According to host Gideon Yago’s introductory narration, The IFC Media Project is “going to take a look at what the media gets right, where it gets it wrong, and who calls the shots that influence what you actually see.” Each episode approaches an aspect of the media—like “News Fixations and Taboos,” “Dumbing it Down,” “The Future of News”—and examines the journalists, sources and agendas that shape coverage. But the show fails to examine a crucial part of media: its audience. However thoughtful and thought-provoking aspects of the series are, the omission leaves a profoundly incomplete picture.
Why do we see so many stories about missing children, and in particular missing white children? The show blames the “24-hour news cycle,” a term it neither defines nor explores. Remind me again how much better things were when there were three channels and they all signed off at 1am. TIFCMP ignores the fact that these stories persist because they bring in big ratings. Tucker Carlson tells his Crossfire sob story, but neither he nor the show mentions that Carlson got the boot not because Jon Stewart called him a dick, or because he was wrong, or because bow ties are contrived. Carlson was fired from CNN because ratings for his show were down. This just in: Media is a consumer-driven business.
The second episode explores the nature of propaganda and the American government’s role in controlling information about the war in Iraq, especially as seen through the lens of an American photojournalist on the front lines. It’s substantially more credible, but in both episodes the highlight is a squiggly cartoon segment called “News Junkie” that pokes fun at poor media habits, like using the suffix gate too frequently. Unfortunately, the show relegates its most provocative and sophisticated analysis to a court-jester role. But tell me more, IFC Media Project, about how big bad media ruins everything.