Sunday, June 13, 2010

Russian Eunuchs, or Once Again on Why the Print Journalism Is Dying

Since the current economic crisis broke out, we have heard endless complaints from journalists about the death of many newspapers, layoffs of journalists, and the imminent death of their profession. I have read countless articles analyzing the reasons why print journalism is on its deathbed. Journalists blame everybody and everything for this state of affairs: the Internet, bloggers, politicians, big corporations, and, first and foremost, the "unintelligent" American public that lacks curiosity and isn't interested in "real" news, as opposed to the swill dished out by tabloids.

Sadly, journalists never stop to think that maybe the public is not as stupid as they are telling themselves. It is just possible that readers are simply tired of the unending idiocy that print journalists are trying to sell them in lieu of information. From Douthat and Fish at the New York Times who have no news to report and sell us their ideology instead, to countless articles based on quasi-scientific studies selling the same kind of conservative ideology that we have already received from Douthat and Fish*, readers hardly have a place to turn for actual news reporting.

For a while, I encountered a safe haven from this kind of unscrupulous journalism in magazines like The Nation, which was always known for its authors' great writing style, a fair and balanced (pun intended) tone of its publications, and the profoundly informative nature of its articles. To my chagrin, The Nation is slowly transforming itself into yet another publication that puts out whatever kind of crap it feels like at any given moment forgetting about fact-checking, integrity, and the far-reaching consequences of writing about certain politically charged subjects.

The most recent example of this unfortunate tendency in The Nation is an article by Carl Schreck titled "Road Rage Russian-style." Not only is  the article filled by statements that grossly misrepresent the current political 
situation in Russia, it ends with the following gem of journalistic analysis:

Car ownership is so closely associated with masculinity here that a Russian man who can't diagnose car problems or tinker under the hood may as well be a eunuch.
This statement is extremely ridiculous on a variety of levels. In terms of car ownership per capita, Russia occupies the 52nd place in the world, which places it after Saint Kitts and Nevis but before Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russia is a fairly poor third-world country, where most people can hardly ever hope to afford a car. The journalist who wrote the article obviously never left Moscow and for some unfathomable reason believes that whatever happens in the capital is indicative of trends country-wide. As for men who don't know how to diagnose car problems being considered eunuchs, this statement as enlightened as the Cold War belief that bears wander the streets of Moscow in winter. 

In this article, the journalist obviously needed to write something before an approaching deadline but was too lazy to conduct any serious investigation. So he went online, looked up a couple of scandalous stories from Russian blogs, threw in a couple of cultural stereotypes (evidently, not caring much about their offensive nature), and then sat back waiting to be paid for concocting this rubbish. I'm sure he is one of those people who keep bemoaning the decline of print journalism without ever stopping to consider how much he is personally to blame for people losing all trust in his profession.

* I have blogged on numerous occasions about this type of journalism:

Gendered ScienceSurprise! Sex Is Not Psychologically Damaging

Emotions and Female Sexuality, Force Feeding Breastfeeding

Unprofessional Journalism: The Case of Yale University

When it isn't Douthat, it's Fish, and a lot more.

1 comment:

Clarissa said...

I'm sorry, people, I have no idea why the fonts in this post are coming out all weird. I must have messed up someplace but what we see right now is the best I can do with this post.