Old Media vs. New Media

(Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds)

A rather interesting comment was posted in response to a minor point I made about the new media vs. the old media in a post I wrote entitled The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing. I thought the comment raised some interesting questions that deserved to be answered in a post of its own as opposed to a response to the response on the original post.

My original point had to do with the MSM’s (the old media’s) incomplete, sloppy, and biased coverage of the so-called Duke Rape Case and how bloggers and talk radio (the new media) managed to turn the tide against the narrative the MSM was trying to establish. The MSM basically convicted the lacrosse players before they had their day in court. When it comes to accusations of rape or sexual assault, all too often the MSM automatically presumes that women never lie about these sorts of things, therefore; the men who are accused of the act are guilty. Very few in the MSM were even open to the possibility that Crystal Magnum (the stripper who accused the lacrosse players) was lying; few wanted to hear the other side of the story or even ask some very basic questions.

The following is the statement I made in the original post:

Thanks in-part to talk radio, bloggers, and others in the alternative media asking questions the MSM failed to ask, everything seems to be swinging in the defendants’ favor.

William L. Anderson of LewRockwell.com made a much stronger case for the way the new media exposed the unethical and quite possibly criminal behavior of the District Attorney Michael Nifong. Anderson’s main point is that had it not been for the new alternative media, the other side of the story might not have come to light and Nifong could have gotten away with his framing of the young men in question.

This time, the new media got it right but was this good investigative reporting or just luck? The person who commented on my post who identifies herself as VRB believes it to be the latter:

I found the bloggers to be just as bad as MSN [the MSM?], they just happened to wind up on the right side. They did all their best to vilify the alleged victim before all the facts were in. They looked for every snippet of so called evidence to prove their point. Most seem to be saying if you are a whore you can’t possibly be raped and rapist aren’t smart enough to drug or use a condom. Of course all their arguments were so high minded how dare anyone questioned their motives. I think that bloggers are beginning to think the power they have, gives them truth. They just got lucky, so I wouldn’t pat them on the back. Bloggers are not any more pure than the rest of society.

I am sure that there were bloggers out there who instinctively went the other direction without considering any evidence but there were others who were fair-minded and only wanted to get to the truth. I hadn’t weighed in on the issue up to now but when the story first broke, I was concerned that the MSM wasn’t telling the entire story. I cannot speak for others but I would never be one to say that it would have been impossible for the lacrosse players to have raped Crystal Magnum because she was a ‘whore’. I wasn’t there, nor was anyone who commented on the case other than Magnum, the other stripper, and those who were at the party. All any of us can do is ask questions and draw our own conclusions.

When those in the new media started asking the questions, we discovered problems with Magnum’s story (such as the timeline), statements from witnesses (the other stripper, Magnum’s cab driver, etc.), a lack of DNA and other forensic evidence to implicate the accused players (some of which was withheld by Nifong), a report that Magnum had made false rape charges in the past, and other reports that cast doubt on Magnum’s version of events. In the end, all Nifong had to go on was Magnum’s ever-changing statements.

As to the motives, veracity, and ‘high mindedness’ of bloggers in the new media I just have to say they come in all shapes and sizes and are by no means ‘any more pure than the rest of society.’ Some are not at all concerned about accuracy and shoot from the hip while others do their homework and rival the veracity of MSM reports. Bloggers come from a much more diverse array of backgrounds, opinions, and motivations. It’s quite proper to question the motives of anyone who presents information (whether in the old media or new media) and VRB is correct in saying that power does not in any way equal truth.

Having said that, those in the new media who did ask the questions and uncovered facts about the case where much of the MSM failed do deserve a ‘pat on the back’. To avoid embarrassment, the MSM had to start asking the questions that ordinary people with laptops were already asking. If not for the new media, who knows what would have happened in this case?

The only reason the new media is gaining influence is because the old media is no longer adequate. The old media has one agenda and is driven by that agenda. The old media is much easier to censor and control than the new media; this is why some powerful people want to bring the new media down with legal restrictions such as McCain-Feingold and the so-called fairness doctrine.

One of the things that drew me to blogging was when bloggers exposed the forged documents in Dan Rather’s story on George W. Bush’s National Guard service. At the time I didn’t even know what blogging was. I was already skeptical of much of how the MSM reported the news as if everything they reported was stone cold fact. But when this fraud was exposed, I became even more skeptical. There is usually more than one side of the story but all too often, the MSM only presents the side they like. Now the new media has filled some of the void.

There is one problem no one seems to address when it comes to media of all kinds: the media consumer. Yes, you and I are the main problem. Far too often, we do not think critically about the news and receive it passively.

As consumers of the news, we should ask the same questions journalists are supposed to ask: who, what, when, where, how, and why. These are very simple questions that are rarely explored. For example: Why does the minimum wage need to be raised? Who says it should be raised, politicians or economists? What are the positive and negative consequences of raising the minimum wage? When should it be raised? How should it be raised? How will it affect the economy?

Apply these questions to any problem or issue and you will find that these questions are often not answered in the news story. Always be prepared to question the answers.

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  • http://unrepentantindividual.com/ Brad Warbiany

    Stephen,

    I know you’re a fan of Larry Elder… One of the things he always said is that you should definitely be an “active” consumer of news. And as Neal Boortz says, don’t believe anything he says unless you already know it to be true or you verify it elsewhere.

    Too many people see the news and think that if a journalist said it, it must be true. A journalist is one data point, you need to look at the others and make up your own mind. But of course, you said as much in your post…

  • rezam

    “They did all their best to vilify the alleged victim before all the facts were in. They looked for every snippet of so called evidence to prove their point. Most seem to be saying if you are a whore you can’t possibly be raped and rapist aren’t smart enough to drug or use a condom”

    Doubtless there were some bloggers that did this. However, the primary bloggers involved in this case did not. I refer to KC Johnston ( an english professor), and W. Anderson ( a journalist with Lew Rockwell). Others were highly educated as well, a man trained as a lawyer, and in fact one of the Duke professors too. There were only six blogs that carried most of the weight.

    With all respect to VRB, the focus on the question of the accuser’s profession was NOT primarily a moral judgement. The prosecutor’s evidence of the case stemmed from the allegation she made together with her identifications of the attackers, the SANE report issued after the rape kit at Duke Medical, the anticipated DNA evidence, and a peripherally corroborating statement from a neighbour Jason Bissey.

    Without reviewing the merits of all of the evidence, VRBs suggestion involved only one of these elements. The press was awash with prosecutor’s statements that the SANE report indicated significant trauma, bruising, scrapes and cuts. The accuser’s father issued a statement to the press that his daughter was beaten.

    The actual SANE report in fact indicated a partly healed cut on the accuser’s heel, a mile bruising of vaginal tissue. Such brusing according to experts in this field indicate that such a report is not particularly supportive of rape, but in fact is always present after intercourse.

    The question to be decided given this piece of evidence is corroboration of the accuser’s statement given to police that she had NOT had sex within the past week. If this was NOT true, meaning that she had had intercourse recently, then the SANE report fails to support a finding of rape. Certainly the allegation of mutiple vaginal, oral and anal penetration is not indicated by the SANE report in any way.

    In fact, the DNA evidence Y strand evidence demonstrating the presence of DNA from five different males, none of which were lacrosse players, the SBI lab DNA finding of her boyfriend’s sperm/semen DNA in vaginal swabs, and the written affidavit by her driver that night attesting to her “engagements” earlier that evening with another couple in a hotel, plus intercourse with him, as well as apparently several other engagements ALL indicate considerable sources of slight vaginal swelling.

    The focus on her profession was NOT an argument that all hookers lie about rape, but rather that the evidence the prosecution was arguing, in the media, was neither compelling, nor in fact meaningful.

    It also of course, created enormous credibility problems for the accuser and prosecution.

    While some bloggers might well be vile, what VRB sees as bloggers hastening to denigrate the accuser is evidence based, possibly combined with the anger over this prosecution.

    Lastly, it is the job of anyone interested in truth to be scrupulous to detail – be it in medical science, accounting, academia, or legal investigations.

    How many men of colour have been indicted, prosecuted, and convicted for the failure to treat small details with care and diligence?

  • Bunjo

    I’ve been watching the Duke case with some interest, even though I live in the UK. The media style seems to be similar to that over this side of the Atlantic – the main stream media (newspapers and TV) have changed over the last 30 years or so to concentrate more on ‘feelings’ and ‘emotions’ rather than ‘facts’. This is possibly because most consumers are looking for entertainment and confirmation of their worldview, rather than anything which might upset the myths we live by.

    While I would not wish to come across as a mens rights activist, and would certainly support gender equality, I would like to suggest that there are far more women in MSM nowadays and this has resulted in the shift to more ‘relationship’ based reporting. There are excellent women writers/directors etc, and there are some with an unpleasant axe to grind. A larger proportion of the bloggers appear to be men (with some noteworthy exceptions), and appear to be more concerned with factual reporting. There are excellent men bloggers etc, and there are some with an unpleasant axe to grind too.

    In the end we can only affect the quality of the media we consume by choosing what we read and what we pay for. You want tales of celebrity and individual anguish – stick with the MSM. Interested in truth and thoughtful analysis – support the better newspapers (if any still exist) and the better blogs.

  • Seahawk

    Do a word search for adjectives used to describe the three lacrosse defendants in the MSM stories and you’ll find such terms as “swaggering”,”hubris”,”privileged”,”arrogant”,”spoiled”,
    “racist”, “boorish”, “hooligans”, and so on.

    Compare these with the adjectives used to describe Genarlow Wilson, a defendant in another case in which an athlete was accused of rape :
    “Attractive”, “popular and outgoing”,”extroverted and upbeat”,”bright future” “honor-roll student”.

    Now, I happen to believe that Wilson’s sentencing was a travesity and that he also is the victim of an out-of-control DA; but all of the adjectives used to describe him could have been used by the MSM for the LAX players; and you can see how the MSM can use their stories to slant perceptions one way or the other.

    As well, the accuser in the Duke case has been treated with kid gloves. She was “a navy veteran”, “mother of two”, “honor student”; and her job description remained “exotic dancer” long after it was clear that this was an inaccurate
    title. Her family likewise has never been subjected to scrutiny; whereas the families of the LAX players have been ridiculed and described in terms similar to those used for their sons.

    Malcom X said, ““The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

    And he was right.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    One of the comments made went into much detail about the case and spoke of the bloggers who did also.I made my remarks based on the some of the blogs I came accross, I did not go searching for any of the story. I usually do not, because I think some facts should be determined by the investigation and/or trial. I always consider myself a potential juror and try to stay away from the sensationalism and excessive details. I do fail and get sucked into the entertainment value of some cases.
    I think it is a duty for the media to report how a criminal case is being investigated, but I don’t think it is the media’s responsibility to investigate the criminal case. The media isn’t the balance for the justice system.

  • bo

    To VRB,
    Your suggestion that it is not the media’s responsibility to investigate criminal cases leads right into Mr. Littaus’ talking points. Had the non msm not reported factually and allow the msm to report only what Nifong dictated to them, those boys would have been hung out to dry. I wouldn’t want my son or daughter going to jail based on hearsay or innuendo from someone with an agenda. Thus the term,investigative reporting. Honest and non biased.
    Do we have that with the msm? Not even close.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2006/11/22/comrades-i-hereby-declare-the-revolution/ Adam Selene

    I think it is absolutely the responsibility of a free press to investigate criminal cases. The press (which means much more than the narrow definition that the media would have it mean) is the last defense we have against the power of government before we are forced to resort to violent means of self-defense. When the press decides not to look into what agents of the government are doing with criminal prosecutions, we are truly in deep trouble.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    I’m very impressed with the quality of these comments! Great discussion, keep them coming!

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    All criminal cases. What is the purpose of having a defense lawyer? Just let the media solve the crime. No need of the police or forensics. What happens when the media gets it wrong, a retraction on page 58 or a short post with one link. Was the investigation of the Duke case reactionary to MSM or what those on campus believed that couldn’t happen. I can’t say any of those motives were about a free press, it was more about skewing perception in the justice system. They didn’t trust that someone within the system would have questioned the evidence. This was not the case of the last defense against government. This is paranoia.

    This is personal statement. There have been men that have been wrongly identified by a rape victim. It was not done intentionally, but because of the trauma the victim experienced. It was never accepted that in this case, inconsistent statements could be attributed to trauma. That would never have been the “tip off” to me.
    If there is a person that after a sexual assault say they were calm and rational, I say they are in denial.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2006/11/22/comrades-i-hereby-declare-the-revolution/ Adam Selene

    VRB, if citizens, including those we refer to as the press, do not investigate how our government agents are trying criminal cases, then we have allowed those agents to behave as they please without oversight.

    I didn’t say “let the media solve the crime” or that there was no need for attorneys, police, forensics, juries, etc. That was your take on it. I’m saying that a free press is a very necessary counter-balance to the power we grant government. So important that we enshrine it in the first amendment of our Constitution.

  • Aimee

    VRB,
    “There have been men that have been wrongly identified by a rape victim. It was not done intentionally,…”

    In the Duke case, she didn’t wrongly identify these guys, she flat out falsely accused and villianized these men. She saw a way to make some money and nothing else. Just like the accuser in the Kobe Bryant case, and many others. Women like her make it hard for women that do get raped to come forward because they fear their story will not be believed. Crystal Magnum should have to pay a hefty fine and possibly some jail time for screwing up their lives.

    Thank goodness the new media isn’t afraid of asking the right questions!

  • http://www.MarOmega.com Mar Omega

    I actually work on the production end of the MSM, but that won’t keep me from weighing in.

    I think we need to break this down to VRB in the the simplest terms possible. It is the media’s duty to KEEP THE LEGAL SYSTEM ON THEIR TOES! It’s all about checks and balances here. The media helps expose unjust accusations.

    If a wrong judgment is made, and the media stirs up enough controversy, then an appeal would be the sensible outcome. The government needs to know that they are being scrutinized and that badges of power will not shield them from ridicule when they do not fulfill their obligations to society correctly.

    And getting back to the original debate stirred up by VRB, The New Media is doing a better job of factual investigative reporting than the MSM.

    Because of the “feeling-based” and “rating-based” reporting of the Main Stream, I’m almost embarrassed to be part of that. But I am just a camera operator and it is a paycheck. Most of us on the production end do not agree with everything the writers and producers put together.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    That’s a very good point Mar. I didn’t even touch on the ratings aspect of the MSM but that does play a role. I did touch on how the MSM has a preconcieved narritive it wants to put forth but I failed to state the reason: ratings.

    Media outlets want to put out compelling stories for the news consumer. The sexier the story the better for the ratings. I can’t fault these organizations for wanting to be competitive and seeking the best ratings but I do fault them for the bias and lies. I also fault them for claiming that they do not have an agenda when they clearly do. If they were at least honest about these biases or would show all sides of the story then I wouldn’t have much to complain about the MSM.