Mike Duffy: Not the Story I Originally Expected

Consumers and the Media

Con­sumers and the Media

For most of the Sen­ate scan­dal sto­ry, I have to admit that I was laugh­ing at Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin.  I shouldn’t have been.  I’m savvy enough to know that Harp­er is a Dick (cap­i­tal-D Dick), but the spin deliv­ered on the sto­ry was juicy and suf­fi­cient­ly well-formed that I too was duped.  I am ashamed.  As a con­sumer of media, I failed to shield myself with appro­pri­ate lev­els of skep­ti­cism and I failed.

If there’s one thing that mod­ern media is espe­cial­ly good at, it’s tear­ing peo­ple apart.  An Evil per­son picks a tar­get (in this case Sen­a­tors Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin).  Then they pick a hot but­ton issue (in this case their expens­es) and then we all whip our out­rage into a fren­zy.  This works spec­tac­u­lar­ly well with the boomer gen­er­a­tion and mod­er­ate­ly well with younger peo­ple.  In the Senator’s cas­es, the out­rage belongs almost entire­ly to that old­er gen­er­a­tion and it was quite deaf­en­ing until some new infor­ma­tion came to light.

That new infor­ma­tion imme­di­ate­ly intrigued me; not least in part because it reformed the whole sto­ry for me.  What had been a sto­ry about a retired news man sub­mit­ting inap­pro­pri­ate expens­es became a sto­ry about a Prime Min­is­ter attempt­ing to white wash an incon­ve­nient truth with­out regard to who was thrown under the bus. I strong­ly sus­pect that we will con­tin­ue to have new infor­ma­tion deliv­ered to us — Harp­er may well have picked adver­saries that have equal or greater access to the pub­lic ear.

The more impor­tant take-away from this sto­ry, how­ev­er, is that the con­ve­nient news feeds from entire­ly par­ti­san orga­ni­za­tions (includ­ing the gov­ern­ment) are not worth the elec­trons used to form them.  In an era where news orga­ni­za­tions spend ever less on pri­ma­ry report­ing, the con­sumer of news must be ever more wary of the sources used.

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