James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Archive for April 1st, 2009

Where the dead white girls are

Posted by James McPherson on April 1, 2009

There are five things you can almost guarantee about a missing person who becomes a lead story in the news, with Sandra Cantu providing the latest example.

First, unless it’s an extremely bizarre case, the victim will be female. We worry a lot more about women and girls than we do about men and boys, and we are more “entertained” by crime against females. Watch a few episodes of almost any fictional crime show on television, and it will quickly become obvious that our crime coverage mirrors far too much of our fictional entertainment.

Second, the victim will be young: perhap a girl, perhaps a young woman, but not middle-aged or elderly. By the way, this makes Nancy Grace an even bigger freak than she would be anyway, because she so widely publicizing the antics of her own twins at the same time that she’s scaring people all over America about what might happen to their own kids.

Third, the victim will be white.

Fourth, the she’ll be attractive in a traditional white-American sense–the type who makes grandmothers say she was “so cute” or “so pretty.”

Fifth, when the victim’s body turns up–and, sadly, they rarely seem to come back alive–she’ll be no more dead than 25,000 or so other children who died the same day.

Of course, almost none of us will ever know the names of all those other children, and Grace won’t be screeching for justice on their behalf. Another difference is that almost all of those other deaths were more preventable by society as a whole than are the random killings of pretty white girls that the media glorify so much.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , | 20 Comments »

Newspaper sales, media credibility skyrocket

Posted by James McPherson on April 1, 2009

While other economic news continues to be bad, CNN reports today that a survey shows that newspaper sales–and news media credibility in general–have soared in recent weeks. Sadly, the news apparently came just a little too late for the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and employees of my local newspaper, which today announced wage cuts of up to 10 percent for newsroom employees in its print edition (but apparently not online).

“Apparently the fine job the media did of covering issues instead of the horse race during the election had an impact,” said a media expert who, ironically, lost his job just last month. “The fact that cable news outlets such as Fox and MSNBC have focused so much on meaningful issues instead of on personalities apparently had a transference effect, making people hunger for more in-depth news in all formats.

By the way, it’s April Fools Day. One thing the CNN story did say that I agree with totally, however: “Geoffrey Davies, the head of the journalism department at London’s University of Westminster, said such pranks do not particularly affect the credibility of a news organization.”

The credibility of the media being what it is, how could those pranks have a negative effect?

Same-day addendum: Apparently lots of people are concerned about the Conficker worm.  I normally get between 100 and 150 hits on my blog in a day. So far today I’m over 1,460, putting me at #26 right now on the WordPress “growing blogs” list and at #70 on the WordPress “top posts” list. Gee, and it came on the same day I was interviewed by C-SPAN about my latest book. As if I didn’t have enough trouble keeping my ego in check.

Most of the blog traffic has come from a CNN link to my Conficker post of yesterday. It has already drawn more than 1,200 hits, making it the third-most-popular post of my 11 months of blogging. Maybe it’s because I mentioned my media criticism class in the post–that’s what I told them in class today, anyway. Each of the two posts ahead of yesterday’s entry has taken months to reach their current numbers of just over 2,200 and just under 2,000 hits.

Addendum #2: By the end of the “day” (which on the “stats” page ends at 5 p.m. my time), I’d had 1,612 hits for the day, and had reached at least as high as #29 on the WordPress “top posts” list (and #26 on “growing blogs“). Thanks to all who visited, and especially those who commented.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Personal, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »