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Amplification

August 18, 2009

I am constantly fascinated by which people and perspectives are given air time and which aren’t.  There are a lot of variables in the equation—the density of the news cycle, the sensationalism of the story, the size of the constituency, the bias of the news outlet, etc.  But every now and then, I’m reminded of how broken our criteria is for determining whose voice should or shouldn’t be amplified.

The first example to catch my eye this week was this post about a Dana Gould report on the health care protests and Remote Area Medical, a non-profit working to meet the medical needs of the uninsured.

The people at the tea parties are screaming and angry and furious about bad things that aren’t happening to other people in some future universe. The people lined up at 4 a.m. outside the free care clinic are resigned and polite and measured about horrible things that actually are happening. To them. Right now.

But more important than their relative politeness is this: the media extensively covered one, and not the other.

And then I was alerted to Chris Matthews inviting the man who brought a gun to a presidential town hall on to Hardball to talk about it.  (I’m not willing to link to it; go search for it yourself if you must)

Doesn’t giving these people and perspectives air time—at some point—start to legitimize them?  And if so, are there situations in which the media has the responsibility NOT to report?

Jonas

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