newsphobia

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Nice chaps.

Partisanship is not a result of us not hearing enough about George H.W. Bush talking to his grandkids. It’s largely a result of one party devoting itself to racist, reactionary politics in the service of global corporate interests, but that’s another conversation for another time. More importantly, if you’re an immigrant who is now too terrified to get free baby formula for your child because you heard it might mean you can’t get a green card, you probably don’t care very much whether John Bolton’s guilty pleasure is watching Real Housewives; if you’re a poor person in Arkansas and you just found out you got dropped from Medicaid because of work requirements you didn’t know existed, it’s not all that relevant to you if John Kelly stubbed his toe and said the F-word.

For comfortable D.C. journalists—the sort who might go from the Ivy League to a Buckley Fellowship at the National Review and then to a more prestigious magazine and a CNN gig—the material effects of politics are much less likely to reach you. Politics is, as Chris Hooks wrote in 2016, “the way we distribute pain”—it’s “how we determine who gets medication and who dies young, who learns in a class of twenty kids and who learns in a class of thirty.” But what is politics if you’re privileged enough to insulate yourself from that pain? How do you view politics if you can pay for private schools? If you have good, employer-sponsored healthcare? It’s unlikely you’ll ever have to deal with Medicaid work requirements or skip taking the meds you need to make rent. You don’t have to choose between feeding your kids and buying their birthday gifts. So the import of politics isn’t “will I be able to eat” or “will I be deported,” it’s “are they nice chaps?”

Libby Watson on politics.

Watson is talking here about the scourge of access journalism specifically, but this also applies to a good 99%+ of the middle class, for whom life does not change very much under one party or another, and thus politics is reduced to, variously, “who did I find most charming on TV” at best… and “who will most hurt those [immigrants/single mothers/poor people/hipsters/uni students/insert-other-maligned-group-here] I don’t like” at worst.

But, y’know. Gods forbid anyone be partisan about anything. How déclassé!

2019-01-07T08:05:35+11:0014th May, 2019|Tags: newsphobia, politics|

Newspectacle.

Earnest critiques of the facts and opinions that [talk-radio host John] Ziegler put into the world as if he were a journalist made no sense. “Maybe it’s better to say that he is part of a peculiar, modern, and very popular type of news industry, one that manages to enjoy the authority and influence of journalism without the stodgy constraints of fairness, objectivity, and responsibility that make trying to tell the truth such a drag for everyone involved,” [David Foster Wallace wrote in 2005].

Sound familiar to anyone? While talk radio caters to all tastes, the medium developed to serve an audience Pew described in 2004 as “a distinct group; it is mostly male, middle-aged, well-educated and conservative.” That cohort is now over 50, and its members spent decades listening to radio hosts stimulate by mixing facts and opinions in whatever proportion was necessary to keep listeners from turning the dial.

Alexis C. Madrigal on the new spectacle.

This is from an article describing Pew Research Center research that shows older Americans are more likely to confuse opinion statements for factual ones.

Keep in mind, incidentally, that the replacement of factual analysis with subjective feeling is one of the key preconditions for the rise of fascism

2018-12-03T10:12:00+11:0025th April, 2019|Tags: newsphobia, politics|

Reality’s liberal bias.

From the very beginning, Ailes signaled that Fox News would offer an alternative voice, splitting with the conventions of television journalism. Take the word balanced. It sounded harmless enough. But how does one balance facts? A reporting-driven news organization might promise to be accurate, or honest, or comprehensive, or to report stories for an underserved community. But Ailes wasn’t building a reporting-driven news organization. The promise to be “balanced” was a coded pledge to offer alternative explanations, putting commentary ahead of reporting; it was an attack on the integrity of the rest of the media. Fox intended to build its brand the same way Ailes had built the brands of political candidates: by making the public hate the other choice more.

Chuck Todd on faux news.

It’s probably not exactly (a har) news to many people by now that Fox News was intentionally set up as a right-wing propaganda arm. But it’s something that’s worth repeating all the same…

2018-09-12T15:44:48+11:0026th February, 2019|Tags: newsphobia|

Think before you link.

The latest research on how fake news spreads on social media. Tl;dr, it’s pretty grim, although I think maybe the take-home is for all of us to start focusing more on “good reblog hygiene”, i.e. thinking before we reflexively reblog things that tug at our emotions, particularly emotions like vindication or outrage.

Also, personal quibble: journalists need to stop calling psyops units that intentionally spread disinformation propaganda “bots”. A bot is, like, all those _ebooks Markov chain accounts, or that electric eel’s account. A bot is not a dude who’s paid by a government agency (and/or shell company) to pose as a foreign citizen for the intent of infiltrating and undermining a political movement. That distinction matters.

2018-05-09T08:32:29+11:004th November, 2018|Tags: culture, newsphobia|

Sides.

I’ve spent 25 years as a journalist and have repeatedly seen the discomfort that journalists feel about proclaiming one political party to be more successful than the other on virtually any substantive issue. We journalists are much more comfortable holding up the imperfections of each and casting ourselves as the sophisticated skeptic.

Sometimes, though, one party really is doing a better job than the other. To refuse to admit it is to miss the story.

David Leonhardt on false neutrality.

2018-05-01T09:40:26+11:0017th October, 2018|Tags: newsphobia, politics|

From the outside.

And this is why we are now going through a phase of hysterical reaction to the “fake news”: because it is the first time that non-Western media are not only creating their own global narratives but are also trying to create narratives of America.

For people from small countries (like myself) this is just something totally normal: we are used to foreigners not only appointing our ministers but being present throughout the media space, and even influencing, often because the quality of their news and scholarship is better, the narrative about country’s own history or politics. But for many people in the US and the UK this comes as a total shock: how dare foreigners tell them what is the narrative of their own countries?

Branko Milanovic on narrative monopoly.

2018-02-20T14:46:08+11:007th August, 2018|Tags: culture, newsphobia|

Newsphobia.

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.

2018-02-01T08:02:16+11:0019th July, 2018|Tags: culture, media, newsphobia|

Pivot to bullshit.

If I wanted to watch video I’d just turn on the freakin’ TV. As it is, if I can’t read online articles quietly on my phone in the toilet, then I ain’t interested.

2017-10-04T15:12:13+11:0015th March, 2018|Tags: newsphobia|

Powderkeg news.

Why Modern Journalism Is Terrible, Amazon-Recommended-Terrorism Edition.

My favorite quote:

The ‘common chemical compound’ in Channel 4’s report is potassium nitrate, an ingredient used in curing meat. If you go to Amazon’s page to order a half-kilo bag of the stuff, you’ll see the suggested items include sulfur and charcoal, the other two ingredients of gunpowder. (Unlike Channel 4, I am comfortable revealing the secrets of this 1000-year-old technology.)

2019-01-17T08:35:10+11:006th March, 2018|Tags: newsphobia, science|