As an industry, the media specializes in the worldwide production of audiences. The artifacts of this industry have become our common culture, and this is why we worry about the effects of the media. Journalism is something different. It is a social practice essential to a democracy— and democracy is more than mere openness. What journalism produces is not an audience, but a public, and we should worry when journalism fails to have this effect on us.
What’s confusing is that both the media and journalism have an interest in news. But the media sees news as low-cost material— a cheap way to engage us in the moment. The purpose of journalism is to engage us, not in the moment, but in the present— especially the political present. Journalism falters when it loses its authority over the present, it’s ability to engage us in the public world as it presently stands.
Jay Rosen on journalism vs. the media.
This is the text of a lecture Rosen gave in 1993, of all things (the internet didn’t even exist in ’93!), but it remains startlingly and terrifyingly relevant.
The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out. They look like epidemics of disinformation, meant to undercut the credibility of valid information sources. They look like bot-fueled campaigns of trolling and distraction, or piecemeal leaks of hacked materials, meant to swamp the attention of traditional media.
These tactics usually don’t break any laws or set off any First Amendment alarm bells. But they all serve the same purpose that the old forms of censorship did: They are the best available tools to stop ideas from spreading and gaining purchase.
Zeynep Tufekci on the new censorship.
How the media describe “groin injuries“.
I admit I get confused about the term “groin injuries”, since I’m never sure if it means “kicked in the nuts” or something like “sprained some kind of inner thigh muscle”. I guess it doesn’t matter that much, but it’s only just occurred to me that I’ve probably spent my entire life imagining the wrong thing every time I’ve heard this phrase. Go figure.
For all that the term “ethics in games journalism” is a huge joke, there are some people out there who write decent Really For Realz articles about it. UnSubject is one of said people, and his take on the difference beteween access and accountability journalism is definitely worth a read.
What percentage of teens in your country do you think give birth every year? How about what percentage of the population is Christian versus what percentage is Muslim? How about unemployment? Life expectancy? Voter turnout?
Well. Apparently a market research firm in the UK decided to as a bunch of these questions to a variety of people across several countries… then compared the answers they got to the actual statistics. The results are, um. Illuminating, shall we say.
The world of online media doesn’t have the twin pillars of a subscriber base and advertisers to fall back on when it comes time to pull in income. That has always been the case with print media, which is one reason boycotts of the New York Times or Washington Post’s advertisers are generally ineffective.
Online media, by contrast, has to rely almost solely on advertisers to pay employees’ salaries, which means that when advertisers start to pull ads or apparent corporate support from sites (as Mercedes Benz and Adobe did for Gawker after #GamerGate complaints poured in), it scares the hell out of online outlets.
–The fragile business model of advertising.
The Vox article is mostly about GamerGate, but this quote stood out because of its universal applicability. What it’s identifying here is the biggest vulnerability in the current demand for “free”, ad-supported online content.
If content producers can’t rely on a self-sustaining base of paying users, they become wholly beholden to their handful of big advertisers and, by extension, beholden to any interest group able to bring pressure against those advertisers. Some of you who are oldtimers in fandom may recall this is very similar to what happened at LiveJournal with things like Strikethrough, except with even bigger and broader implications for political discourse.
What happens to a democracy when mass media is afraid or unable to report on certain topics? That’s not a rhetorical question; we already know exactly what happens, and the ironic part was the Internet was “supposed” to stop it.
Welcome to the cost of “free”.
But elevating books that favor your political friends — even when you’re fighting their publisher — and burying political books that promote ideas you don’t like is not something that society can comfortably accept from a retailer that is the principal book retailer in the country. (No other retailer has ever had comparable market share so this “problem” has never arisen as a public interest question ever before.) Whether they like it or not, Amazon (like Google) has virtually become a public utility, providing a service most of us depend upon to be objective and catering primarily to the interest of the individuals it serves, not its own.
–Mike Shatzkin on public utilities.
While I’m not sure I agree entirely with the notion that services like Amazon and Google are “public utilities” per se, there is still… something to this argument. That is, we’re at the point where single private entities have massive scope over the information we consume, either overtly (e.g. how pretty much every newspaper in Australia is owned by one of two companies), or covertly (e.g. the subtle ranking/filtering systems of Google and Facebook). When Amazon and Google and Facebook and Twitter decide to censor particular information–and this isn’t even an “if”, it’s already a “when”–what, if any, impact do we feel it has on the operation of our society? Are we okay about the opaque private censorship of data? Because we sure as hell don’t seem to be okay when the government does it… so what happens when it’s private enterprise shutting down discourse and suppressing ideas instead?
I don’t have an answer to this one, but I do think it’s something we’ll be seeing more and more of over the next decade or so.
Welcome to the dystopian cyberpunk corporate future, and all that.
One of the fundamental requirements for a stable democracy is an informed voting populace. And while the concept of a “free press” isn’t necessarily the only way this can be achieved, it’s certainly one of the most obvious. Which is why controlling the media is the oligarch’s Holy Grail… and teaching others the skills to recognise this control is the equivalent for oldschool journalists.
The key component here is critical thinking. Without it, our society is kind of screwed…