Friday, August 12, 2005

How Bozell Does Press Criticism

In the New York Times Sunday Book Review section on July 31, Judge Richard A. Posner praises a number of books for documenting "the bias in some of the reporting in the liberal media." For a critique of Posner's article, see Media Matters. I want to focus on one of the books Posner singled out--Weapons of Mass Distortion: The Coming Melt-Down of the Liberal Media , the 2004 tome by L. Brent Bozell III, head honcho at the Media Research Center. Imagine my humiliation, as a press critic, at never having read this masterwork.

Naturally, I headed straight to the library to correct this grievous error. This will be a short review, because one amusing anecdote pretty much says everything you need to know about this book. It comes at the beginning of chapter 5.

Bozell goes to a CNN studio to tape an interview for story on “a breaking Hollywood scandal.” But oops! A snafu at CNN puts Bozell into the wrong studio, to talk about the wrong subject. Before he realizes it, a live show has started, and he’s supposed to discuss Oscar contending films on Showbiz Today, along with other “film critics."
One small problem though: “Film critic” Bozell had not viewed a single one of the Best Picture nominees and had no idea what was going on with the other categories! But I was stuck, and so for the next half hour, I bluffed. I didn’t want to answer “I have no clue” to every question, so I winged it, proffering one uniformed opinion after another. I was especially proud of myself when I spoke of being impressed by the cinematography of one film, and won enthusiastic agreement from my fellow critics, causing me to wonder if any of them had watched these movies either.
Funny stuff! What a great story. My only complaint about it is that it shouldn’t come in chapter 5. It should be in the preface; if possible, I would like to see it printed on the cover. Should readers really have to wait until chapter 5 to learn that Bozell is willing to go on national TV and just make stuff up? Should they even have to open the book? What does it say about a man that he offered “uniformed opinions”—in fact that he lied-- for no better reason than that he “didn’t want to answer ‘I have no clue’ to every question?”

Bozell says that “this story comes to mind whenever I ponder how some in the news media cover economics.” For me, this story will come to mind whenever I ponder how L. Brent Bozell does press criticism.