newsphobia

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Integrity.

In discussing journalistic objectivity, [press critic Jay] Rosen agrees that the media’s work should not be politicized, i.e., produced expressly to help one party/candidate or another.

On the other hand, he says, media cannot help but be political. Modern journalism was meant to play a political role, to expose the truth and hold politicians accountable to the small-l liberal values that make liberal democracy possible. It cannot remain neutral when those values are under threat. Like other institutions — science, the academy, and the US government itself — its very purpose is to both exemplify and defend those values. Its work is impossible without them.

The press should always be fair in the application of its values and standards, but doing so will mean making clear when there is an asymmetry.

David Roberts on objectivity.

2020-06-09T11:02:18+10:002nd August, 2020|Tags: culture, newsphobia, politics|

False nihilism.

For most of recent history, the goal of propaganda was to reinforce a consistent narrative. But zone-flooding takes a different approach: It seeks to disorient audiences with an avalanche of competing stories.

And it produces a certain nihilism in which people are so skeptical about the possibility of finding the truth that they give up the search. The fact that 60 percent of Americans say they encounter conflicting reports about the same event is an example of what I mean. In the face of such confusion, it’s not surprising that less than half the country trusts what they read in the press.

Bannon articulated the zone-flooding philosophy well, but he did not invent it. In our time, it was pioneered by Vladimir Putin in post-Soviet Russia. Putin uses the media to engineer a fog of disinformation, producing just enough distrust to ensure that the public can never mobilize around a coherent narrative.

Sean Illing on manufacturing discontent.

2020-02-25T09:26:12+11:0022nd June, 2020|Tags: newsphobia, politics|

Centrist bias.

Meanwhile, a quarter-century covering national politics has convinced me that the more pervasive force shaping coverage of Washington and elections is what might be thought of as centrist bias, flowing from reporters and sources alike. It is a headwind for Warren, Sanders, the “squad” on Capitol Hill, even for Trump. This bias is marked by an instinctual suspicion of anything suggesting ideological zealotry, an admiration for difference-splitting, a conviction that politics should be a tidier and more rational process than it usually is.

A confession: I’ve got it. A pretty strong bout, actually.

I am not terribly self-conscious about my predispositions to see politics and governance a certain way. These wouldn’t be my predispositions if I didn’t think they had something going for them. But the recognition of bias imposes an obligation to push against default thinking and explore the possibility that it is wrong.

Here’s the main reason it might be wrong: The most consequential history is usually not driven by the center.

John F. Harris has a moment of reflection (almost).

This entire post is like that “no, it is the children who are wrong” meme come to life…

2020-05-12T08:39:06+10:0024th May, 2020|Tags: newsphobia, politics|

Snowflake avalanche.

This isn’t even a question of economics, per se, as Deadspin — and, indeed, G/O Media entities as a whole — are profitable. Deadspin’s future isn’t in jeopardy because it wasn’t making enough money, but because a jury in Florida decided that Hulk Hogan was owed over a hundred million dollars because his public image was embarrassed, in a case bankrolled by Peter Thiel due to a personal vendetta against Gawker. The network of profitable sites was then sold to Univision and used as collateral by its private equity owners, which piled on billions of dollars of debt. Those sites were then sold to Great Hill Partners, another private equity group, which installed as CEO a guy who seems to hate everything about the sites, and who used to run the Internet Advertising Bureau — which might explain why all of these websites are now laden with garbage advertising.

All of this is to say that blogging is a format that is still very much alive, especially if you stretch the definition. But the most powerful people in the room desperately dislike the validity of independent and unconventional writing, and are doing all they can to dismantle it.

Nick Heer on journalism.

It’s also worth pointing out Hulk Hogan’s “public image” was “embarrassed” because he was caught saying racist things on camera. So, y’know. There’s that. And, for those who missed it, Thiel’s vendetta was because Gawker once ran a story pointing out he’s gay… but also a huge bank-roller of far-right (and thus often anti-gay) causes.

Either way, the point is that a pair of millionaires who got caught out being shitlords and got hurt fee-fees because of it basically burnt and salted the earth for an entire segment of online journalism…

2019-12-12T08:25:10+11:0024th March, 2020|Tags: culture, newsphobia|

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+10:0026th February, 2019|Tags: newsphobia|
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