Glenn Beck = MSM

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Glenn Beck's recent successes in getting Van Jones to leave the White House, a member of the National Endowment for the Arts reassigned, and pushing ACORN out of next year's census are more examples that the "right-wing noise machine" is no more. It is now part and parcel of the mainstream media.

The convergence between alternative, conservative media and the "mainstream" media has been happening for years. I made the case before that the conservative media can force the press, which is a part of the MSM, to cover stories it may not otherwise give attention. One reader asked for such an example and now he has multiple ones with with the NEA, ACORN, and most prominently, Jones. Right-wing media not only put a target on Jones's back, but made it so large that the White House couldn't divert attention from it -- especially the press' attention, which finished him. 

Beck was performing the basic mission of a reporter when he dug up parts of Jones's past because he brought undisclosed facts into the public record. To be sure he was not fair, objective, or disinterested in the outcome of that reporting, but it was reporting nonetheless.

"The reporting we saw on TV and on the Internet...was the work not of journalists, but of political hit men," wrote The Atlantic's Mark Bowden in the October issue about the very subject of people like Beck or the anti-ACORN activist acting like (and even replacing) journalists. They have "some of the skills and instincts of a reporter but not the motivation or ethics," Bowden said. 

But every reporter needs a means of distributing their information far and wide, which is what Beck has with Fox and a support network of talk radio hosts and bloggers. This is what continues to make Sarah Palin newsworthy to the traditional press when she should probably not be. Palin no longer holds office, is not running for another office, and does not have more health care experience than any number of Republican office holders, current or former, as Marc Ambinder noted.

Yet she doesn't need any of those criteria to clear the bar set to enter the mainstream media. Instead, the entry cost into national news for Palin is lower because she can enter the mainstream media through its right portal because its media are conservative and she is popular among conservatives. The same could be said of the protesters in Washington, D.C. who have not been aggrieved by the government, but are simply disagreeing with it. In this way Fox, Rush Limbaugh, and the Drudge Report can elevate stories into the national discourse just as CNN, NPR, and the New York Times can.

The convergence has been happening for years and its vanguard is Matt Drudge. In the beginning he was the Clintons' worst media nightmare, having jumpstarted coverage of the Monica Lewinsky affair and then feeding appetites for negative news about the Clintons. Years later Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and professional news organizations deliberately fed Drudge news. This is as stunning as the thought that Barney Frank and the Huffington Post may work with Glenn Beck.

The last several months have revealed a media that's fundamentally changed from the one America used to get its news from.

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Justin Miller was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 to 2011. He is now the homepage editor at New York magazine. More

Justin Miller was a associate editor at The Atlantic. Previously he was an assistant editor at RealClearPolitics, a political reporter in Ohio, and a freelance journalist.
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