Monday, August 04, 2008

Media Survivalists: The Marketing Of Words And Personality

If you haven't had an opportunity to read Ramesh Ponnuru's essay in Time Magazine, centered on the media's love affair with Barack Obama, I recommend doing so and soon. He makes some interesting points worthy of some serious consideration, on the reasons the media is so biased.

But I want to break it down a bit further, if I might. We'll start with this snippet:

Why are the media so smitten with Obama? Journalists have an affinity for the Democratic nominee in part because he is a wordsmith and they make a living manipulating words and symbols, so they have a special appreciation for his gifts.

Maybe it's because attorneys love words. Attorneys seem to gravitate towards the Democratic party for a host reasons, not the least of them (like the author says), Democrats love words.

Words are part of our life, we use them to communicate. We use them to persuade and to convince. The attorney's main objective is to win an argument, usually and presumably with some good evidence. And when there is little or no evidence, they must use words to make compelling cases. If they win their cases, they get paid.

The media uses words to support their claims too. This similarity certainly stands out like a NASCAR fan in a European coffee house, but there is one stark difference that I would point out in the context of this argument: Attorneys, for the most part, make their cases to judges and juries. Unless they are in a high profile case that some hotshot wants to try his case in the media beforehand (for advertising purposes), the arguments are confined to courts and conference rooms used for depositions.

By contrast, the media takes its cases directly to the people. They make their money by selling periodicals and in the case of electronic media, high ratings. The more magazines and newspapers being sold, the more people watching news commentary shows, the more money the media makes.

Enter teachers and professors, the backbone of the education community. They make their living using words too. They must come up with persuasive words using innovation and creativity to teach kids and adults. They, too, are attracted by the Democratic party. They, too, have an affinity for the media when it reflects their ideological positions. These are positions that are usually in direct conflict with the conservatives' philosophical belief systems. Naturally, they will gravitate to those that share their views.

Teachers may not make more money, but professors do. They sell their books and many command some hefty speaking fees when able to effectively articulate their ideas unchallenged in a contradictory forum.

All three of these professions are highly dependent on words. All three are better explained and can be found, in this piece at the website of The Heritage Foundation.

But let's move on, shall we. There is one other reason Ponnuru has pointed out here, one that most people are already aware of:

But another part of the reason is, yes, plain old liberal bias. McCain was a press darling when he was a maverick dissenting from the Republican Party from points left. Obama has become one by succeeding as a down-the-line liberal. When McCain decided this time around to court conservative Republican voters as much as liberal reporters, the coverage of him became more critical. Notice a pattern?

I do notice a pattern here. I also notice another pattern.

Media sales of companies that show an open liberal bias are down. Let's look at Time-Warner as an example. TW stocks were $19.25 a share in September, of last year. In March of this year, they were as low as $13.91. Today they closed at up a little, at $14.40. March is right about the time Time realized the path was leading to self-destruction and began to do a better job of fair coverage. They still have their liberal pundits, but they are printing more articles like the one I am citing for this post. As a result, sales are up somewhat but certainly nothing to write home about.

In November of last year, Newsweek's parent company The Washington Post Company stock was at $857.92 a share. By June of this year, it was down to $559. Today, it closed at $607. WaPo has been hurt by declining circulation and it's subsidiary Newsweek has remained stagnant, which in economic terms can be considered a decrease when you factor in the growth of the rest of the economy.

Some of the circulation woes can be attributed to the shift from print media to the internet, but that doesn't take into account the drop in ad revenues. This is what fuels the stock prices and with stocks down, it's hard to give much too much credence to this switch in mediums.

But there's one last reason Ramesh highlights as a partial plausible explanation for this massive public perception of media bias:

Obama is on more magazine covers in part, they note, because those issues sell better than McCain covers. McCain is a familiar figure who has been involved in presidential politics for nearly a decade, while Obama's rapid rise--from state senator to presidential nominee in four years--is part of what makes him a compelling story.

Part of this is BS and the other part is true. There has to be an impact with such a rising personality coming out of seemingly nowhere only to wrest the nomination from a Clinton machine that at one time was as close to Obama status, as anyone else has ever been before. People are bound to buy more periodicals that feature this shooting star, whom they do not know. But much of this is fueled by the periodicals, themselves.

Let's consider who is buying. I would be interested to know how the demographics break down in regard to sales. Obama has a younger following than McCain. His supporters appear to be based in the academic scene, made up mostly of students. They have more expendable income, so they could be the ones that are keeping the news weeklies from crashing. In other words, they have a target audience that is fanatical about Obama that translates into a cash cow.

In the end, there's not much any of us can do, except watch how we spend our dollars. We can only hope that thinking people will carefully consider giving some quality thought to what I am saying here and ask themselves - who would they rather trust to minimize the damage caused by government? I say this because neither of these people are what I think we need. Clearly, one of them is certainly better suited to lead this nation than the other. But, I have no delusions that either of them is a panacea for what ails us. Only the people that must bear the brunt of the load can pull us out of it, by demanding better leaders at all levels.

More importantly, I hope that thinking people do not allow themselves to get caught up into the desperate sales campaign that is going on, while the real campaign gets overlooked.


Greg said...

Well, this lawyer isn't smitten with Hussein Obama one bit!

LASunsett said...

This clearly puts you in the minority, Greg. Which means, you can qualify for status as a protected class and have your own support group.

Greg said...

Awesome. I have long been an advocate of affirmative action for lawyers.

LASunsett said...

//I have long been an advocate of affirmative action for lawyers.//

Let's not get too carried away with this. ;)