Ailes and the Fox Profit Machine

June 14, 2011 1 comment

Great article from Rolling Stone magazine on Roger Ailes, head of Fox News.  Fox News is a huge aspect of News Corp’s business, with profit margins over 50%.  Nearly 20% of News Corp’s total profits come from Fox, leaving Murdoch, a prudent businessman and a conservative, with little choice but to allow Ailes to continue running the network as he does.  Really goes to show how the profit motive can skew incentives for journalists and undermine the integrity of the media.  I think it’s an interesting question in general; to what extent should the media, as an industry, have free reign when that freedom is deleterious to the public discourse?  I realize that we have freedom of the press, but did the Founding Fathers really anticipate a huge network like Fox that can monopolize debate and penetrate the public conscience so pervasively?  Not that I’m advocating massive checks on journalistic freedom; it’s just interesting to think about.  I’ll write more later after I go for a run.

 

-Evan Goldstein ’12

Weiner’s Weiner and the Excess of the Media

June 13, 2011 3 comments

The Anthony Weiner scandal characterizes everything that’s wrong with the media in America.  I’m not defending Weiner’s actions; obviously, a married man (or any man, for that matter) should not be engaging in that sort of behavior, nor should he have lied about it for a week before holding a tearful press conference confessing his deceit.  And yet, the media has, as is typical in America, blown the story out of proportion and laid the foundation for the scandal to play a larger role in public affairs than it ought to.  This not only contravenes the spirit of the media, it also jeopardizes the already-tenuous ability of our legislators and policy-makers to govern based on their moral convictions, rather than based on contrived populist rage.

The media certainly has a role to play in our society; it can serve as a check on governmental authority by holding the government to a high standard of transparency and accountability.  This, in a democratic republic such as ours, is essential, as it facilitates a level of information for voters that allows them to truly understand how their vote can impact their individual policy interests, thereby enhancing the efficacy of representative government.  The media can also, however, be incredibly destructive.  Andrew Breitbart, who broke the Weiner story via blog, is a perfect example of this.  Breitbart is a staunch, dogmatic conservative whose seeks, through his vast conglomerate of blogs, to bring down all aspects of the left (he even runs a website called BigHollywood).  He previously made headlines for releasing a video of USDA employee Shirley Sherrod that had been edited substantially to make it appear that Sherrod was making racist remarks again white farmers (in fact, she was telling an NAACP group how she overcome her own racism).  Breitbart not only broke the Weiner story, he also crashed Weiner’s press conference on June 6th, and has, over the past week, continued to magnify the story on talk shows and his blogs.

Breitbart’s actions do not, in any way, contribute to the democratic discourse that the media is supposed to engender.  Anthony Weiner’s actions are indefensible, but they do not affect his ability to govern (and he is, at least in the opinion of most liberals, a very effective legislator), in the same way that Bill Clinton’s sex scandal did not make him less effective as President.  I am a strong believer that our politicians should not be judged for their activity outside the public eye; rather, they should be evaluated only on the basis of those criteria that are relevant to their potential legislative efficacy.

Of course, are there those who will distrust Weiner enough to vote for somebody else in 2012?  Yes, and they have every right to do that.  Individual people, within a democracy, can vote on any basis that they chose.  The media, though, should contribute to the marketplace of ideas that our national policy debate ought to be, rather than the tabloid-driven, superficial gossip that is not materially relevant to our nation’s course.  People will always vote irrationally; it is their right to do so, and nobody ought to infringe upon that right.  And in some ways, I don’t blame the media: they are businesses, and they have an interest in producing a product that will be attractive to their consumers.  They also, though, have an obligation to the public interest, in the same way that a teacher has an obligation not to inject his or her own opinion into classroom lessons.  That obligation to the public, particularly in the modern age of the 24 hour news cycle and the Twitter/Facebook/blogosphere where news goes viral in minutes, ought to outweigh any profit motive; it is a moral obligation that ought not be compromised for the sake of economic interests.

Anthony Weiner should not resign; he is an effective politician and is the sort of individual that our country desperately needs in public office.  The media, over the past week, has characteristically inflated the story, defying its obligations to the public, and ultimately, harming the public interest in an untainted, robust discourse.

-Evan Goldstein ’12

Categories: Uncategorized

Welcome and Introduction

Hey all, welcome to my blog!  I’m running this blog as part of CollectKnowledge, an initiative of the Choate Debate Team, so I’d like to take a moment to introduce the project and talk about how my blog fits into it.

My name is Evan Goldstein, and I am a senior at Choate, a boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut, where I am heavily involved with the debate team.  For the past year, I have been in charge of a “pod”, or a group of young debaters (primarily freshman) just starting debate.  While at the outset, being a pod leader was primarily a teaching role for me, it has become a more profound intellectual exchange.  As the members of my pod became adept debaters in their own right, they no longer needed my support with the basics of debate, and as such, our pod became akin to a team, a unit.  Much of our time in the latter months was spent discussing relevant issues within our society, like government policy, the Israel-Palestinian crisis, and philosophy.  We all greatly enjoyed this exchange, and feel that we have grown as debaters and as people as a result.

When the school year ended, two of my friends approached me with the idea of continuing this discourse during the summer.  After some initial planning meetings, we decided to launch CollectKnowledge, a network of blogs run by members of the Choate Debate Team, designed to facilitate our continued interaction and discourse on the most profound issues of the day.  The project is so called in reference to the theory of collective intelligence; which is to say, a diverse group of individuals, each with different strengths, weaknesses and backgrounds, will reach a more effective conclusion through collaboration than any individual could.  Each week, our bloggers will write on one topic, taking a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach.  The topics will be selected for relevance, complexity and opportunity for discourse; we want to pick topics that have many aspects, so as to create numerous areas of inquiry for bloggers to examine.  The goal here is dialectic, not debate.  We have spent nine months on the debate team trying to prove ourselves right; now, we will try to discover what is right through collaborative discourse, not adversarial contention.  Through this discourse, we hope to continue to become more knowledgeable in our daily lives, as well as to sharpen our skills of argumentation and reasoning.

All of the blogs will be public, and are open to comments at any time.  We encourage anyone, debater or not, to participate in our dialogue.  We have high hopes for this project; it will be enlightening, it will be relevant, and above all, it will be fun.

 

Stay tuned!

-Evan Goldstein ’12

Categories: Uncategorized