Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hyping The Scandal, Ignoring The Needs

When the IRS "scandal" broke, news sources across the political spectrum covered it fiercely. As it slowly fell apart, not so much; especially the right wing sources. The above graph shows it pretty well. The article from which it came also breaks it down with graphs of coverage by each outlet separately.

The problem is what we might call the “scandal attention cycle.” George Washington University political scientist Danny Hayes has described how the “issue attention cycle” results in a surge in news coverage of a new issue like gun control followed by a fairly rapid decline, which received increased attention after the Sandy Hook massacre but ultimately trailed off, following a similar trajectory to previous high-profile shootings. A similar pattern often occurs for scandal—there’s a surge in initial interest as reporters rush to embrace the scandal narrative, but the press quickly loses interest after the most sensational charges are not substantiated. The problem is that it often takes time for the full set of facts to come out. By that time, the story is old news and the more complex or ambiguous details that often emerge are buried or ignored.

It's almost beyond the point of caring, because I don't see how it'll change. Not, at least, before we've collapsed in on ourselves like a perfect implosion of an historic structure. Between the shallow and politically motivated reporting of most media (the NYT somewhat excepted), with the underlying aim of sensationalism for profit, and the resulting factless reinforcement of teabaggR intransigence and that of their supportive public, it's a vicious downward spiral; stupidity feeding stupidity until it swallows up all of us.

I can't imagine the set of circumstances, the political awakening or the acceptance of reality, or the pathway to getting there, that would bring the needed level of cooperation between opposing sides to address our myriad problems before they're beyond solving. Which they probably already are.

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