consultants are sandburs

Monday, May 04, 2015

Briefly, journalism schools, the National Press Club, and standardization vs. diversification of "the news."

photo credit, here
This will be a short post posing a question for those with more knowledge and experience to consider.

There are journalism schools, and each, presumably, has a comparable curriculum, fostering more homogeniety than hetrogenity among "the Press." Add to that a national trade association setting up luncheon speakers for club members to attend and learn.

Somebody picks who speaks, and presumably that is based in some non minimal part upon the speaker's past pronouncements and activity, with persons behind the scenes within NPC tasked with speaker choice. Press insiders may know more of the process, but for the general public CSPAN televises speeches real time or rebroadcast, and that is all we know, not how one choice was made, others excluded, as to who gets to stand in front of the press poobahs, and Pontificate about this and that of personal interest to the speaker.

It is a process tending toward homogenity of the news, indeed of what is news vs that which some might find interesting, were it to be widely reported.

By defining the parameters of discussion that way, are we being spoon fed viewpoints that, at least statistically, bias greatly what's publicized and what is either ignored or suppressed, in giving us the news? (Shouldn't the term be "giving us some news," vs "giving us the news?" It's long been known the NYT banner, "All the news that fit to print," is an inappropriate cliche stdanding for all the news we decide to print, since what else do editors do for a paycheck besides winnowing?)

Gentlemen's agreement. All that?

The bottom line of the question, would we be a better and more diversely informed nation, if the National Press Club were to simply shut down?

Links: Likely, many readers may be better at websearch than I am, so I only went to the NPC homepage,, and explored from there. Events, here. There can only be so much in a day, so the events list suggests winnowing, by somebody, inside NPC circles. From the [NPC] President's desk, here, with this cotton candy content-challenged hummer looking like an item you might find, in its way, to be an indirectly infomative read even if you follow no other links.

Another link evidencing winnowing out much, to keep what's kept.

Here's one, do those "spotlighted" journalists look like boat rockers to you, and, gee, don't they have any noteworthy ugly people? Seems not. All mainstream, all attractive, blemish-free, good teeth, instead. If you care, pay to join, qualify to join, here.

More: No website should be without a FAQ page, and NPC obliges; here, stating in the page's opening:

Regular weekly luncheons for speakers began in 1932 and more heads of state and government appear at the National Press Club than any other forum in the world, outside the Oval Office. Speakers at NPC Luncheons are selected by a speakers committee under the direction of the Club president.

All speakers appear at the National Press Club without compensation or consideration of any kind. Speakers must pay for their own transportation and lodging. No stipend or other recompense is involved. The speaker pays no fees or other consideration to the National Press Club as a reimbursement for the privilege of speaking at this forum.

Who has spoken at the luncheon series in the past?
A broad range of speakers has appeared at the National Press Club. Speakers were invited almost as soon as the Club was formed in 1908 – the first recorded speaker was in 1910. A regularly scheduled program began in 1932.

Who is invited to speak at the luncheon series?
As outlined above, the selection of speakers for NPC luncheons is determined by a committee of club members. The committee meets once a month and discusses possible speakers, then sends invitations to those selected. Occasionally, suggestions from non-members are forwarded to the committee for evaluation. Such suggestions should be forwarded to staff member Melinda Cooke. Proposal should include a brief biography of the speaker, the proposed topic, and when the speaker would like to appear at the Club.

How can I get a speaker booked on the series?
There is no means of booking a speaker. The speakers committee will consider suggestions from outside sources for speakers (see above).

What criteria do you use to select speakers?
There are three major criteria the National Press Club uses in selecting speakers:

Newsworthiness – How relevant is the individual to the issues of the day.
National or international stature – How much influence does the individual have over current events in a particular sphere.
Exclusivity – To what degree has the individual already been available to the press.

Obviously, the more flexible speakers are on availability dates, the more likely they will be invited to speak. We also need to know some specifics about the topic a speaker wants to address.

Given that, and given the entire NPC website content, members must rely on subjective judgments made by a committee, and can suggest speakers which the committee ostensibly will evaluate, but again subjectively rules and there's not much real info on how the process moves, the actual power structure in the organization, or any actual factual stuff, whereas you'd expect a journalists' site for journalists would be more content aware, and specific. "We got a committee" at least says it's not a single individual pulling the strings, but how reassuring is that?

For those worried over being propagandized by a large monolithic thing with a possible agenda akin to press ownership's interests, Rupert and Amazon's press ownership business aims, etc., the NPC is an outwardly benign appearing thing, but is there a need for further questioning? That would be for readers and others to answer, but my feeling is that much as the Corps of Engineers controls the Mississippi River, somebody is pulling puppet strings with the National Press Club. Yet, the concept is so amorphous it likely cannot be proven without the testimony at some point of a disgruntled former insider. And that likely would be drowned out by a cacaphony of denial from those earning a living via media reporting. The lone voice in the wilderness, the Cassandra phenomenon, it can be simply drowned out by a din of denial. Marginalize the messenger if the message hurts; e.g., NSA/government response to Snowden - an effort made to channel news toward's Snowden's character faults rather than his revelations, with not much thrown against Snowden sticking on.

Reader comments are welcome.

Another factor worth mention, a subject on which an entire post or research project might be based, the contraction of the nation's statewide daily newspapers has led to fewer correspondents and more reliance on press feeds and press releases, and less on boots of the ground and face-to-face questioning. Posts here have often referenced, "Strib carrying an AP feed," and the makeup and editorial practices of the press feed organizations is another black hole as to the public's access to the winnowing process instead of the final output. A peristalsis effect?

Last, hat tip to Rick Bergman for this ISIS analysis link, by the same press outlet that published Snowden. It's not your grandmother's ISIS analysis, but then she listens too much to news on the radio, Rush and such.

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