November 23, 2004

News of Mainstream Media's Death Premature

"The rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated. Dan Rather, reporting."

Victory laps are being run without surcease across the blogsphere today on the news of Dan Rather's resignation. The heady atmosphere of having "bagged him" is rent with triumphant trumpets and the whoops outnumber the de-doos.

I might suggest that the loudest whoops, most brazen trumpets, and fastest lap times are being turned in by those without the slightest experience of how large media institutions are actually structured. Because no matter what you may think of Dan Rather, he's only the front man for an institutionalized attitude that shows no signs of change other than the most cosmetic.

Indeed, the problem of the media's petrified mind-set goes far beyond the institutional. Just as the Groves of Academe are now vast stands of petrified forest, so the paralysis of the MSM is lodged deep in questions of class, clique, money and status.

The main stream media is not the way it is because of this or that individual at this or that company, but because all those who make their livings in it, and who draw their identities from it, have long ago thrown away any elements of their character that would set them apart and inhibit their advancement. Those that have done so and prospered are careful to vet the young that are allowed entry for a carefully monitored and calibrated set of attitudes. Those that do not exhibit the correct head set never get to the first interview. Those that do almost all have a recommendation in order to elevate their resumes out of the slush pile. It helps to go to the right school, but it helps more to have the right parents with the right connections. This isn't unusual or even wrong, but it is a fact.

Last June Peggy Noonan offered some reflections on the graduating class of 2004:

I have been paying attention to the graduates of Ivy League universities. Every one I see the past few weeks is beautiful. They are tall and handsome and gay-spirited; they are strong and laughing and bright. I ask them what they are going to do now. I am repeatedly told things like, "I want to go into TV." And "I'm going to drama school." And "I'm going to journalism school." It occurs to me that all young people who graduate from elite American universities now want to go into communications. It's a whole generation that wants to communicate.

But what do they want to communicate? They don't seem to have a clue. For this is a question that involves the area of Deeply Held Beliefs, and as far as I can see it the deeply held beliefs of these particular graduates is a uniform leftism whose tenets involve reciting clichés. They believe racial and sexual diversity is good, peace is better than war, religious fanaticism is bad. But they don't want to spout clichés--that's not why they went to Cornell. And they know their work will not draw attention if it is marked by tired and essentially noncontroversial ideas. No one thinks war is sweet, there's no market for racial segregation or male chauvinism.

I see no sign they are going to start thinking anything truly unusual for their time and generation--that religious conversion can be a wholly beneficial and life changing event, for instance, or that breaking with liberal orthodoxy might be the beginning of wisdom.
-- Opinion Journal

What Noonan does not say because it goes, indeed, without saying is that the most assertive of the applicants to media glory from these schools will, indeed, get jobs and that their various masses of received wisdom will play a large role in their acceptance. Plus a bit of grease from their parents or the friends of their parents.

Again, this is the way of the world and I'd expect no less from the various tenured or established adults involved, but it does not make for a meritocracy. Nor does it make for the kind of diversity that would indeed reverse the slide of the mainstream media into irrelevance. That can only come from the top and only across the decades. It took more than 30 years for the media and academe to complete their strategic retreats into the castles of elitism and reaction, and it would take the same time to move out of them. But they don't have that kind of time any longer and besides, who would hire their children if they didn't?

UPDATE: And finally, Scrappleface says it all in one headline --     Bloggers Force Retirement of 73-Year-Old Newsman

Posted by Vanderleun at November 23, 2004 12:49 PM
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