TV Eye: Investigating Journalism
By Belinda Acosta

As I write this, it is the eve of the most important presidential election of my life. I've been asked multiple times where I'm going to be on election night. Viewing parties, large and small, are the choice of many, but I know I'll be at home to experience the event. I won't be flipping between radio stations or prowling online – I'll be following it on TV. I know I'm not the only one. The media climate may be changing, but TV is still the go-to source for witnessing big events like this. According to The IFC Media Project press materials (more on that in a bit), 70% of our waking hours are spent consuming media. Of that time, 33% is spent with TV, followed by radio (29%), the Internet (20%), newspapers (10%), and finally, magazines (8%). I imagine the percentages for TV bump up considerably during moments such as this year's election night. Viewers are looking for information, of course, but watching large, world-changing events unfold on the TV in your living room makes the experience comfortingly intimate, as well.

I've overheard and participated in some interesting conversations on the bus about this year's election; the bus serves, for me, as a local town square. Listening to people talk, especially those I am diametrically opposed to, makes me wonder how these people arrived at their conclusions, which inevitably brings me back to thinking about how media influences the way we think. Now that the dark days of the Bush administration are coming to an end, I'm sensing spin fatigue on all sides of the political spectrum. The changing media climate – as well as surviving the last eight years – has made viewers realize that consuming news and information on autopilot is not an option.

On the eve of this historic election, I am wondering if, in addition to a change in leadership, we're in for a change in how we receive news and how we digest it. Political propaganda was not invented by the Bush administration and will not end with it. But playing the media was definitely turned into a high art by his administration. Sadly, most of the major news sources gave in to being played, with only fleeting glimmers of recognition that this cannot and must not continue to be the way news and information are presented in the future. (A relatively new addition to the CNN lineup, Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull promises to stay away from sensationalism, extreme bias, and shoddy reporting that has overrun the current state of 24-hour news. Let's hope.)

So I was intrigued – no, make that thrilled – when I got an early review copy of The IFC Media Project. Like the earlier The Merchants of Cool special, which aired on Frontline (PBS) in 2001 and examined how advertisers exploit pop culture, The IFC Media Project has a similar mission, with its discerning look at how news and information are created and why it is more important than ever to be critical and conscious media consumers.

The IFC Media Project is a six-part documentary series hosted by Peabody- and Emmy Award-winning news correspondent Gideon Yago (CBS News, MTV, This American Life). An amazing amount of information is covered in each half-hour episode. Ever wonder why the missing white girl story gets so much play on TV news? Meet Larry Garrison, the "broker" behind many of those stories. Curious how experts on a news story are chosen? The loose vetting process may make you nauseous. Breakaway segments such as the "Media Encyclopedia" and an animated segment called "News Junkie" maintain the overall seriousness of the subject matter while taking a fresh (and often funny) approach to a specific topic (as in how the word "allegedly" plays double duty as caveat and weapon or a playful examination of how the word "gate" is attached to certain events).

My one and only complaint about The IFC Media Project is that it's only available to a pay-TV audience. Excerpts of upcoming episodes are available for viewing online now at www.ifc.com/mediaproject, and yes, this is one of those rare times when I would suggest you subscribe to pay-TV in order to see this splendid, eye-opening series.

The IFC Media Project premieres Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 7pm on the IFC.

Click to see orignal link
November 18, 2008


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