Maddow Shows How the "National" Media Isn't National At All

by: David Sirota

Thu Jan 20, 2011 at 13:30


Last night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow rightly asked a taboo question of our "national" media: Why has it largely ignored what the FBI says is a major terrorist bombing attempt on Spokane, Washington? In the segment, you can see she cites examples of the "national" media hyperventilating about bomb scares that ended up being false alarms. She cites these examples to wonder why, in the face of a bomb scare that's actually real, the same "national" media has ignored the Spokane story?

I have an answer to that question - it's an answer I've previously written about in a 2006 post entitled "It's the Geography, Stupid." As you can see from the clips Maddow cites, the "national" media has devoted wall-to-wall coverage to bomb scares that have occurred specifically in New York and Washington, D.C. That's not a coincidence from a "national" media that isn't "national" at all. Indeed, what passes for a "national" media these days is almost exclusively New York/D.C. based media that focuses almost exclusively on New York/D.C.-centric stories.

Watch the typical news broadcast on a given night and you'll see what I'm talking about. Despite having satellite feeds and news facilities all over America, almost all of the "national" shows you will see are nonetheless primarily featuring anchors and guests living in, working in and focusing on Washington and New York.

Now, obviously, New York and Washington are important places, deserving of ongoing news coverage. But in a nation of 300 million people, they are not the only place where news happens - and certainly not the only place that has worthy anchors and guests.

And yet, that's what our "national" media effectively suggests with its tunnel-vision focus on New York and DC to the exclusion of the Rest of Us. It suggests that what happens outside the New York/D.C. bubble is not important - and if it is, it's only important in how it affects New York/D.C. A good example of this is the Tucson shooting - most of the "national" media discussion in the aftermath of the tragedy focused on how it would affect future debates in Washington.

David Sirota :: Maddow Shows How the "National" Media Isn't National At All
Now, Maddow courageously provides us another even more telling and undeniable example with the lack of coverage devoted to the Spokane bomb.

Why haven't the "national" media covered it in any serious way? Because the story is happening outside of the New York/D.C. media bubble - ie. a place that the "national" media and political elite see as an unimportant Siberia. It isn't being covered, in other words, because while it's a serious story affecting the faceless masses, it doesn't affect that New York/D.C. political and media elite in any personal or professional way.

The problem with this, of course, is larger than any one story - even one about domestic terrorism in the Pacific Northwest. The "national" media's New York/D.C.-centric nature helps explain why the parameters of our entire political discourse are so skewed on every issue, and why this "national" media so often presents policy proposals as "centrist" even when those policy proposals are nowhere near the center of national public opinion. It's because many of these fringe policy ideas - like, say, cutting Social Security - are indeed "moderate" and "centrist" within the confines of elite social circles in New York and Washington. So to a "national" media disproportionately oriented to reflect only those circles, such policies seem "centrist" - even when they clearly aren't.

As I said, "it's the geography, stupid" - and because we've allowed our "national" discourse to become a discourse primarily between competing New Yorkers and Washingtonians, we get a political and media class that is increasingly out of touch with the Rest of Us.  


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Domestic, Right-Wing Terrorism (4.00 / 4)
I agree with all David said.  

In addition, I can't help but notice this was a case of domestic, right-wing terrorism.  That doesn't play into the national narrative of "radical Islam".  After the events in Arizona, it might make conservatives look even worse.  Can't have that happen!


Along The Same Lines (4.00 / 2)
The national media are willing to cover "heartland" stories that confirm their narratives about what the "heartland" is--particularly if they shame liberals for being "out of touch".  And rightwing nativist violence, strangely enough, is not part of the script.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
It's even worse than ignoring everything but D.C. and N.Y.C. (4.00 / 5)
because great swaths of D.C. and N.Y.C. are ignored too.

I'd say the Black neighborhoods of D.C. and the lower middle class suburbs are ignored too.

New York?  Only one burrough matters and not all of it either, just Downtown Manhatten and Uptown Manhatten.  Forget the Village or Harlem.

Educate, Agitate, Organize, Mobilize, Act!


Very true (0.00 / 0)
The Washington Post, fore barely acknowledges the bulk of the District.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Excellent point (4.00 / 3)
It might be fair to say, then, that the "national" media cover what concerns the elite. period. The moneyed people.

[ Parent ]
RE: "...all of the 'national' shows you will see... (0.00 / 0)
...are nonetheless primarily featuring anchors and guests living in, working in and focusing on Washington and New York." - Sirota
MY COMMENT: Yes, that is for the most part very true. But then I do remember one night not long ago when the ABC or NBC evening news devoted a couple of minutes to a satellite feed from a "reporter" on the ground in Buffalo, NY. The "reporter" was apparently alerting the nation to the fact that Buffalo was experiencing an accumulation of 'lake effect' snow (in January, no less)!
And I remember a feed of several minutes just recently from New Orleans during the NBC evening news that was essentially a promo for NBC's exclusive broadcast of THE BIG GAME later that evening!
That's why I'm always on the internet doing something useful while those insipid "news" broadcasts are just droning on in the background in case they should actually cover some 'hard news'. The rest of the time I listen to podcasts and radio off over the internet.  
Frankly, I don't know why I even bother to turn the TV on (except for Netflix). Force of habit?
 

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