Jay Rosen: ‘Don’t you think that’s a little strange?’

August 28, 2011

The text of Jay Rosen’s Big Idea presentation from the MWF is available in full. There’s lots to like in it: his instinctive revulsion at a TV program called Insiders on which journalists interview journalists, his dissection of the ‘cult of saviness’, his argument about the cult of innocence that plays out in ‘he said, she said’ journalism. Here, for instance, is his analysis of a recent (and, as he says, not especially obnoxious) piece on the Labor Party and gay marriage:

The insiders are worried about how their conference is going to “play” in the media. They are trying to make the story come out a certain way. Reporters grant them anonymity so these struggles can be publicized. But if today’s media report about politics is about how the media will be reporting a political event tomorrow, there’s obviously something circular in that. And this is how it begins to make sense to call the journalists “insiders.” Everyone is engaged in the production of media narratives. Journalists and politicians are both “inside” the story making machinery.

The thrust of his piece is clearly right — and for evidence of that you only have to look at the response from an insider journalist, denouncing Rosen for outlining how the media works since … that’s just how it works.

I do think, though, that Rosen’s analysis doesn’t go far enough. For while the ‘how’ matters, the more important question is ‘why’. Yes, the political media is dysfunctional and, yes, it seems to be getting worse. But what’s behind that degeneration?

Here’s my attempt at an answer, from a Drum piece some time back.

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