Shooting The Messengers

I had such high hopes for Patch, the new media rival of the local-newspaper-turned-tabloid called The Bristol Phoenix. Unfortunately, so far, it’s just been more of the same from the upstarts at AOL. Take yesterday’s article entitled Truth in Advertising, which slams the anonymous postings of flyers throughout town that warn of various violations at a pair of nearby restaurants — without bothering to investigate the claims or even the identities of the people involved… um, just in case some diners enjoy the thrill of possibly eating rat poop?

The author was apparently satisfied in writing an article that, despite having potentially damaging effects to its readers, is devoid of practical meaning. Even the names of the targets were redacted, presumably for the restaurant owners’ (and Patch’s) peace of mind rather than ours. Sadly, this type of journalism has become common in mainstream media: Irrelevelant data, scrubbed clean of content harmful to company interests, that ultimately detract from the real stories, which often go unreported.

How else could one explain the reaction to WikiLeaks? Instead of following up on countless revelations of illegal actions on the part of the U.S. government, journalists have evidently preferred to cover the “manhunt” of Julian Assange, the head of the whistleblowing website, even though he never evaded capture. Why would he? Other than trumped up allegations of sexual misconduct, Assange hasn’t done anything wrong. If he did, editors at the NY Times, the Guardian, and the rest of the international papers that also published the information contained in the thousands of leaked documents would be guilty too. Yet no one is calling them terrorists, trying to shut down their organizations or threatening to kill them.

So, what’s the difference? Is it because, like Patch and the Phoenix at the local level, the global mainstream media is driven more by profit than truth? Could it be that, no matter how bad things look now, the rich and powerful know they can later spin their PR fairytales through media outlets eager to pass lies off as reality when the price is right? If only there were more independent news organizations like WikiLeaks, maybe we’d have more definitive answers to these questions.

4 Responses to “Shooting The Messengers”

  1. Christy Nadalin Says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Like your blog, “Truth in Advertising” is an opinion piece and as such, you correctly note, I did not “investigate the claims or even the identities of people involved” any more than you investigated my claims before declaring that my content was “scrubbed clean of content harmful to company interests.”

    You didn’t need to investigate my identity, of course, as my name and photograph are published in my byline and you can click on my name to link to my email address. Also, I’m a friend of your wife’s, so you could have gotten my contact info from her before accusing me of serving a media outlet “eager to pass lies off as reality when the price is right.”

    In contrast to my transparency, the “media” on which I opined was an anonymous broadsheet left on windshields along Thames street. How do you suggest I investigate the author’s identity given the information I had, short of taking it to Quantico for a DNA analysis? As I said then, and will say now, making anonymous, unsubstantiated accusations about things that could easily be handled through official channels is amateur and childish. It also quite possibly fits the legal definition of slander.

    You are free to rectify this vast-right-wing-mainstream-media-pro-rat-feces conspiracy at any time — just call me. I still have the flyer.

    Fondly,

    Christy Nadalin

  2. bristolbullraker Says:

    Hi Christy,

    First, let me say that I’ve read many of your Patch articles (Truth in Advertising being one of the earlier ones), and I think you’re a good writer. I don’t believe my critique in Shooting the Messenger can be applied to your work in general. Thanks for reading the blog and allowing me to clear that up! Speaking of clarifications, the “eager to pass lies off as reality when the price is right” line was directed at the global MSM not Patch. Sorry for the confusion.

    As for the critique, if the flyers were not “scrubbed clean of content harmful to company interests” then why were the names of the restaurants redacted? And more to the point of the original post, even if they weren’t redacted, what makes this story newsworthy if the claims aren’t investigated? Like you said, unsubstantiated claims are amateurish. So, in my opinion, they shouldn’t find their way into a professional news report until they are substantiated or proven false.

    Unfortunately, the traditional economic model of professional journalism (i.e. where money is made mostly through advertising) makes it difficult to uncover the truth when a report involves a current or potential advertiser. It’s not right wing or a conspiracy… it’s simply a sad reality.

    Anyhow, keep up the good work! No need to get my hands on the flyer, though the names of the restaurants would be a good start. With much bigger fish to fry (or rats as the case may be), I can’t promise I’ll look into it but you never know. 🙂

  3. Christy Nadalin Says:

    Hi Kevin,

    You are right — my opinion is not newsworthy, much as I wish it was! So I obscured the names of the restaurants because what I wrote was an opinion piece, the point of which was to suggest that the the aggrieved party should look into a more effective forum in which to air their grievances — of which I found the ones involving sexual assault far more compelling and disturbing than the ones involving cleanliness. Investigative journalism — “real” news, so to speak — wasn’t my intent, and the piece in question was clearly identified as opinion. Advertising has nothing to do with it — we are a small and tightly-knit community and I am not going to drop an A-bomb on a local business as a matter of opinion as someone who has neither been sexually assaulted nor eaten a maggot at the establishment in question. That said, the results of the most recent state inspection are easily located online — look it up and I suspect the name of the business will be very obvious based on the shocking number of infractions. The other allegations are beyond the purview of the health inspector….

    Best,
    Christy

  4. bristolbullraker Says:

    Christy,

    You make a good point. As the writer of an opinion piece, you shouldn’t have to be the one to dig into the allegations. But some news organization should, especially in light of the info from the state health inspector website (for like the half dozen or so readers of this blog, check out: http://food.ri.digitalhealthdepartment.com).

    The site is very informative. Thanks for the tip!

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