Friday, April 11, 2008

04:21 – Morning Thoughts

I was up before the alarm this morning. Saga stirred and looked at me as I entered the office to turn on the computer. She lay comfortably snoozing on the couch in the office and only lifted her head by the slightest amount when I walked in. Apparently then having decided that Daddy is a nut, she put her head back onto her paws and resumed her beauty sleep.

The computer started, I moved some of my backups to my laptop and started a bank download. I then headed back to bed to watch the morning news for a while as the download processed. Saga came to join me; snuggled up under my arm, she collected the strokes and petting that she feels (rightly) that she is due.

One of the stories that caught my attention was about the opening of the new Newseum. A story about it was also on NPR when the radio alarm came on. The thing about the story which caught my attention was the critic of the Newseum who could only attack it on the fact that he thought it was a bit self-serving.

What!? The entertainment industry being self-aggrandizing? Say it ain't so!

C'mon. The news hasn't been independent of the corporate owners in years. Anyone who doesn’t believe this, watch a news cast! Is anyone fooled by those "home economics," "lifestyle," and "health" pieces that are nothing but product placement? They are advertising to you right there! In the news!

You want proof? Think back to the last of these stories that you saw… for me, it was a couple days ago. The local station was doing a piece about stretching the family budget and the "Home Economist" was giving some money-saving recipes that could be used to feed a family of five for ten dollars. You can tell that this kind of story is one that has been scripted, inserted, and paid for by an advertiser. The give away is when instead of saying something to the affect of: "top the casserole with crushed tortilla or corn chips" the script has the speaker say something like: "crush some Fritos® brand corn chips and sprinkle them (generously) over the top of the casserole."

But even with the sound off, you can spot it! If you ever watch a cooking show, you'll notice that the chef on the show has always measured out the ingredients into either piles on a plate (or platter or cutting board) on into individual containers like small bowls or ramekins. In one of these insidious deceptions (commercials loosely disguised as news) not only do they name a brand, they also prominently show the packaging… often, the package is there only to be seen as they ingredient in question is already measured-out or (as was true yesterday) the final recipe has already been cooked.

I do not begrudge the right of a company to advertise, or the right of the television company to sell advertising. I do miss the days, though, when journalists had ethics and advertisements (or promotions) in the news were clearly demarcated. Product placement is movies is bad enough but when the shamelessly hawk goods and services at us and attempting to pass it off as news.

Perhaps that is the reason for the Newseum – to remind us of a day when journalists had ethics. I suspect, however, it is just another way for the corporate owners to yet again, dilute what the news is supposed to be and degrade the expectations of the American public.

Wherever you are, I hope that you're having a great day!

Don Bergquist – April 11, 2008 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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