If the mainstream media suffers from attention deficit disorder, bloggers have obsessive compulsive disorder, posed Arianna Huffington this afternoon at Michael's Restuarant, mecca for Manhattan's media elite. Ringleader for the leading left-leaning water cooler Huffington Post, she moderated a spirited conversation about the state of today's news media pegged to tonight's launch of The IFC Media Project.
The conversation began with a heated exchange about media coverage of the Iraq War, underscoring the very need to examine the press. "What we are talking about here," Arianna Huffington said, "Are some failures of traditional joirnalism both in the lead up to the war and in the way that the truth was ferreted out, which -- as well as technology -- made the successes of online media much more likely and possible." She continued, "So we are not just talking about technology making it possible but we are also talking about the need for people to have alternative ways of getting to the truth."
"The IFC Media Project," a six-part series on the network, dissects the creation of the news in America today. In the first part, airing tonight (Tuesday, November 18th at 8pm) and hosted by former MTV News anchor Gideon Yago, offers an in-depth look at the influences shaping today's media coverage, including the many conflicting biases from profit, celebrity, propaganda, the sway of corporations and more. "The news is a craft and not a science," Yago notes in the first episode, citing a common thread about the topic. He goes on to ask how the news "gets it right," and how it "gets it wrong," and perhaps even more revealing, "who decides..."
Perhaps even more provocatively, Yago asks rhetorically in the show, "Why is it that a single missing white girl is more important [to news coverage] than anything else in the world...?" Throughout the series, airing in installments over the next six weeks, personalities ranging from pundit Tucker Carlson, outed CIA spy Valerie Plame and former network anchor Dan Rather will delve into topics ranging from the rise of pundits to subjects that are off-limits in the news. The show was created by Oscar-nominated producer Meghan O'Hara ("Sicko," "Fahrenheit 9/11"), creator and executive producer of "The IFC Media Project."
"My goal in this series," Yago notes in the first episode, "Is to give a sobering wake-up call to anyone who takes the media at face value."
An exchange from today's panel discussion about the media.
The idea that the ultimate goal of the media should be to "ferret out the truth," was a common concept mentioned during today's discussion. But, Huffington wondered, "Is it still the ultimate goal of journalism?"
Satirist and author Christopher Buckley wondered, in an era of celebrity pundits, how do we define the term "journalist" today, noting that Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews are not journalists in the classic sense. Instead he asked attendees to look at venerable writer (and fellow panelist today) Pete Hamill as a real journalist.
"The best advice I ever got from an editor was," Hamill later explained, "If you want it to be true, it usually isn't." Huffington concurred, citing the recent "leak" about Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin who was said to not know that Africa was a continent.
In fact, as was recently revealed by The New York Times, that leak was claimed by a fictitious McCain campaign advisor manufactured by Slamdance Film Festival co-founder Dan Mirvish and co-sonspirator Eitan Gorlin to support a TV series he had created. Their fake character blogged about the leak and the link was picked up by MSNBC. Huffington reiterated, "It said more about the media than it said about Sarah Palin."