What If the Media’s ‘Narrative Journalism’ Harms Their Own Causes?

by Jim Geraghty

From the midweek Morning Jolt:

What If the Media’s ‘Narrative Journalism’ Harms Their Own Causes?

Allow me to play devil’s advocate…

What if the mainstream media’s increasing devotion to “narrative journalism” – preconceived storylines that fit a particular agenda or political or ideological view, almost always progressive –  as opposed to say, “factual journalism” — is actually harmful to the causes they seek to advance?

We’ve seen the media’s “narrative journalism” insisting that Officer Darren Wilson’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown represented a vivid, awful example of racist police forces recklessly using deadly force against defenseless black men. The grand jury remained unconvinced. They saw too many pieces of evidence and witness testimonies that contracted that simple morality play.

The media’s “narrative journalism” contended that George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin represented a brutal crime, revealing a reckless, gun-toting vigilantism loose on the streets of America, preying upon innocent young black men. The jury looked at the available evidence and acquitted Zimmerman. All that one-sided “narrative journalism” left a portion of their audience completely unprepared for the jury’s decision, because it seemed so contrary to everything they had been told.

You may recall similar examples of juries rejecting a convenient narrative embraced by the media’s most powerful voices, such as the case against the Duke Lacrosse players. Jurors aren’t like most news viewers. For the purposes of the decision before them, they’re not “low-information voters.” They don’t have the option of tuning out the story when it gets boring. They have to pay attention – or at least appear to pay attention – to all of the facts, and hear both the prosecution’s side and the defense’s side.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions, are furious and are publicly demanding a result that is extremely unlikely to happen: federal charges and a conviction of Darren Wilson.

You may have missed this story back in October:

The Justice Department is not expected to bring civil rights charges against George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, according to three law enforcement officials, despite allegations that the killing was racially motivated.

The federal investigation of Zimmerman was opened two years ago by the department’s civil rights division, but officials said there is insufficient evidence to bring federal charges. The investigation technically remains open, but it is all but certain the department will close it.

Not even Eric Holder’s politicized Department of Justice wanted to step up and try Zimmerman on federal charges; the burden of proof is just too high and the odds of a successful conviction are just too low.

As in the Trayvon Martin case, all of the agitation and drum-beating and fury-feeding has created an expectation that the Obama administration is unlikely to meet.

You see the phenomenon outside of criminal cases, as well.

The media’s “narrative journalism” did pro forma coverage of Jonathan Gruber’s comments about Obamacare and an ill-informed electorate… but that left a juicy story for the alternative media. And it’s not like ignoring Gruber’s comments has made Obamacare any more popular. All the puff pieces in the world dissipate as soon as somebody gets that policy cancelation letter in the mail. All the “narrative journalism” cheerleading for Obamacare, clashing with the harsh real-life experiences, has discredited the traditional progressive view on the health care system:

For the third consecutive year, a majority of Americans (52%) agree with the position that it is not the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans have healthcare coverage. Prior to the start of Barack Obama’s presidency in 2009, a majority of Americans consistently took the opposite view.

Yes, the media’s “narrative journalism” can certainly set the terms of discussion, bring issues to prominence, downplay inconvenient stories, and so on. And yet that approach generates the opposite results they want pretty regularly, doesn’t it?

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