Thursday, November 30, 2017

Book By CBS News Legend Bob Schieffer Provides Insights On Dealing With The Media

Bob Schieffer, a real newsman, has been a reporter for over 60 years, including four decades at CBS News.  He started out in newspapers.  He’s respected by the news media and citizens alike.  His new best-selling book is excellent.  Overload:  Finding the Truth in Today’s Deluge of News (Rowman & Littlefield) examines today’s journalism and how those who practice it view their profession.  Today’s journalism is a changing landscape and under attack from fake news, ad budget cuts, the Internet, and changing tastes of the American public.  Schieffer guides us through the media maze.

“We have access to more information that at any time in history,” says the book jacket copy.  “But are we more informed or just overwhelmed by so much information we can’t process?”

Schieffer talks a lot about the 2016 presidential election and the role all media played to inform people.

He shows some sobering stats:
·         1 reporter in 8 lived in New York, Washington, or Los Angles in 2004. By 2014 it was down to 1 in 5.
·         Over 125 daily newspapers shuttered over the last decade – and the majority of surviving ones have made drastic editorial staff cuts.
·         A recent study by the Pew Foundation showed that 21 of 50 states lacked a single daily with a DC-based reporter to cover Congress.  

Here are a few good excerpts from his book:  
·         Rumor and innuendo have always been a part of most cultures, but what has changed is universal access to the web and the ability to transit information, true or false, to literally billions of people in milliseconds.

·         For all of the industry’s bad news, newspapers keep finding innovative ways to keep publishing – on paper and online.  Some are partnering with nonprofits and journalism schools, nearly all have devised ways to do more with less, and some, like the Washington Post, have been fortunate to find new owners with deep pockets, but with its new owner and new editor, the Post has created a whole new culture in its sparkling new headquarters.

·         Fewer editors not only increase the possibility of mistakes but also require individual reporters to be well grounded in libel law and ethics. Learning on the job and having the backup of experienced editors are luxuries unavailable to many young journalists, and this puts new emphasis on what they need to know as they embark on that first job.  It is somewhat akin to pickup sandlot sports.  Sure you can learn the game without a coach, but a coach can help the learning process.

·         CONCLUSION:  Americans are so overwhelmed by information in the digital era they cannot process it.  It seems reasonable to conclude that specialists and some elites are more informed, especially if one judges advances in math and scientific fields.  But there is little to suggest we are more informed politically, which is especially difficult for those in the lower-income groups.  Research indicates that situation may be getting worse with increased reliance on mobile devices – a development that could further divide an already deeply divided country.

·         CONCLUSION:  Fake news made up out of whole cloth for political or financial profit poses a growing and dangerous threat to democracies both here and in Europe, all of which depend on informed electorates and faith in traditional institutions.

·         At the risk of stating the obvious, of all the changes brought on by the technological revolution, fake news is clearly the most dangerous and will be the hardest to eradicate.

·         Democracies depend on an informed electorate with access to independently gathered, accurate information that they can compare to the government’s version of events.  It is as vital as the right to vote.

·         Any effort by government or outside agents to impede or undermine the free flow of information is a serious and real threat to democracy and should never be taken lightly.  

·         Journalists have spent too much time worried about whether newspapers should continue to print their news on paper when we should have been worried about the story, not the surface on which it was printed.  There seems little question that the decline of newspapers has had an impact on politics.  In large rural areas it has not been a question of what kind of local news people were getting but whether they were getting any news at all.

·         The dearth of political news in so many areas poses an obvious danger:  if some entity doesn’t rise up to do what we once depended on local newspapers to do, we’ll have corruption in cities and towns across America on a scale we have never known.

·         The politician’s mission is to deliver a message.  Our job is to determine if it is true and what its implications will be for the electorate.

·         We should not assume that everyone in public life is corrupt or there for evil reasons, and we should never leave the impression that we are the exclusive fount of all wisdom.

·         We are not the opposition party.  We are reporters.  Our role is simply to ask questions and to keep asking until we get an answer.  That will not always make us popular, but it is clearly what the Founders intended. I am proud to be a reporter.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby

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