Media Ignorance: Not My Problem

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 9 2014 8:56 AM

Media Ignorance: Not My Problem

Par3644359
Will they get it right?

Photo by Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Mollie Hemingway is one of the great conservative shamers of liberal media ignorance, a beat that was very useful and funny in her time at GetReligion—a beat that will never get boring. When I woke up this morning, I found about her latest piece via conservatives chortling at this pull quote about Huffington Post reporter Zach Carter's trainwreck interview with Hugh Hewitt.

It’s such a display of ignorance that it seems almost unfair. But looked at another way, it’s simply a good interview where Hewitt seeks to establish Carter’s background and breadth of knowledge in order to help listeners know on what basis he critiqued Cheney.
My favorite line was when Carter was asked if he’d heard of George Weigel and he replied, “I’ve heard of Dave Weigel.”
Advertisement

Now, more people should be aware of the neoconservative Catholic writer/John Paul II biographer George Weigel (no relation), but I have to take exception to my cameo in this article about "media ignorance." Hemingway scoffs at the media panic over David Brat, the economics professor who conquered Rep. Eric Cantor in this June's primary: Political reporters "could reasonably be expected to have passing familiarity with German sociologist Max Weber." 

I agree. That's one reason why I wrote a short post a few weeks ago about Brat's economics and the influence of Max Weber.

At another point, Hemingway mocks a New York Times reporter for discovering that the Tea Party was consulting "once-obscure texts by dead writers" like Friedrich Hayek. That's very mockable, and it's even funnier to think that the readers of the Times* had (in 2010!) to have Hayek explained to them. But some of us know who Hayek is, and didn't need decoder rings when we covered the Tea Party in 2009 and 2010 and heard people fretting about a "road to serfdom." 

My narrow point here is that I didn't like being a totem of media ignorance in a piece that mentions some things I covered closely. Hemingway's larger point is worth taking. Every time you, the reader, see the mainstream media get something wrong—every time they run with a fake chart, or botch the description of a gun, or misstate the year of an election—you naturally wonder if they get anything right. It's even more irritating when one of the new sites that aims to explain the news, a designation that takes for granted that the rest of the media sometimes blows it, blows it itself.

The rewards of writing a piece that gets something wrong, or overhypes it out of ignorance, are similar to the rewards of writing an actual fake news piece—lots of tweets and Facebook shares, and lots of readers. Ask anyone who's written a reported book about the Obamas what they think of the sales for Ed Klein's fan fiction. The reader has gained a kind of independence unthinkable in the days before he/she could read any newspaper article online, or stream any video during or after an event. Reporters can use that independence, too! I think about this all the time, which is why it was surprising to be cited in an article about how the media blows it.

*Speaking of, it's amazing to me that so few liberals knew who the Kochs were until Jane Mayer's 2010 New Yorker story. Tom Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas?, a hit that jumped onto countless liberal bookshelves in 2005, goes into some detail about the Kansas-born Charles Koch.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Why Time Is on Our Side in the Fight Against Ebola

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

Catacombs Where You Can Stroll Down Hallways Lined With Corpses

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Crime
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 1 2014 4:55 PM Blood Before Bud? Must a gentleman’s brother always be the best man at his wedding?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?