Sunday, June 04, 2006

Owning the Narrative


Reality shapes opinion. Facts shape reality. If you’re a member of the mainstream media, these are the concepts you live by. It’s all about Owning the Narrative. Now that the MSM monopoly is gone, they have had to become much effective in the delivery of their product. Note that this is not the same as reporting of fact.

The MSM priorities are (other than making as much money as possible), in order: speed, interesting delivery, current factual information, and plausible ambiguity. In other words, tell enough facts (WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE) about a story as quickly as possible, and in a way that will keep people watching. Then you combine those facts with plausible WHY’s and HOW’s, before those facts are known, in order to determine what the story will mean to the consumers of their product.

Here’s how it works:

1. Tell the story before anybody else does.

2. Use a provocative headline, flashy graphics and/or a very-attractive-yet-seemingly-trustworthy woman to tell the story.

3. If you’ve got video of the event, especially one that requires use of the “some viewers may find this imagery disturbing” tagline, use it.

4. Most important: the news anchor should use semantics, syntax, diction and speech pattern to project to the audience what they should believe. Subtlety is preferable to overtness here.

5. If available, use an “expert” to provide plausible, but not necessarily accurate, commentary on the news event. Make sure that the expert will contextualize the facts in such a way that they will further your political or personal agenda. If you've got a provocative soundbite phrase, even if it's being used by everybody else, you or your Expert should make liberal (no pun intended) use of it in your analysis. Above all, avoid independent thought or intelligent debate.

6. Present your “facts” to a semi-related public or private figure you wish to discredit. Follow up with a question to them that will force them to provide an answer that will make them appear uncaring, intolerant, uninformed, stupid and/or otherwise responsible for whatever bad thing has occurred.

7. For print media, use semantics and syntax to project an air of authority on the story and subject matter so that you can place the story in the “proper” context.

8. When you are accused of biased reporting, use the defense of only reporting facts and clearly separating it with the analysis you have provided. Steadfastly deny that you are capable of bias.

9. Clarifying or contrary facts about the news story will arise some time later. Place the presentation of these facts low on the list of priorities. For print media, bury these facts on page A11 or later. Your primary goal is to maintain your version of the story at all costs.

10. Don't be afraid to lie to yourself, or your audience, in order to maintain ownership of the narrative.

Note that these rules apply to ALL of the MSM, including Fox News and PBS.

I'm realistic enough to believe that the above paradigm will never change. All I can do, as your resident cynical GenXer, is provide you with this handy guide to analyzing Mainstream Media communications.

Happy media consumption!

Update 6/07/06

I'm a Wretchard junkie. Check this one out:


Major Mike said...

You nailed it!!! MM

Mr.Atos said...

Absolutely nailed it! This should be made into a pocket field guide... or a book. But, I dare say that the work of Sweetness and Light blog and Feldman over at the American Thinker exposing the 'curiosities' of the Haditha story, might well be cavitating the wave that will capsize the old busted media.