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Managing Editor:
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  • Mishell Baker
  • Bluejack
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Publisher: Bluejack

February, 2004 : Editorial:

Television News and the Tyranny of Small Minds

I had an editorial written already, the usual, boring issue #2 editorial where I express astonishment at the positive response IROSF has received, shake my head over the ways in which this project still falls short of my vision, and encourage—nay, beg—you to contribute to the publication.

Typical, boring fare. You would be expected to skim over it if you clicked on it at all, and proceed to the meat of the issue.

Instead, however, I would like to call your attention to a real shoddy piece of work: Wood TV's expose of smut in Asimov's.

Wood TV, Channel 8, is the 24 hour news and weather channel for Grand Rapids, MI. We are all accustomed to media distortions, sensationalizations, and the like, but this particular case is unusually egregious. In fact, it is totally out of line.

To appreciate the degree to which Wood TV got the story wrong in this case, you should refer to the rebuttal published by Asimov's on their web site.

Any regular reader of Asimov's, and, for that matter, anyone whose children have ever done one of these magazine drives, will quickly realize the degree to which the television news story is perpetrating lies, misconceptions, and other hogwash with the clear intent to generate the illusion that they are somehow taking on sin mano-e-mano.

What is particularly baffling is how anyone could target Asimov's, of all magazines, in this situation. The 'shocked' and 'horrified' mom apparently called up the news station. But you have to wonder of this mom has ever read, say Cosmopolitan? In fact, just about all women's magazines these days carry lurid sex tip columns, and perpetuate sexist myths that objectify women.

We in science fiction know just how marginal we are. With subscription rates around 30,000, Asimov's is not in a position to pervert much of anyone. One has to wonder if Wood TV's blindsiding Asimov's wasn't rather carefully thought through: any major publisher would have Wood TV in court within seconds for slander.

It's always disgusting when self-righteous fools set themselves up as arbiters of morality. Repulsive enough are Wood TV's banal efforts to make themselves look like upstanding citizens (meanwhile reading every potentially offensive sentence in the magazine aloud—to the titillation of viewers everywhere, I am sure). Even more so is the pervasive trend of manipulative journalism, with organizations like FOX news leading the charge. A University of Maryland study found that "48 percent of Americans believed that the United States had uncovered evidence demonstrating a close working relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda." (Washington Post) This is not just a false statement, it is a universally acknowledged false statement. But among viewers of FOX news, the percentage of people believing this lie rose to nearly eighty per cent. This was just one example among many in which mainstream news media were, either through negligent reporting or intentional manipulation of the news, disseminating utterly incorrect perceptions.

If the Asimov's rebuttal is even mostly true, one has to wonder whether Wood TV was merely sloppy, or in fact diabolically motivated to get the story just wrong enough.

Well. We could all shake our heads at the sorry state of television news, or we could do something about it. I am told that science fiction fans all over the country are printing out the Asimov's rebuttal and mailing it, directly, to:

    Kristi Andersen
    WOOD TV8
    PO Box B
    Grand Rapids, MI 49501

I strongly encourage you to do the same. It will cost you about five minutes, and one stamp. There may be bigger issues out there than science fiction, larger wrongs being done in the name of "Freedom of the Press," but when they take on science fiction, damn it, they've gone too far. Thirty thousand may not be much when it comes to subscription numbers, but thirty thousand envelopes in their mailroom, that would make a point.

Copyright © 2004, John Frost. All Rights Reserved.

About John Frost

John has spent many years avidly reading science fiction and fantasy: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. In addition to editing The Internet Review of Science Fiction, he teaches computer science.


Feb 21, 20:48 by John Frost
Here we are in the second issue already. Your thoughts, opinions, and criticisms will be welcome.

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