Commentary

No fix

These are tough times for American journalism.

A Pew Research survey out at the start of the month found the citizenry ranking “made-up news” one of the countries greatest problems, and they expect journalists to fix it.

“Indeed, more Americans view made-up news as a very big problem for the country than identify terrorism, illegal immigration, racism and sexism that way,” Pew reported.

“U.S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of made-up news intended to mislead the public. But they believe it is primarily the responsibility of journalists to fix the problem.”

Pew probably should have qualified the latter observation to say “some” U.S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists because the survey itself found 58 percent of Republicans say journalists create a lot of the fake news.

When you’re in the fact business and a majority of either of the country’s two major political party thinks you are regularly making things up, you have a problem.

A big problem.

And there may be no way to fix it.

A crippled business

Journalism today isn’t what journalism was two decades back. There are fewer journalists. They are less experienced. They are grossly underpaid. They work with little or no backup. And they are nonetheless expected to do more.

The latter might be the worst of it. Hardly anyone does any real reporting anymore because they are too busy.

Most of their time is spent, excuse the bluntness here, shoveling the shit stream of media releases flowing from government where are found more, better paid, and usually more knowledgeable people writing the first draft of the “news” to be rewritten by journalists to greater or lesser degrees.

Ever wonder why crime news factors so heavily on all the mainstream media websites in Anchorage?

It’s because the Anchorage Police Department and the Alaska State Troopers neatly package up information for delivery to the media.

Ever wonder why you read so little about what’s happening in and around Mount Denali (formerly McKinley) these days?

It’s because the National Park Service moved its news online to its own website and now rarely notifies the media about anything other than fatalities.

There was a rescue on June 6 that went unnoticed outside the climbing world. Eight days later, Anchorage’s Channel 2 News headlined “Alaska State Troopers rescue 67-year-old hiker on Flattop Mountain” and linked to what was basically a promo for the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and the troopers Helo 3 helicopter.

The man wasn’t identified. The story was more “olds” than “news.” The rescue was reported to have happened “earlier this week.” The unidentified man was said to have injured his leg. How seriously was unclear. What happened to him after he was taken off the mountain was not reported.

Whether he was an old tourist from Iowa on his first trip to Alaska or one of the various old men who live just below Flattop and hike up it on an almost daily basis might never be known.

The story wasn’t even a real story with any sort of beginning, middle and end. The story was simply a headline pasted above a handout from troopers.

This is how much of the news works now. KTUU does it. KTVA does it. The Anchorage Daily News does it.

Publish or die

They live on “traffic,” the churn of viewers on the web. Immediacy is viewed as the currency of the day. The goal isn’t really to cover anything; it’s to get as many different things as possible into play as soon as possible.

Fact checking? Fact checking?

Who has time for fact checking?

Go read any of the aforementioned sites right now, and you’re almost guaranteed to find a story that doesn’t even meet the basic journalism standards of covering the who, what, when, where and how.

In comments below news stories on media Facebook pages now, you will often these days find readers asking questions a reporter should have asked or providing information a reporter should have included in the story.

As a journalist, it used to be embarrassing. Now it’s just the norm.

Crossing the “T”

Where exactly simply bad reporting and made-up reporting merge is hard to say, but they clearly connect out there somewhere.

The Jussie Smollett story wasn’t made up, but it might as well have been. The lack of healthy skepticism on the part of the media was almost nowhere to be found. The questions that didn’t get asked when they should have been were many.

Aside from Chicago reporter Rafer Weigel and a handful of others in the Windy City, the media went all in on the horror of a story that didn’t quite look or sound right from the beginning. 

Smollett – an African-American celebrity who claimed to have been attacked by two white men yelling “this is MAGA (Make America Great Again) territory” on a cold street in the wee hours of the morning as he walked home from Subway in his upscale neighborhood –  might have been the one actually making up the news, but he had a lot of help in spreading it.

Why?

Because it was an explosive story: Gay, black celebrity beaten by white supporters of President Donald Trump for being gay, black and a celebrity.

There’s traffic there. Liberals will rush to it to reinforce their fears that this is what America has become. Conservatives will be unable to stay away out fear that some lunatics actually went and did something as crazy as Smollett alleged.

What does it matter what really happened? He said it. Chicago Police say they are investigating. Run with it.

This is how the news works these days. It’s a wonder anyone believes any of it anymore. But they do, or at least they do if it tracks with their political leanings, according to a report out from Nieman Lab last week.

“In many instances, we see large differences between people on the left and the right in terms of how trustworthy they think news brands are,” Nieman reported. “Overall, most mainstream news brands in the U.S. are trusted more by those who self-identify on the left of the political spectrum, while those on the right tend to be much more skeptical of news organizations, with the exception of right-leaning outlets such as Fox News and Breitbart. The differences were very large for outlets like CNN (7.08 score for left-wing individuals and 2.4 for right-wing individuals), The New York Times (7.55 for those on the left, 3.04 for those on the right), and Fox News (2.44 for those on the left, 6.94 for those on the right). Broad trust is rare in the U.S.”

Which begs one big question: Who can the 35 to 45 percent of Americans who identify as independents trust? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Commentary

22 replies »

  1. So-called journalism is a rather new invention and only became a force in the 19th century with the advent of speedy and cheap press. It was never a source of truth other than by accident: someone discovered the truth and published it, if they could. Afterwards flies arrive and nibble. If the ‘facts’ become a bloated (always time related) carcass, all the better because – flies. Absolutely NOTHING has changed about journalism from then until now other than the speed and lower cost of delivery and he who holds the the most profitable public attention. Hearst? What the hell happened to the Hearsts? The Hearsts come and go. That we are going through is a current permutation of yellow journalism cannot be a surprise, because: it’s always been that way.

    Lament away, Medred. You crave something, at the nonce, that is un-possible.

  2. ( abbreviated) “Which begs the question who can independents trust?” In this era or perhaps any era ,the answer is the same for all citizens regardless of political ideology. Trust no source that hasn’t been verified from multiple angles . Use common sense on each piece of information then approach the conclusion of thought as a skeptic even if it’s your own thought. The danger of inaccuracies in information is huge even in scientific realm . Per history . If countries and politics are part of the mix it’s really tough. ( propaganda is rampant) Most information will be incomplete. Therefore a mix of many different sources on both sides of political spectrum need to be examined to approach the truth . A site that uses verifiable facts , numbers and straight forward unbiased unleading English with as complete set of backing information as possible has highest likelihood of accuracy. A site that provides links to the studies and information stated – with those studies providing the exact details of the studies to verify quality of such can be utilized in creating a rough draft of what is possibly factual . It appears there will be an element of truth in most papers . The problem is even highly respected ones such as Reuters and A P are tainting their information by only telling a part of the story. In effect creating a narrative and directing thought. A truly sneaky method of bias . ( just leave out those inconvenient facts from story , make it short precise and true but only tell one side ) many folks are anti breitbart but the writing includes a high number of details and works hard to tell the whole story not just a limited part . It is also fallible. Some smart people write for zero hedge but it’s heavily mixed with bs writers . So in short all must be verified every time. Otherwise just give pompeo the keys to our military and head for the hills 😉

  3. “These are tough times for American journalism.”
    And NOT just the “American” reporter, but ANYONE who tries to “dig into” the truth.
    Australian Jullian Assange faces Espionage Act charges from a foreign state (Amerika’) and he is the first Journalist to be indicted under the Espionage Act in over 100 years?
    From Mexico to Russia and as far as Saudi Arabia, reporters face death for trying to hold the hands of power accountable to the truth…
    Here in AK most journalist drink a full cup of “STFU” and continue b.s. political story after bear and police beat coverage…
    Oh well, like all roadblocks in life, there will be alternative news sites by Independent journalists to lead the herd of “sheeple” out of the darkness created by the Murdoch Media Corporation.
    At least Medred provides a valuable forum for citizen debate…
    For that I am grateful!
    Cheers!

    • True enough, Steve. But don’t forget all of the sheeple heading into the darkness by going the other direction through CNN & MSNBC &……
      Cheers!

      • I am concerned Trump has been admiring foreign dictators for too long?
        First Assange is indicted on Espionage and now he (Trump) is calling work by the NYT “Treason”?
        “President Donald Trump has lashed out at The New York Times, saying it engaged in a “virtual act of treason” for a story that said the U.S. was ramping up its cyber-intrusions into Russia’s power grid.”
        This is after NYT worked with the administration to clarify that it was not a matter of national security?
        “In a pair of tweets sent Saturday night, Trump asserted the story wasn’t true and denounced reporters as “cowards.”
        These attacks are a complete disregard for our 1st Ammendment that guarantees freedom of speech.
        My grandfather always taught me that our 1st Ammendment was the most important because if we lose this right then we will lose all those rights that came after it.
        Best thing for Americans to do is support journalism even if the opinion is different from your own.
        “The publication of classified documents is not a crime in the United States, but if Assange is extradited and convicted it will become one…The message the U.S. government is sending is clear: No matter who or where you are, if you expose the inner workings of empire you will be hunted down, kidnapped and brought to the United States to be tried as a spy.”
        (C.Hedges)

        https://www.truthdig.com/articles/trump-calls-newspaper-report-on-russia-power-grid-treason/

  4. I’m Libertarian – I don’t trust any news I can’t verify from other sources. If it references either of the two mainstream parties I consider it pure B.S. until proved otherwise.

  5. If the MSM didn’t engage in unbridled Orwellian “IngSoc Newspeak”; things might be different.

  6. Who can the 35 to 45 percent of Americans who identify as independents trust?

    Answer – Very few journalists. To the point that watching TV ‘news’ or old style print media news outlets for anything but political and medical advertisements is a waste of your life. Scary.

    Cheers!

  7. The Left trusts itself because it is validating.

    The fundamental problem with the business model was that journalism was an expense, advertising was revenue. Craigslist and other cheaper advertising platforms vaporized the traditional business.

    • Isn’t this true with both sides of the political spectrum? I would say the exact same thing about people who use fox and breitbart as their ‘news’ sources – it validates their beliefs. Let’s wake up folks and realize that TV media is there to sell old people meds that make them act like teenagers!
      Cheers!

      • Jack, are you old enough to remember the bomb shelters, Cold War, Berlin Wall, Cuban Missle crisis, etc.?? Nazi Germany? Sure, both sides play to their respective bases to drum-up support but, one side was against that evil. So, when Democrats of today (to include the media, but I digress) identify openly as Socialists and Communists (with pride even) which side of history would you put them on? The pro-American side that Breitbart/Fox, etc. is on or the “America is a bad place” Socialist/Communist side? So, when you say “both sides do it” (and you are right), would you rather be on the pro-American side or the anti-American side (CNN, MSNBC, PBS, ABC, NBC, CBS, Democrats, etc..)

    • Howdy Bryan,
      Do you mean the chief boot-lick, Sean Hannity? Or, all of the rest of them? It’s a rare TV ‘journalist’ who isn’t a political activist. With my sleep fog filled mind, I can think of 2 off the top of my head (I also make a point of NOT watching TV ‘news’) – Neil Cavuto (?) and Shepard Smith – both from Fox ‘News’. At least these 2 guys are making waves at their own networks and not toeing the party lines like a bunch of cheerleaders. I’m happy to see that even on the left side of the stupidity spectrum, over 50% of folks don’t believe the ‘news’ – they shouldn’t!
      Cheers sir!

      • Jack, morning sir..
        My problem is the Democrat Party, Obama in particular, weaponizing the Federal Government (IRS, FBI, CIA, etc..) to go after his/their political opponents. This is stuff you find in Socialist/Communist countries. They bitterally go after Trump to make an example of those that cross the “Deep State”. You know Trump did nothing wrong compared to Obama, Bush, or Clinton.
        The media, jouranlists are supposed to keep the government honest, not chose sides and become complicit in cover-ups or print what is fed to them by the same government they are supposed to be rooting out. The Federal Gov is corrupt, the media is corrupt – period.

      • Hannity makes no pretense that his show is anything but opinion, unlike most of the lefty “journolists” who pretend to be objective reporters when they’re nothing but propagandists. I suppose you’re attracted to Cavuto and Smith because they’re both pretty openly anti-Trump, though Cavuto not so much as Smith..

        Fox pretty clearly delineates between news and opinion; the others all try to disguise opinion as news, but I’m confident it validates your prejudices. The one that comes closest to straight news is OAN, but I’m confident it would offend lefty sensibilities since truth to lefties is kinda’ like sunlight to vampires.

      • I like Cavuto and Smith because they don’t just nod their heads when the POL starts talking and they’re not afraid to call BS on their own party – something that makes them more independent than most reporters. They’re also not afraid to give people praise for doing the right thing instead of saying that everything their guest does is right. I feel that ALL network ‘news’ opinion programs mask their ‘opinions’ as actual news. Perhaps a warning before each program?… but how would the drug companies sell their latest and greatest pill to our elderly folks if nobody watched network news?…. Bottom line, if you’re getting your news on TV or cable, you’re most likely getting sold something. Too bad there isn’t somewhere to just get the news…. reference Opinion’s take above.
        Cheers guys!

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