Just when you were getting bored or overwhelmed by the trickle coming out of the White House, Josh Meyrowitz provides new perspective by focusing on the role of those reporting the leaks. So, he wrote:
As a presidential scandal that is potentially more explosive than Watergate appears to be unfolding at rapid speed, we have conveniently reached the third “Who?” session of our Analysis of News class, where we continue to focus on the “who” of news stories (the types of people who tend to be the most common sources for, and subjects of, news). And we continue to explore examples of the types of interactions and relationships that develop between journalists and prime sources — and the moments when they change dramatically.
Given the gravity of the current situation, though, we will also need to look briefly ahead to the “When?” section of the course and the power of official sources to strategically time events to try to increase or decrease news attention to a topic. We should not be surprised that the Trump administration has just announced a possible plan to send U.S. combat troops to Syria, which is somewhat distracting news organizations from the emerging story of the Trump campaign being in touch with Russian intelligence before the election. And we should be wary of Trump escalating other world tensions, such as with Iran and/or North Korea, to try to have the public — and media — rally around the flag.
Thus far, in the “Who?” section of the course, we have explored aspects of the symbiotic relationships that tend to operate between sources who want to get their stories out and journalists who need to file frequent (often daily or more), stories to fill the “news hole” (the space between the ads).
This focus has helped us to understand the dynamics of “routine sources,” press briefings, press releases, video news releases, AP day books, photo opportunities, perp walks, backgrounders, trial balloons, news embargoes, exclusives, journalists “embedding” with the military and police, interview agreements regarding forms of attribution and anonymity and off-limits topics, personalizing the impersonal (and emphasis on “motives” instead of abstract “causes”), “protective” coverage where news organizations try to avoid being “scooped” by other news organizations, and so on.
For Thursday, February 16, 2017, we will ask why it is that news organizations that typically rely on routine relationships with the most “authoritative” (official) sources sometimes seem to pivot to exposing the crimes and corruption of those same sources. If “access” to sources is the “oxygen” of much typical journalism, why do news organizations sometimes shift so dramatically to what appears to be “accountability” journalism with respect to previously relied-uponl sources?
Is there a common principle that explains why journalists routinely rely on the heads of local police departments and the “top dogs” at the White House, Pentagon, State Department, Justice Department, police departments, various corporations (and their designated spokespeople) but then sometimes give extensive news coverage to scandals involving those same routine sources (Watergate, Iran-Contra, the evolving Trump & Russian Intelligence scandal, police crimes, etc.)? Also, why might a single even a single report about a President treat him (and, eventually, her) first as the most powerful person on the planet — the leader of the “free world,” symbolizing America and its resolve in global affairs — and then in the next minute or paragraph or the next report, suggest that he (or she) is a potential criminal or low-life and at risk of indictment or impeachment? Again, is there a common principle that explains this split in coverage and framing?
We will meet again in Horton 125, from 6:10-8:00 with optional preview video starting a few minutes earlier. Parking is free on Academic Way spaces and lot B after 6pm.
Faculty, student, and community guests are welcome and are free to participate fully in the discussion.
The post is a bit out-dated because the Blog was transitioned to a new server and some stuff got lost.