Monday, September 12, 2016

Journalism 101: The Narative

In journalism school, we learned that the narrative sets itself, and the journalist reports about it. However, that was back in 1988. It was hard to do. In today's journalism classes, they must teach that the narrative is set by the journalist, and then they search for material to support their narrative. It's not hard to do.

A perfect example here is a story in the New York Times, May 14, 2016, "How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private."  It began on the front page and covered, I think, 11 pages in total. So they decided that Trump is setting the narrative, and they can't handle that. That's not selling papers. So Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey, the authors of the hit piece, decided to set the narrative that Trump, in his younger years, was a womanizer who treated women poorly.

Rather than letting the news happen, they created the news. Rather than gather the evidence and report the news from the narrative as it was happening, they created the narrative  and searched for evidence to support it. They talked to as many women as they could, women who had contact in one way or another with Trump, and twisted their words. Their story made page one.

Then Trump woke up the next morning and saw the hit piece. He said, "You know what, I didn't say that. They lied about what I said."

About 20 years ago, before social media, the media would have won. The people would have no way to know who was telling the truth, so they would have just assumed the media was telling the truth. Today, however, social media has a way of finding the truth. You cannot hide behind a lie. You cannot hide behind a false narrative. And so the New York Times was busted.

Then Times has now admitted that the story was false. They were lying. They were misleading.

When asked if he was going to sue, Trump said he is currently in talks with the Times.

Maureen Callahn, in the New York Post, "Everything Today is a Lie," also from May 14, 2016, wrote how everything in the news today is a lie. This is because the media is setting the narrative. She said nothing we see in the news is real because the narrative is being set. The piece is very long because she gives many examples.

For instance, she talks about Sharron Osborne crated the narrative that her husband had an affair and had gone missing. This was all over the news, and people actually had sympathy for Sharron. Yet then the two were seen together later in the week and the whole thing was learned to be a scam. Sharon couldn't rely on her own talent, or her husband's fame, to get headlines: she had to create her own fake narrative.

She basically gave examples of how narrative has become a substitute for substance; how the narrative is set; how the narrative is spun. Substance does not sell newspapers, so the narrative has to be set to make the narrative more interesting. And a busy public doesn't have time to do fact checking.

And this type of narrative setting happens in politics too. Obamacare was passed not because the bill was a good bill full of substance, but because it was spun as a good bill. The narrative was set by the Obama administration, and this narrative was picked up by the media and reported as news. And a busy populace didn't have time to fact check.

Now, the media reported the narrative set by the Obama Administration as opposed to doing their own fact checking. They didn't want to report on the substance, because they didn't like the substance, or so we are lead to believe. They did not look into the substance of Obamacare and report on that. They did not want to report on that narrative. So they just wrote about the narrative that was set and went with it, as thought they were satellites for the White House rather than watchdogs for the people.

As noted by Rush Limbaugh:
"The only thing that was important to the media was: "Would Obama get it? Would Obama be the first ever to get national health care in America? Would Obama succeed? Will Obama get what he wants?" Not, "Is what Obama wants good? Is what Obama wants helpful? Is Obama being truthful about the details of what he wants?" None of that. The press didn't cover one syllable of that. Not one page of Obamacare. The media covered the villains: The Republicans and people like me on radio and in blogs trying to stop Obama from getting what he wants.
But they didn't report on us by telling people we were covering the substance of Obamacare. They just portrayed us as what have you: Racist, bigots, homophobes, who wanted to deny the first African-American president a signature legislative proposal. So the media -- which most people instinctively rely on to learn what things are -- doesn't tell anybody what things are anymore. All the media does, because they're all Democrats... They're all part of the Democrat agenda. All the media does is try to make sure that Obama or Clinton or whoever, get what they want."
So, you have a media claiming to be unbiased, and yet they are biased. The New York Times is a good example of that. Then you have outlets like "National Review" that only report on substance, and they struggle to stay afloat because they do not create interesting narratives, they just report on the substance of the real narratives. They ask the questions. They get to the bottom of things. They report on what people might not want to hear, "That Obamacare has no substance. That it will fail."

And they are honest and call themselves conservative. The only difference between the New York Times and National Review is the Times lies that it is bias and National Review is honest about being unbiased. Of course, if the New York Times revealed it's true liberal bias, no one would read it. So they lie. They spin the narrative. They create it. They only get to substance when republicans are trying to get their agenda passed.

You see, I was taught in journalism 101 to hunt for the real narrative and report on that. It was hard, because you had to dig. You had to go out of your way. You had to talk to people. You had to gather information and report on what you learn. And, what you learn, may not be what you expected, and it may not even be what you want. You may not agree with it. But, regardless, it was the narrative, it was the substance, and therefore it was the news.

Today, however, journalists must be taught that they are to create the narrative. Now they are taught to advance their own version of the story, spin it just the way they want. They can make bad news good, or good news bad. They can do whatever they want. And it's easy, because all they have to do is interview one or two women in Trump's lives and spin what they say as news.

Further reading: