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Media Conference: Criticism for the Critics, from the Critics

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: media, independent press, media reform, National Conference for Media Reform, media criticism, media critics, Janine Jackson, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Eric Deggans, St. Petersburg Times, Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, Diane Farsetta, Center for Media and Democracy, Paul Schmelzer, Minnesota Monitor,

“Let’s take off the gloves,” moderator Paul Schmelzer of the Minnesota Monitor said to his panelists, an assembly of media critics charged with talking about their changing role in an evolving media landscape. The question: What could they be doing better?

Janine Jackson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) called for more rounded subjects. Critics get mired in deconstructing the coverage of domestic and party politics, she said. Among the areas in which Jackson would like to read more are the disability community, labor news, and feminist and antiracist criticism. She also noted a tendency to focus heavily on print media, neglecting mediums such as radio. “Wherever the influence is, criticism should be,” she stressed.

Eric Deggans of Florida’s St. Petersburg Times noted that media critics don’t criticize themselves very well, that they’re more cautious when approaching their own institutions. Deggens also pointed out the lack of media criticism on TV; he’d like to see the nightly news dissecting media coverage. “[Producers] don’t think viewers are interested,” he said, “but they could get them to be interested.”

Media Matters for America's Eric Boehlert suggested refraining from personal attacks. It’s a model that’s worked for Media Matters, which keeps its criticism focused on “comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media,” as opposed to demonizing conservative pundits.

Finally, Diane Farsetta, from the Center for Media and Democracy, chimed in with the need to form partnerships with community, university, and other local organizations. If the media is missing a story, or misreporting the information, instead of “becoming an expert in 30 minutes,” make a community connection, she counseled. Then when you deliver your criticism, you can direct the criticized party to an expert source.

For more on the National Conference for Media Reform, click here.