Five at 8 – 10/29/09: The news media’s dirty little secret

The Friday Morning Rouser:

1) I wrote last week that the significance of Northwest Flight 188 was that it revealed an inherent weakness in the nation’s air defense system. As the story unfolds, it also has revealed the news media’s dirty little secret … again. I’ve spent much of the last week wondering to myself why other people in the news media — local or national — weren’t seeing the obviously more significant lesson from Northwest Flight 188, the flight that “overshot” its intended destination last week. Today, they’ve gotten around to it and the route they took in reporting the story is an overshoot of its own.

Wayback Machine time: Let’s go back to a post I made last Friday:

To have been able to do that, the order to intercept would’ve had to have been given by 7:34 p.m., or almost a half hour after the plane “went dark.” That obviously didn’t happen. The military either didn’t know about a plane that had been flying without being in contact for a half an hour, or they did know about it and the decision was made not to intercept the possible threat.

I know what you’re thinking; the guy’s patting himself on the back. That’s hardly the point, which is: “In the news business, you can’t lead by following.” It was only late yesterday that the Wall St. Journal — which had pretty much concocted the “they were sleeping” story that the media followed — finally got around to the more significant angle of the story.

The delay has sparked consternation within the military, concern within the FAA and special oversight by the White House, these officials said, particularly because such time lags were supposed to be eliminated as a result of the lessons learned from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In the event of a hijacking, the military would order fighters into the air to intercept an aircraft and possibly shoot it down.

Then the rest of the media picked it up, led by the Associated Press:

“Air traffic controllers repeatedly tried to reach the pilots of the Northwest flight as it continued on course without deviation,” (FAA administrator Randy) Babbitt said in a statement. “The plane followed its filed flight plan, the transponder remained on and the plane did not send any emergency or distress signals. However, the controllers should have notified NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) more quickly that the plane was not responding.”

This morning, local news operations are all parroting the Wall St. Journal’s “work,” as if it is a new development. They could’ve asked the same questions at any time. But they didn’t. Why not? Because many news organizations are less in the business of reporting; and more in the business of “repackaging.” That’s not journalism. That’s show business.

What do we learn from this? For all the talk about the end of newspapers, newspapers drive the news agenda; not TV, not radio, not the Internet, and many of these sources which extol their journalistic virtue, are willing participants in the process. Newspapers say something; other news sources parrot (repackage) it, eliminating the most critical element of journalism — looking for answers to questions. It’s a corrupted process to which far too many of today’s “journalists” have become addicted. Their reporting sensibilities have atrophied from years of the addiction, coupled with an adherence to the “pack mentality,” that prevents journalists from producing stories based on questions nobody else is asking.

2)like this. Only reporters weren’t the ones who asked how it is a four-year-old boy swallows a toy car; scientists and artists were. It’s an art project that led the scientists to conclude that one of the reasons kids have a way of consuming things with lead paint, is because a chemical in it tastes sweet.

A single object was “explored” 24 hours a day for 7 days, just to see what secrets it held. The “artists” didn’t set out to make a significant discovery; it’s just a benefit from the desire to ask questions.

3) Is it too late to rename the northern Pacific Ocean “the Sea of Plastic?

Gawker today directs a spotlight on Mary Crowley’s Keisei Project.

4) The government this week is going to announce — officially — that the recession is over. WNYC(New York)’s The Takeaway explores how anyone would know that and interviews Rhode Quick of St. Louis Park, who lost her job in May and is now in danger of losing her home. How’d people in New York find her? They read News Cut.

5) Analysis of last night’s World Series game and, in particular, Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee. Caution: Don’t read if you don’t like math or you think postgame interviews are fascinating when they say things like “I just tried to stay within myself.”



President Obama made a pre-dawn visit to Dover Air Force base.


NASA on Wednesday launched the prototype of a rocket that one day may carry astronauts to the moon, which humans last visited in 1972. Is going back to the moon a good idea?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: A vociferous defender of Darwin, Richard Dawkins has a new book that lists the evidence that the theory of evolution explains how life on Earth came to be.

Second hour: While extinctions still happen at a fast pace, some species are coming back, such as California condors and American crocodiles. Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall profiles these survival stories and others in her latest book.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – MPR’s Chris Farrell jon the 80th anniversary of the 1929 stock market crash, to talk about what happened then, what we learned from it, and what’s happening now.

Second hour: Rabbi Harold Kushner, speaking in Minneapolis about his new book, “Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Considering the witness in acts of violence, from jeering participant to silent objector.

Second hour: Cornel West joins Neal Conan for a discussion on Schopenhauer and Sondheim, John Keats and James Brown. Plus, singer/songwriter, Carly Simon stops by.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The University of Minnesota and planners of the Central Corridor light-rail transit project are scrambling to work out their differences following the U’s lawsuit last month against the Metropolitan Council. Can they get the issue resolved?

Forty years ago today, the first messages went out on Arpanet. What hath it wrought besides the Internet?