Saturday, January 4, 2014

Is Walter Lippmann really the "Father of Modern Journalism"? Part 2

As a continuation of my prior post, I want to point out some more things I have found. This will further highlight the importance of Lippmann's ideas among the journalistic world - not because I say they're important, but because journalists themselves say or write it.

One of the things I mentioned in the prior post was that the Harvard School of Journalism has a monument to Walter Lippmann, right on their campus. That's a fairly profound statement on their behalf of what their view of Lippmann was. They also proudly proclaim it:

That’s our home, Lippmann House, above in less frozen days.

Here is what the monument to Walter Lippmann looks like:

And again, you can see that the Lippmann House is where they conduct internships:

You’ll be based here in Cambridge, in our office at Lippmann House

You could also find out what they think just by searching their websites for him. Such as this article: "A spotlight, not a truth machine", which says right along the top as a sub heading:

"The answer will be what it has been since Walter Lippmann got it right 90 years ago."

Or this article: "Questioning Walter Lippmann and our methods of journalism training". These are the things that journalism schools are teaching, and journalism students are reading. There are many other references to Lippmann which are not nearly as specific. Often times, you will just see an off-hand comment which mentions Lippmann and nothing more.

If you notice in that last link, one of the big laments is the lack of journalism schools. On the surface, this appears to be a circular argument and somewhat counter to what is written, because its no secret that these institutions of higher learning teach everybody regardless of their field to be activist. So while on the website it looks like they are only training based on Lippmann's more "honorable" quotes, we can verify the roots of activist thought just by using the first link as well as Lippmann's own writing. In the first link, it says this:

The answer will be what it has been since Walter Lippmann got it right 90 years ago: Journalism is not a truth machine but a searchlight that picks up aspects of reality that obtrude upon the world at a moment when the searchlight hits upon that location.


People like me will remind data enthusiasts that journalism is about stories, not data. Data are vital resources, but someone has to apply intelligence, art, and ardor to them to make them a matter of public interest.

As I explained here and here (using pages 355 and 358), Lippmann says the same thing almost word for word. Once you know the history of journalism, you will know that this set of talking points is actually their green card to propaganda:

1: News and truth are not the same thing.

2: There is a very small body of exact knowledge, which it requires no outstanding ability or training to deal with.

3: The rest is in the journalist's own discretion.

Its not just that they think that journalism is about stories("the rest") over data("truth"), its the stories - "the rest" - where they have their source of power because "The rest is in the journalist's own discretion". Right from his own mouth. Page 358.

It all fits. The truth is hidden right there in front of you, right in plain sight. Simply because nobody is actually reading these things and seeing what's actually contained there, these people can get away almost literally with bloody murder. That's the Manufacture of Consent. (which is another Lippmann masterpiece. See page 75)

There's also this, from the American Journalism Review titled "Lippmann On the New Objective Journalism", which reads very similar to the second link from the Nieman Foundation(Harvard).

As you can see, Walter Lippmann is the hero of the story. So if Walter Lippmann is not the "Father of Modern Journalism" but rather he is the "Hero of Modern Journalism", then it is to a degree a distinction without a difference. Either way it does highlight how important he is to the whole establishment.

And no, I am not using a broad brush to paint. Again from page 355: (Lippmann is writing about he the reader, and the user of stereotype words, the writer)

In order that he shall enter he must find a familiar foothold in the story, and this is supplied to him by the use of stereotypes. They tell him that if an association of plumbers is called a "combine" it is appropriate to develop his hostility; if it is called a "group of leading business men" the cue is for a favorable reaction.

It is in a combination of these elements that the power to create opinion resides. Editorials reinforce.

So what did I just do here? I just used a quote from 1920 to describe to you the New York Times in 2014. That's exactly what they do - key words in the news strategically placed, and the editorials repeat it ad-nauseam.

All of them, they have all been trained to be just like Walter Lippmann. They're all Lippmann activists and/or acolytes. This is what journalism schools are teaching, and its what we are watching in real-time.

You can also find some very interesting things if you poke around the website for Columbia's Journalism department. For example, this paper titled The "Lippmann-Dewey Debate" and the Invention of Walter Lippmann as an Anti-Democrat 1986-1996. In this paper, you will find the following:

In this article, Carey asserts that Lippmann's Public Opinion is "the founding book of modern journalism" (Carey, 1987, p. 6), although with greater reason he had called it in 1982 "the founding book in American media studies" (Carey, 19

He's talking about James Carey's 1982 article in The Center Magazine titled "The Press and the Public Discourse," as well as Carey's earlier article "Mass Media: The Critical View." Unfortunately, neither are available online for us to examine, but these are pretty specific phrases being used here - that and its not like others have not used similar wording, see my prior entry.

So what of this founding document of modern journalism, written by what would have to be its father, Walter Lippmann? If "Public Opinion" is the "founding document", does that make it journalism's "Constitution"? In a sense, I think all of us can answer that question with a "yes".

You can download the transcript here.

Or, you can listen to the audiobook of it here.

Lets stop letting these journalists get away with it. Let's use their own history against them. What possible defense could they have?

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