A month ago, Steve Walsh called out political bloggers (which is certainly his right --even if I don't agree with him), suggesting that their work was of lesser intrinsic value than mainstream media reporting because of their inclination to be aligned with one group or another. From Walsh's post (emphasis mine):
The "political blogs" to which I refer are those written by agenda-driven individuals who are sometimes accidentally inaccurate ... and at other times intentionally dishonest. It is important for readers of these blogs to keep in mind that the writer is not trying to inform you as much as he or she is trying to get you to "swallow the Kool-Aid" and see things his or her way.
The explicit message of Walsh's post was that there exists a stark difference between "us" (traditional media figures) and "them" (independent political bloggers) owing to the fact that bloggers always have some agenda that drives their work. The implication is that mainstream sorts like Walsh are agenda-free.
So it was interesting to read today a story from an outfit (with which I'm completely unfamiliar) called Corporate Crime Reporter. The story chronicles how Learfield broadcasting --the company which owns MissouriNet and of which Steve Walsh is an employee-- recently scrapped a radio program hosted by company co-founder Derry Brownfield after the show became too critical of one of Learfield's biggest advertisers. From the piece:
Derry Brownfield would broadcast The Common Sense Coalition from the studios of Learfield Communications.
Learfield would subsidize the program and allow Brownfield to use its studios and satellite hook-up.
Monsanto happens to be a big advertiser of the Learfield news division "to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Brownfield happens to think that Monsanto is an evil corporation.
Therein lies the rub.
For weeks, Brownfield had been ripping Monsanto on air for its policies of enforcing its seed patents against farmers. ...
Brownfield's stint at Dearfield was about to end.
Last week, Brownfield was told that he could no longer broadcast out of the Dearfield studios. His buddy, Clyde Lear, posted a blog on the Learfield web site saying that Brownfield's last show will be in mid-May.
"The Common Sense Coalition grinds to a halt on our system,"Lear wrote.
Seems that maybe some of the corporate leaders of our mainstream media outlets have "agendas" for their own?
Now let me be clear; I'm in no way stating that Learfield doesn't have the right to do what it did. It can, of course, choose to subsidize or not to subsidize any program it likes. What it cannot do is plausibly claim that it is a media outlet that is without its own particular agenda, or that its agenda does not substantially affect the scope and nature of the content it puts out. The Derry Brownfield incident is irrefutable proof that Learfield carefully tailors its output in ways that cater to the needs and whims of its own constituencies. In this case, advertisers like Monsanto.
All of which is not intended as a reprimand or a tsk-tsk to Steve Walsh and his employer. On the contrary, I'd suggest that this merely confirms what many of us have been saying all along: that making a distinction between bloggers and mainstream reporters builds a wall where there ought not be one. Every one of us is aligned with someone or something, whether we like it or not, so maybe it's neither productive nor accurate to play up the "differences."
Folks can stick with the "us versus them" theme if they want, but the way I see it bloggers and reporters sit together on the same side of that V.