I’ve been reading Herbert Gans’ “Deciding What’s News“, but for the most part haven’t felt motivated to blog any of it. However, the following sentences set off alarm bells in my head: “To the affluent, the slums will appear orderly as long as there are no disturbances and crime does not spill over into wealthy districts; but for slum dwellers, order cannot exist until exploitation, as well as crime, is eliminated. For the parent generation, adolescent order exists when adolescents abide by parental rules; for the young people, order is also freedom of interference from adults.” That just doesn’t make any sense unless one equates “order” with “the good” or “justice” or somesuch. Orderly oppression, exploitation, and so on are perfectly coherent. North Korea and prisons can be both orderly and very unpleasant for their inhabitants. As a passing note, “exploitation” does not seem the pressing problem of the slums when unemployment is so high, I should check out the unemployment statistics in the 60s/70s when Gans wrote this book. A related post here.

Gans, who is still writing at over 80 years of age, has an immediately recognizable left-wing perspective. He notes in the preface that he was influenced at the time by the radical 60s critique of things ranging from government authority to America itself. I tend to hear more media criticism from the likes of Tim Groseclose who allege the media is liberal, not surprising when polled media figures overwhelmingly identify as liberal and more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. Gans has a different perspective, though I would guess not so extreme as Noam Chomsky and would probably agree with critics from the right on many descriptive details. He characterizes the media as “Progressive reformist”, which to him is not a left vs right label. Instead he calls it “right-liberal or left-conservative”, the latter of which I’m sure Dylan Waco would object to. The media sees itself as independent and has a dim view of “extremism”, even as it values individual eccentricity (but not deviance) for keeping things interesting. The media focuses on individuals, most notably government officials and/or candidates for such positions. Sociologists might prefer it discuss such concepts as the Social Structure, Class Hierarchy or Power Structure, but Gans recognizes that’s asking a bit much. He doesn’t think class gets enough focus, with racial and (later) gender divides receiving more attention during the time he “embedded” in newsrooms. Folks at alternativeright might view the pro-integration stance Gans ascribes to the media as leftist, but to him it short sells more radical nationalist/separatist movements. In other respects he views the media as more socially conservative, with some old-person dismay at disruptive new technology and the fads among those kids these days. He doesn’t think the media pay attention to what their audience thinks and wants, viewing themselves as a good enough sample. They are predominately upper-middle class, white middle-aged males, as are most of the individuals who get news focus. They are America-centric, sometimes holding high officials to account if they deviate too much from the America-entwined ideals of “altruistic democracy” and “responsible capitalism”. Deviations from those ideals, along with disorder (of which Gans includes “moral disorder” as a subset) is potential news.

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