Notes from the Movie: Weapons of Mass Deception viewed last night and a very hopeful development around Dan Gillmor.
The filmmaker Danny Schaechter was at the movie and joked that he embedded himself in his living room to watch and record the TV news every move leading up and during the war, at least as much as he could stand.
I think this graph is a great illustration of the problem with the TV News. It is derived from a study done by PiPA Program in International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.
Misconception throughout the board with varying degree of severity.
At Stanford last week ABC News president David Westin apologized to the American people for the poor coverage:
The executives also discussed their stations’ coverage leading up to the war in Iraq and failure to more carefully examine the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
“[ABC] let down the American people,” Westin said. “I sincerely regret that.”
Random thoughts from the movie:
The film is powerful because Danny Schaechter has been on the other side in the newsrooms, so he can call the bluffs of the news anchors. ABC: "Nothing like this is happening in the newsrooms." Danny: "Yes it does, I was there".
As a reporter you can greatly advance your career two ways: Entertainment or war. This is why the reporters are so eager to cover it. They want the "war correspondent" title next to their name. You have to be there reporting into the camera while the bombs are falling in the background.
There are 5 Iraqi wars going on at the same time. The one where the bombs are falling the real combat (which besides the soldiers no one gets to see), the news that were shown in the US, the one in Europe, the one for India and Asia and the one that the Arabian news agencies were showing in the Middle East. [Bonus link 1: Al-Jazeera covered more hours of the Republican National Convention then any of the major American networks combined.]
The real interesting thing is that CNN has two news teams, one for the US and one international and there the movie left me wanting more. How about a side by side comparison of what the American audience got presented and what the rest of the world that tuned into CNN got to see? That would have really crystallized the point.
I also would have loved a bit more about the list on the white board in one of the news rooms: Things not to report on: Depleted uranium ammunitions, cluster bombs , ... It passed so fast, that I didn't get it all.
The main reason why the news network don't ask the tougher questions is, that for example NBC is run by a general.
General Electric owns NBC, others are owned by Westinghouse, ... big conglomerates. They all want to be on the good side of the administration, when the big contracts are given for example to rebuilt or arm the US. It's a total conflict of interest.
Cable News channels do get more important, but are still way behind the network news outlets: Example August 11th: Networks: NBC 8.3M , ABC 8.1M, CBS 6.6M; Cable News: FNC 2.1, CNN 0.7, MSNBC 0.4, CNBC 0.2
Danny ends his film with a call for action. Get the message out. But there is also something more going on.
We once had Howard Rheingold speak at the Future Salon and he told the story about a Korean news network OhMyNews.com (in Korean) that is getting more and more popularity and is created by 80% volunteer journalists. He said that it was the main reason for the election of their last president and he thanked them by giving his first public interview after the election on the OhMyNews network.
Mister We the Media Dan Gillmor announced that he is leaving the San Jose Mercury News and I wanted to speculate, that he is going to create such a citizen journalism project here in the US, but now I read on his blog, that he has announced it already.
This is one of the best news I heard in a very long time. I am wondering how they will differentiate themselves from Indymedia.org. Actually with Dan on board I don't see a problem.
He has the integrity and the cloud to pull it off and I wish him all the best and offer him my support. The state of the media as reported in the WMD movie proofs, that such a citizen journalism project is dearly needed.
Here his account on what happened next:
And I got a letter, an e-mail, from the New York Times. Here it is. They wanted to follow – they wanted to investigate! Cool! And they asked me, question 1: “Are you a conspiracy nut?” Question 2: “Are you a sore loser?” Question 3: there is no question three…that was the end of the interview. And so they ran a story on the front page saying, “Internet Theories of Bush Loss Easily Debunked.”