When attorneys for accused family killer Scott Peterson won a change a venue from the his small Central Valley city of Modesto to the San Francisco Bay Area - apparently because the news media's carpet bombing of the case destroyed the ability of every sentient being in Modesto to independently reason - I thought, "Great, now, after avoiding stories on Peterson for more than a year, I'm going to be subjected to them daily in my local paper."
Sure enough. In these first 55 days of 2004, Peterson's name has shown up in the San Francisco Chronicle 54 times, including the off-lead story from today you see here, which seemingly merits front-page play because it reports on allegations made by prosecutors that Peterson lied -- to the news media.
In other words: It is a news media story about alleged lies made to the news media by a man whose notoriety depends solely on the news media. Accompanying the story, is a picture of the news media (in the person of Diane Sawyer) interviewing Peterson. Calling rhetoricians: Is there a word for this type of circular coverage? I call it informational incest.
The other day I wrote, in commenting on how mainstream journalists have lost or are confused about their sense of civic purpose, that they fill "the void with faux news."
In the same post, I cited five suggestions made by Eric Alterman and Michael Tomasky about how journalists could reclaim that purpose and take the initiative against what they call "journalism-related program activity." No. 5 was: "Don't let non-news organs drive the news cycle."
Sure, cover the Peterson case. Report on Kobe and Michael and Janet. But, let's use our own perspective, our own news judgment. As journalists -- not media personalities, not commentators, not hawkers, squawkers or gawkers -- let's develop our own news, set our own agenda and be driven by our own values.
Let's stop confusing media with journalism. Let's put Scott Peterson back inside the paper. I want my front page back.
San Francisco Chronicle Earlier Peterson affair alleged by prosecutors