I must say that while reading the Curry and Tomanelli articles for class, I was at the point of almost getting physically ill, that’s how incensed I got. It was even more horrifying when I realized that things like this occur on a regular basis, and no one seems to acknowledge them very much or thinks to defend victims of media misrepresentation. So, following in Jim Gilliam’s footsteps, I decided to blog about it.
I was particularly struck by the hypocrisy of the media in the Sherrod case, and I identified 3 things that I personally feel are demonstrative of this:
1) The media controlled the agenda/spin of the Sherrod story (though they would probably deny this with vehemence if accused of doing so). The fact that the NAACP issued a statement that said it had been “snookered” by Fox News, is enough to indicate this point. No mainstream media outlet should be “snookering” anyone. Ever.
2) Many mainstream media pundits are the first ones to criticize independent media, particularly bloggers like Andrew Breitbart, for not portraying things accurately and being opinionated. But I think the Sherrod case is one of the most pathetic showings for mainstream fact-checking in media history and an instance of opinion trumping fact. As Sherrod mentioned in a CNN interview (detailed in Curry article), they should have checked to see whether the video was credible/unedited, gotten the whole tape and watched it! I ask myself, was it that the mainstream media did not think to check this, or was it that they were unwilling to risk having to give up such a juicy and controversial story? Either of these options contains scary prospects for mainstream journalism.
3) Some of the media were disgustingly quick to smear Sherrod and call for her resignation while applauding Breitbart (examples: Joe Scarborough’s comparison to the Black Panthers, Bill O’Reilly’s claim “That is simply unacceptable. And Ms. Sherrod must resign immediately.”)
But the most devastating footnote to Sherrod’s story is the fact that average citizens probably wouldn’t think to realize that anything was wrong. The media world has become an institution unto itself and fewer people think to question it as a result. But just as it is unwise to create a society in which someone is arrested by police and citizens think that he/she can’t possibly be innocent because of the police institution (which already happens sometimes but anyway…), it would be unwise to foster a society that does not think to question its media. This is where independent media can come in handy, as many of these outlets need to prove themselves through good links and good reporting and are much more apt to receive audiences with critical eyes. The day that no one in society greets the media with skepticism is the day that good journalism falters.