W. Joseph Campbell

At HuffPo books

In Cronkite Moment, Debunking, Media myths, Washington Post, Watergate myth on May 22, 2010 at 8:27 am

Check out my guest post at the Huffington Post books page about Getting It Wrong, my forthcoming book about media-driven myths.

I discuss the book, which will be published soon by University of California Press, and address reasons that help explain the tenacity and enduring appeal of media-driven myths.

I write:

“They are, first of all, deliciously good stories–too good, almost, to be disbelieved.

“They also are appealingly reductive, in that they minimize complexity of historical events and offer simplistic and misleading interpretations instead. The Washington Post no more brought down [President Richard] Nixon than Walter Cronkite swayed [President Lyndon] Johnson’s views about the war in Vietnam. Yet those and other media myths endure because they present unambiguous, easy-to-remember explanations for complex historic events.

“Some media-driven myths can be self-flattering, offering up heroes in a profession more accustomed to scorn and criticism than applause.

“More important, though, is that media-driven myths often emerge from an eagerness to find influence and significance in what journalists do. These myths affirm the centrality of the news media in public life and ratify the notion the media are powerful, even decisive actors.

“To identify these tales as media-driven myths is to confront the reality that the news media are not the powerful agents they, and so many others, assume them to be.”

That’s often the case: Because the media are everywhere, it is easy, as Robert J. Samuelson once wrote, to confound their presence with power.

And as the sociologist Herbert J. Gans has observed:

“If news audiences had to respond to all the news to which they are exposed, they would not have time to live their own lives. In fact, people screen out many things, including the news, that could interfere with their own lives.”

WJC

About these ads
  1. [...] Huffington Post online news site, in a thoughtful piece today about the Kaplan Higher Education subsidiary that [...]

  2. [...] latter application was evident the other day in a commentary at Huffington Post that invoked the most famous made-up line of Watergate, “follow the money.” Pope [...]

  3. [...] for the assertion in the HuffPo commentary that “Facebook accelerated the downfall of governments in the Middle East” [...]

  4. [...] I write in Getting It Wrong, “the anecdote lives on despite a nearly complete absence of supporting documentation. It [...]

  5. [...] HuffPo essay was headlined, “Why not give The Onion a Pulitzer?” and offered this dollop of [...]

  6. [...] The phone-hacking scandal is “a debacle that features Murdoch starring in the eerily similar role as the one Dick Nixon played,” declared Eric Boehlert in an essay posted the other day at Huffington Post. [...]

  7. [...] criticism is to assail Murdoch as, in the words of a commentary  posted yesterday at Huffington Post put it, “the latest prime purveyor of so-called ‘yellow [...]

  8. [...] Huffington Post, in (yet another) commentary about the phone-hacking scandal that has battered Rupert [...]

  9. [...] described “follow the money” as the “mantra” of Watergate. And a column posted at Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago also repeated “follow the money” as if it had been vital guidance [...]

  10. [...] commentary yesterday at Huffington Post suggests as much, in extolling — and overstating — the accomplishments of Bob Woodward [...]

  11. [...] the Huffington Post the other day published a commentary that [...]

  12. [...] Huffington Post blog bit on the mythical “Cronkite Moment” yesterday, declaring it “a yardstick [...]

  13. [...] HuffingtonPost was quite right in noting in a review posted Wednesday that the film turns into “something you’d expect to see playing on a loop on the lobby TV screen at Hearst’s headquarters”  in New York. [...]

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,759 other followers

%d bloggers like this: