Monday, June 1, 2020

What happened to Journalism

Annamaria on Monday

I know you have seen this before. (Thanks again, Stan.)
As far as I am concerned, it cannot be seen enough,

Ask around with this question, and many of the answers you discover will blame the current sad state of journalism on the dawn of digital media.  This is only partially true.  Spreading lies, as you would imagine, long predated the invention of the iPhone.  Digital information did however make it much easier to spread misinformation.

I was inspired to look into and cogitate about this subject by a shock I received.  An email from the progressive organization MoveOn contained this statement about the Trump administration: “So he and his cronies have begun pushing dangerous conspiracy theories to explain his failures—and, as usual, the media is playing right into his hands.”

What I thought?  It’s the right-wing that usually makes this sort of statement.  They are the ones who have, in the USA anyway, turned the words “the media” into a pejorative, as in the statement above.  Imagine if it said, “the free press is playing right into his hands.”  No one would seek to condemn journalism in general by calling it “the free press.” If one is finding fault with it, it is “the media.”

 Problem is these days it is hard to tell the difference between journalism based on facts and other forms of writing.

True journalism, in other words the reporting of the truth, follows rules.  It does not pass off lies as the truth.  It shares fact checked information.  It does not intermix it with questionable statements or opinions and make them all look like the same thing.

Let’s take a quick look at some definitions:

Fact: a thing that is known or proved to be true.

News: newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events.  Note: In professional news reporting this “information” must be based on assurances that the report contains facts.  Where such reports offer opinions, they are given as such and attributed to the holder of the opinion along with his or her credentials to opine on the subject at hand.

In the old days, when the news came printed on paper, reliable publications let readers know the difference between the news and their editors' opinions by what page they put them on.  They kept their opinions for a special “editorial” section.  Broadcast, tabloid, and especially digital reporting seem to have blurred these boundaries until they have just about disappeared.   

Then there are the black sheep of journalism:

Propaganda: information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

Yellow Journalism: journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration.  This dastardly technique has been around for a long time.

These are techniques meant, not to inform the public so people can make their own judgments, but to manipulate them into thinking the way some power grabbers want them to think.

The latest addition to these enemies of an informed electorate is Fake News.

It terrifies me to have to say that, these days, what is available for public consumption is a complete mishmash of all of the above.  Worst of all, those in power have so manipulated public opinion against "the media" that even the most trustworthy outlets of factual, reliable journalism are mistrusted and disregarded, while a large segment of the population have become addicted to propaganda purveyors, who slant everything in the direction of what they want to hear.  This hardens their belief in propaganda and fake news.

As the enemies of professional journalism fully intend, this turns any democracy into a pale, frail, moribund version of the sinewy, vital form of government that it used to be.

If you care about this, I urge you to check out these two ways of learning about journalism:

A greatly entertaining TV series that shows what it takes to cover the news well and how it can go awry.

A podcast that discusses current events and how the media is covering them.  Fascinating in every way.


  1. Very important issues here, Annamaria. It is the blurring that is the most concerning. I subscribe (electronically) to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. They are clearly biased towards the left, and I admit that that agrees with my own views so I accept it. But I've tried respected newspapers on the right (e.g. The Daily Mail in the UK) and find that their opinions seem to blend more with the news. So I read (what I believe to be) factual reporting and make my own decisions.
    There is a view on the left that Trump should be shunned, not reported, and this is what they mean by "playing into his hands." When the "media" stops reporting what the president of the US is doing and saying, we are as badly off as in your first picture...

    1. As ever, Michael you and I agree. My trusted sources are the same as yours. I listen to National Public Radio, an outlet I trust, especially because it sometimes gets my leftist hackles up with things I don't like to hear. That tells me they are not slanting their broadcasts to the tastes of a political position.

      When it comes to Trump's lies, the media that I follow have begun to report what he says. (Sometimes that please me no end by using the phrase "the President alleges.") They then report the truth. If someone in any walk of life makes an assertion that comes across as a fact, they will say it it "unproven."

      Too many people I know and love in the States focus only on left slanted reporting. Many also believe Trump should be shunned. There was a time, when The Donald was running for the nomination that I was dismayed because the press gave him so much more attention than anyone else in the race. That was a mistake, but it is too late to make up for now.

  2. i do love that first picture, Annamaria. It says so much about the times we live in...

    1. Me too, Zoe. I think that image should be a mural on a huge wall where it can be seen from Capitol Hill and the White House.

  3. Three things seem to me to underpin the influence of the media: (1) it is there to make money, so it will pander to what readers want irrespective of accuracy and impartiality; (2) readers can't tell whether an argument or position is logically derived (or don't want to), leading to an unquestioning acceptance of ideas they support; and (3) few citizens these days have a solid background or even basic knowledge of civics. The notion that one should always question what you read or are told seems to have been relegated to the trash heap.

    1. Stan, you make so many cogent points. For me, it's about this: a lot of people in the US can't think critically, but through no fault of their own. One of the goals of the "smaller government" movement that began with the Reagan Presidency was to diminish public education. This lack of critical thinking is also a by-product of fundamentalist religions, a major sector of Trump's constituency (as well as Reagan's). I know I sound like one of the most ridiculous of the conspiracy theorists. I have no idea whether they do it on purpose, but I do know that an undereducated populous is an asset to a manipulative plutocracy, which it seems to me we have in the Trump administration and the Republican Senate.

  4. THE NEWSROOM is one of my all-time favorite shows. Too bad that "smart shows" such as it rarely last very long. I, too, felt that Trump was given WAY too much 'ink' during the 2016 campaign season. It's obvious why they did: it was entertaining, shocking, jaw-dropping, another version of "If it bleeds, it leads." I'll be holding my breath for the next 5 months & change, hoping for another Blue Wave to sweep across the country like a tsunami. But I'm not letting my hopes get too high...

    1. No surprise to me, EvKa, that we enjoy the same entertainment. One of my best friends is a major fundraiser in the Blue Wave movement. It's the only hope for sanity in politics. And it's what I require if I am going to come out of this with my own debatable sanity in tact.

  5. It's all enough to make one sick. Hmm, it has!!!!