NBC when it claimed that a video of Zimmerman showed no signs he had been attacked by Martin. The issue matters because the reason police did not arrest Zimmerman was their believe he was defending himself. ABC was wrong about the video. It checked with forensic experts and changed its story. 
Some of the bad journalism has been slightly more subtle, such as the frequent juxtaposition of a photo of an unshaven Zimmerman in a jail uniform next to a photo of Martin as an angelic looking kid. But there has also been journalism of the kind that produced an eyewitness who says he saw 6-foot-2 Martin on top of Zimmerman and that revealed how Martin had been expelled from school three times and was once found in possession of jewelry that was not his. Zimmerman, we have learned, is himself a minority -- his mother is Hispanic -- and has white as well as black family members. Black friends have spoken up for him and he has mentored a black child, although he also has some rough spots in his past. 
What happened is a terrible tragedy, and it is understandable that many would react emotionally. But many have also seen journalistic unfairness in all of this. Jack Pitney, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, recently told the Christian Science Monitor that the story "undermines public confidence in mainstream news media, which is already pretty low." He noted PEW already says 77 percent of Americans think the press is generally unfair. 
News is in a stage of dramatic transition. Newspapers and broadcast networks are in decline as new media -- cable TV, blogs and more -- are making themselves felt in ways both scary and encouraging. No one knows where it will end. This much we can bet on: If mature media forsake reasonable standards, it will end badly. 
The tipping point cometh.

As I noted, I don't believe that NBC's incitement to racial violence was an "error".  I believe it was fully intentional at many high levels in the network, in emulation of a very lucrative formula of race-bating employed by Al Sharpton (a new NBC employee), Louis Farakhan, Jessie Jackson, etc.

It's hard to think of a more egregious violation of journalistic ethics or of simple decency than to flame race hatred for profit. The fact that NBC did it so blatantly-- certainly knowing that it would be caught-- implies that the network understood the risk of openly revealing its hand to be much less costly than the profits to be expected from stirring the hatred and violence the network was supposed to be merely documenting.

NBC News profitability depends on viewership, and it is in a war for ratings.

So why just report the news, when you can make it? 


  1. But, of course, Fox News would never alter photos or lie about anything, right?

    You transparent partisan hack.

  2. How do you feel about what NBC did?