In part one of this post, I described in 17 numbered paragraphs a bleak situation for the American press as a check on power, now that Donald Trump has been elected. My summary of it went like this:
Low trust all around, an emboldened and nationalist right wing that treats the press as natural enemy, the bill coming due for decades of coasting on a model in political reporting that worked well for “junkies” but failed to engage the rest of us, the strange and disorientating fact that reality itself seems to have become a weaker force in politics, the appeal of the “strong man” and his propaganda within an atmosphere of radical doubt, the difficulty of applying standard methods of journalism to a figure in power who is not trying to represent reality but to substitute himself for it as a show of strength, the unsuitability of prior routine as professionals in journalism try to confront these confusing conditions, a damaged economic base, weak institutional structure and newsroom mono-culture that hinders any creative response, and a dawning recognition that freedom of the press is a fragile state, not a constitutional certainty.
This is a crisis with many overlapping and deep-seated causes, not just a problem but what scholars call a wicked problem— a mess. You don’t “solve” messes, you approach them with humility and respect for their beastliness. Trying things you know won’t “fix” it can teach you more about the problem’s wickedness. That’s progress. Realizing that no one is an expert in the problem helps, because it means that good ideas can come from anywhere.
Being willing to start over is good, too. If I were running a big national desk in DC, I would try to zero-base the beat structure. Meaning: if you had no existing beats for covering national affairs in Donald Trump’s America, if you had to create them all from scratch, what would that system look like?
Is that going to fix what’s broken in political journalism? Nope. But trying it might reveal possibilities that were harder to see before. So let me be clear about this: I don’t have solutions to what I described in part one. And I’m not saying my suggestions are equal to the task. They are not. Rather, this is what I can think of. I have a series of small ideas that might be worth trying and a larger one to spell out.
I wish had better answers for you.
Measures worth taking (not “solutions.”)
27. Uncouple the news agenda from Trump’s Twitter feed. I don’t agree with those who say the press should ignore Trump’s tweets. Even calling them tweets is in a way an illusion. These are public statements from the president-elect. Bulletins from the top. Naming them for their means of delivery (Twitter) doesn’t help. They can’t be ignored any more than an announcement on whitehouse.gov can be disregarded.
But it is true that Trump uses his Twitter feed to deflect, distract, intimidate, monopolize and confuse. The press should find a way of handling — and fact-checking — these bulletins that shrinks them into a sidebar, or weaves them into a larger story originated by journalists rather than Trump’s Twitter finger. (One option: annotation.) Don’t let his feed set your agenda. And learn to be more careful with your headlines! That may be all he wants: your lazy headline.
28. Switch to an “outside in” (rather than inside out) pattern. Assume almost no access to Trump and the people around him who have power, or imagine that the access game becomes a net negative. Now what? You still have to find out what’s going on, but the “access” portal is closed. This seems to me a better starting point, even as you fight for real access, defend the daily briefing, and demand timely responses to Freedom of Information requests.
Outside-in means you start on the rim and work towards the center, rather than the reverse. Domestically, it involves mining sources in the agencies and civil service rather than the people perceived as “players.” (As is commonly done in investigative journalism.) With foreign policy it means more is likely to come from other governments than from the U.S.
During the Trump campaign who had better access: The reporters in the media pen, or those who got tickets and moved with the rest of the crowd? Were the news organizations on the blacklist really at a disadvantage? I can hear the reply. We need both: inside and outside. Fine, do both. My point is: outside-in can become the baseline method, and inside-out the occasionally useful variant. Switch it up. Send interns to the daily briefing when it becomes a newsless mess. Move the experienced people to the rim.
29. Less predictable, please. If Trump can break with established norms so can the journalists who cover him. When you’re not where he expects you to be, you’re winning. I’m not going to elaborate on this because that would defeat the point of listing it.
30. Drop the White House Correspondents Association Dinner. Just stop. You know why.
31. Track closely Trump’s promises and boasts during the campaign so you can compare them to what he is doing. It’s already underway. More like this.
32. From a follower on Twitter: (Good ideas can come from anywhere.) Seek and accept offers to speak on the radio in areas of Trump’s greatest support. Audience development people: this is your gig. Perfect thing to talk about about on red state talk radio: comparing Trump’s campaign promises to what what he has actually done.
33. Make common cause with scholars who have been there. Especially experts in authoritarianism and countries when democratic conditions have been undermined, so you know what to watch for— and report on. (Creeping authoritarianism is a beat: who do you have on it?)
34. Keep an eye on the internationalization of these trends, and find spots to collaborate with journalists across borders.
35. Try threat modeling the loss of press freedom or the vanished capacity to hold government to account.
36. Find coverage patterns that cross the great divide. For example: “Dave Weigel, who brought his distinct voice and broad knowledge of the far-right and far-left to our 2016 campaign coverage, will do the same on the Hill. He will track Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, and the Freedom Caucus in the House. He will look for new movements, new factions and new stars. And he will continue reporting on the so-called alt-right and the fake news industry, tracking its origins and spotlighting its authors in real time.”
37. Learn from Fahrenthold! Nothing I have said so far addresses the hardest problem in journalism right now: recovering trust while doing good work. But David Fahrenthold, the Washington Post reporter who uncovered the fiction of Donald Trump’s philanthropic giving, is single-handedly showing the way. It’s not just the great stories he’s digging up, or the way they hold power to account. It’s also the social turn his investigation took, and the lesson in transparency that he’s teaching the press.
Fahrenthold explains what he’s doing as he does it. He lets the ultimate readers of his work see how painstakingly it is put together. He lets those who might have knowledge help him. People who follow along can see how much goes into one of his stories, which means they are more likely to trust it. (And to mistrust Trump’s attacks on it… See how that works?) He’s also human, humble, approachable, and very, very determined. He never goes beyond the facts, but he calls bullshit when he has the facts. So impressive are the results that people tell me all the time that Fahrenthold by himself got them to subscribe.
He is not “solving,” but he’s certainly helping with the trust problem, the revenue problem, and the press-hater-in-chief problem (numbers 6, 1, 8 in part one of this post) all while pumping out Pulitzer-worthy stories that prove to Americans why we have a free press. That’s how a “mess” yields to patient effort. His methods are no mystery. They point the way to a trust restoration and learn-as-you-go project that needs to start tomorrow in journalism. Teams of people should be doing it the way he does it.
Learn from Fahrenthold! I can’t make it any clearer than that.
38. I’m not sure how to put this one, but here goes: Journalists need to think politically about journalism itself, which does not mean to politicize it. Like it or not, the press is a public actor, currently in the fight of its life against forces that want to bring it down. This is a political situation par excellence, but nothing in their training or temperament prepares journalists to fight the kind of battle they’re in. They think they would rather chase stories, publish what they find and let the politics take care of itself. But that won’t cut it anymore.
What I mean by “think politically” involves basic questions: What do we stand for that others also believe in? Who is aligned against us? Where are we most vulnerable? What are our opponents’ strengths? How can we broaden our base? Who are our natural allies? What can we unite around, despite our internal differences? What are the overlapping interests that might permit us to make common cause with people who are not journalists?
There is a reason these (political) questions sound “off” to most people in journalism. A free press has to be independent, or it is useless to us. That remains true, even in the emergency journalists find themselves in today. But staying independent does not mean standing alone. They cannot win this fight alone.
Reacting to their perception of a national emergency, Americans who still have trust in the press are putting money down and signing up for the news sources they want to support. What is that but a form of civic action? It involves not a party or interest group competing for power, but a public good they want to exist: accountability journalism. Nothing else can explain the surge in subscriber revenue following the election of Trump.
From journalists is only one way Americans get news now. They get it directly from newsmakers, as with Trump’s Twitter feed. They get it from ideological cadres styled as news sources, like Breitbart. They get it from entertainers like Rush Limbaugh (an opponent of the press) or John Oliver (an ally of accountability journalism). They get it from friends and family members passing along a personalized mix of stuff. They get it from people interested in the same things who collect online and pool information. They get it from bad actors filling false reports that look like news, like Alex Jones or those Macedonian teenagers.
How to persuade more people to get news from journalism — when they have many other choices at hand — is what I mean by thinking politically, but the wrong way to win that fight would be to politicize the product. This is where the problem of trust in the news media meets problems of practice in journalism; the two things are really one: how to begin to practicing in a way that might begin to expand trust. That’s why I said learn from Fahrenthold. He’s got that part working.
39. Where troubles meet issues: listening better.
After the election we heard this a lot: journalists need to listen better to people outside their current orbit and pick up the signals they somehow missed in 2016. As Jeff Jarvis put it in a morning-after symposium:
The news industry is stuck in its mass-media worldview, trying to create one product for all. Its worldview is limited by its creators’ lack of diversity — ethnic, economic, geographic, political (and let’s finally admit that most media and journalists are liberal).
We must do a much better job of listening to more communities — African-American, Latino, LGBT, women, of course, and also the angry white men (and women) who bred Trumpism — so we can understand and empathize with their needs, serve those needs, gain their trust, and then reflect and inform their worldviews.
We must do a better job of listening… It sounds good: who is not in favor of that? But what does better mean in this context? Better than whom?
Here’s an abstract answer (sorry: it will only take a minute!) Journalists, I think, need to listen for people’s troubles, and find the points where they connect to public issues. And they have to be better at that than a broken political system is. From there they can start to rebuild trust.
The distinction between “troubles” and “issues” was struck by sociologist C. Wright Mills in the 1950s. He said troubles were the problems that concern people in their immediate experience. “An issue is a public matter: some value cherished by publics is felt to be threatened.” When the issues that get attention fail to connect to people’s troubles, or when common troubles don’t get surfaced and formulated as public issues… that is where journalism-as-listener can intervene, and earn back trust.
A vivid example is the movie “Spotlight.” Thousands of people were personally troubled by the legacy of child abuse in the Catholic Church. But their private suffering was not a public issue until the Boston Globe made it one— by listening to their stories, piecing them together and confronting the people in power. For the Globe, the gain in reputation from that act was incalculable: years of goodwill in the community, impossible to purchase any other way.
But “Spotlight” is a once-in-a-lifetime story. More Spotlights is not much of a suggestion, is it?
This call-out was published two weeks after the election by the non-profit public affairs news site, Texas Tribune: Help us hear more voices from more Texans. It’s asking people to support with their donations a new position:
Voices not previously heard by the political establishment are being heard now. It’s a good time for the press to hone its listening skills too. This is and always has been — or should have been — a two-way conversation.
That’s why we’re crowdfunding the Trib’s first-ever community reporter position. This reporter will go the extra mile, literally, to forge relationships with our readers all across this state, translating their feedback into stories produced by our awesome reporters. The new position will ensure that the voices of more Texans from more places inform our coverage. This reporter’s beat will be Texans.
The bread-and-butter of the Texas Tribune is government and public policy news. Here it wants to make sure that the issues it reports upon speak to the troubles Texans experience in their lives. The beat is “Texans” because that is one way to make sure the listening gets done. It’s a modest start (one person, one beat) but there’s a big idea beneath the bubbly pitch.
Journalism that tries to find its public through “inside” coverage of the political class is vulnerable to rejection by portions of the public that are busy rejecting that class. This is a hard problem, to which “listening” sounds like a soft, warm and fuzzy solution. It isn’t.
Andrew Haeg, CEO of the journalism start-up Groundsource, recently tried to sketch what a “listening” model looks like. I found inspiring his imaginary description of a two-person listening team:
Emboldened by election postmortems urging better listening, inspired by Spotlight, trained in new tools and techniques, and stoked to pioneer new forms of listening-first investigative journalism, the duo works deep into the night, tipped over Chinese takeout, bleary-eyed, adrenaline-fueled, writing as they go a new playbook comprised of equal parts data journalism, community outreach, crowdsourcing, and investigative journalism.
They print and post handmade signs in grocery stores and truck stops: “What should we know?” with a phone number to text or call. They FOIA 311 data, download 211 data from the United Way, use Splunk and IFTTT and other tools to trigger alerts when key community datasets are updated. They hold town hall forums, set open office hours at local coffee shops and diners, and form key partnerships with community organizations to invite underserved communities into the conversation. They build a community of hundreds who ask questions and vote on which ones get answered, get texts with updates on the newsgathering progress and ongoing opportunities to share their concerns and stories. The community feed that develops is rich, authentic, and often shockingly prescient.
Five years ago I published this post: The Citizens Agenda in Campaign Coverage. It went nowhere with the U.S. press. It describes a listening model for election journalism in which the central question put to voters is not: who are you going to vote for? Or why are you so angry? But: what do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes? (It’s based on a 1992 project at the Charlotte Observer that did exactly that.) A team of journalists who had supple and plural answers to that — because they did the work and got it right — would hold in their hands a template for election coverage that builds trust.
For if you know what different groups of voters want the candidates to discuss (and you’re right!) you can push the candidates to address those things, whether they want to or not. You also have a blueprint for your own news agenda that is independent of the candidates, but expressive of the voters. I don’t know that this model would have prevented the debacle we saw in 2016, but I do know that horse race journalism has failed the people who practice it.
Whenever troubles don’t match up with issues, there is trust to be won for journalists able to listen better than systems that are failing people. Somehow this insight will have to be combined with more traditional virtues in journalism, if the press is going to withstand the attacks that are coming and thrive in a far more dangerous world.
Cover image by Matt Wuerker, Politico. Used by permission. For part one of this post, go here.
My summary of the two articles: Trump and his alt-right fellows and followers are playing us like a fiddle, but we can do the job as well as ever by (1) always digging for the truth, in sufficient detail to make it irrefutable, (2) listen better to everyone to know what truth to look for, and (3) keep pounding on the truth till the liars grow hoarse from futilely denying it. And the truth shall keep us free.
And stop using the terms of us vs them. Even if it is, we need to move away from this divisiveness.
I read both parts of Mr. Rosen’s piece, along with the comments. What an amazing circle jerk that was. In approximately 175 combined comments, there was one espousing a conservative theme. The response to that criticism was not to attack the substance but to attack the grammar and spelling. A couple comments further down and it was inevitably a “Russian Troll” according to the mostly press fan boys commenting. When Mr. Rosen talks of diversity he says to listen to blacks, LGBT, etc. and also to “angry white men and women”. Why not angry blacks or angry LGBT?
To Mr. Rosen: if you want to know what’s wrong with “journalism” read your piece objectively followed by reading the comments to your piece. Taken together it summarizes why the mass majority of the public find you people to be lower than used car salesmen’s lawyers.
So Mr. Reyes your major claim to fame is Name Calling and trashing someone, more articulate than you could ever hope to be. YOU seem pretty adamant about choosing a side that got us here in the first place. YOU seem to be nothing but a TROLL -working for the future ills this country will be facing masterminded by the people, who soon will be, the driving force for tyranny and fascism in America. Love to Know who your puppet master is.
Link to Part 1 in first para. goes to a different post.
Thanks, fixed that.
This is so darned excellent, I’m tempted to pint the whole and take it straight to my local newspaper and ask them which part of this “listening stuff” connecting “troubles to issues” they’d like me to work on. If it didn’t threaten an existing employee, I’d volunteer to do it gratis. As you indicate, it will not “fix” this giant mess, but at least it’d be a genuine contribution to the community in which I live. Bravo, Jay Rosen. Bravo!
Jay, this is once again a truly thoughtful, insightful, and indispensable viewpoint. I’d add a couple of things. First off, we need a journalist defense fund to provide financial support to reporters and their institutions when their challenging voices inevitably come under attack from Trump or his supporters like Thiel. And I’d encourage more startup sites with quasi-journalistic functions, like Politifact. How about a site called Constitution Watch to point out all the administration’s and president’s violations in one place? Or a place that tracks Republicans in Congress who block Trump and on which issues? Unconventional journalism can come from more places than conventional journalistic outlets.
Good Points @joshbernoff . No Labels small PAC to support moderate Roger Marshall (R), over Freedom Causcus Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) is an example … which gets almost no press.
We the People will need to support elected officials prioritizing truth over party.
Great ideas, Josh. May I propose also an education campaign throughout the country by the serious journalistic industry, something like “Journalism: Let’s Reflect Together”. You get together retired and semi-retired journalists and respected anchors to take discussions about the role, purpose, structure, and importance of serious journalism to a liberal democracy. They can put together shows, town halls discussions, etc.
History shows that fascism and authoritarianism are broken when when charismatic liberal leadership exists to fight back and rally public support. Without FDR, could the USA have really stopped from becoming a quisling isolationist nation? Without Churchill, could England have really resisted the Blitz? Doubtful- France for example had no such leadership, and collapsed in six weeks to then slavishly lick the Nazi boot for four years of utter self debasement, from which, arguably, it never recovered morally or intellectually. In the USA today, without a national liberal leader capable of “bitch slapping” Trump and waking the nation’s conscience, while rallying millions to his or her side, we face an abyss. The sad sorry pile of sap on the left- middling Dems, and no-name nobodies, reminds me of France in 1938. Leon Blum? Remember him? The Obama of his time. Bottom line: absent courageous leadership, we are without a captain, facing a tribe willing to dear down our Republic.
Thank you! Despite trend in higher ed to eliminate Journalism schools or repurpose them as social media technical schools, the fundamentals of journalism are more important than ever. You’ve listed many, most of which had been buried by expediency, speed, and limited critical thinking. Lazy journalists, editors and producers need to be put out to pasture. Anything less brings dishonor to the profession and threatens our Republic.
Hard to address a lazy public too. People are looking for a quick fix delivered in a few short lines. Which is not the answer. Or maybe it is. We seem to be hard pressed to engage readers for a complete read on a full article. Rethink our approach. This world is changing so fast, and our attention span is struggling to keep pace.
I have to comment here as a “lay” person. I certainly can’t speak for the public that is looking for news, but, I do know that myself, my family and some friends have been searching for news that is devoid of so much opinion, looking for facts (such as politifact) and wanting to read more in depth, investigative journalism. My sister and I share links to articles trying to piece more information together. We have also subscribed to more newspapers.
With the possibility of losing freedoms in the US, I know that good investigative reporting is key in the fight for retaining freedoms. I would categorize myself as middle America, probably leaning more to the left now as a reaction to the alt-right. I feel that I probably am with the majority of those in the US, but like many groups I feel I am not being heard. The landscape has become so polarized with us and them and little give and take on issues. My votes are often mixed as far as party, as I am an individual, more conservative in some issues and more liberal in others.
Also, reading through the articles and the responses from journalists, I am reminded of my own field as a visual artist. Since 2008 the way we do business is completely different and it has taken a lot of experimentation, failures, successes and constant regrouping and trying again to “make it”. With the closure of so many galleries, the old system is no longer the most viable. Most art that is sold is directly to the public with various venues, online and emails. It is all about the personal connection now.
Hammer on one scandal at a time until it sinks into the national consciousness.
Trump lies so much, he has so many scandals that none of them receive the coverage they need for the public to really recognize them. What happens is Trump ends up getting a pass because the public mentally gives up and sees him as little different than most politicians. Then Trump’s strongman persona ends up winning the day because so many people respond to strength, right or wrong.
The press hammered Hillary for 25 years, she was the press’ favorite whipping girl. The press seemed to enjoy hammering Hillary, reporting over and over again every little detail, scrounging for any little scrap of new information. We saw this most infamously with the huge nothing burger that was the email scandal. The press couldn’t get enough of it, they hammered and hammered away on this one scandal until EVERYONE knew about it. Hillary scandals brought ratings.
This is the treatment Trump needs to receive.
I came to read this eagerly, hopefully. I leave disappointed. Yes, these are fine plans, but the primary issue is still not even being whispered; it should be bellowed.
Journalists, may I suggest, know what your job is and know what it is not?
– Your job is to inform the public.
– Your job is not to manipulate the public.
If that is confusing to you, and you’re not quite sure you can do it, make sure to emphasize the fact you are giving your opinion. Perhaps use a hashtag?
(that way I can easily filter you out when I don’t have time to waste)
I am exhausted sifting through all the spun/editorialized/skewed “news” and I don’t believe I am alone in my loathing of those generating it.
I recognize news reporting is in a dire situation (in no small part because the public started expecting news for free), and I get that many of you risk your jobs if you don’t spin I the direction your boss wants you to, but even some of this list feels like it has an undercurrent of manipulation. There must be a way to recover with integrity?
You may, in your heart, believe those who don’t agree with you must be idiots or ignorant. And well the ignorant, they just need to open themselves to your magical words, but you are not magic and believe it or not yours is not the only valid perspective.
Maybe, stop making enemies with everyone who disagrees with you?
Opinion is not what he’s talking about at all. What he’s talking about is the media being slammed with a tsunami of lies that is overwhelming.
Everything the press publishes influences the public. If the public has a distorted view of reality, the press is not informing the public properly. The press then needs to use methods that enable the truth to overcome the propaganda and conspiracy theories that are consuming our nation.
Anne A. I agree the Press should not manipulate, just deliver news. However, too many are being manipulated daily by Trump and don’t understand it. Trump speaks at a 4th grade level and just delivers punchlines (dishonest Press, Dishonest IC, etc) with nothing to support it but lies. So, some of the Press must write to that level with some manipulation to get the reader to understand why they’re lies. I’m an Independent and have been amazed at some of the stupidity in ppl I have respected in the past. Some of it is willful ignorance.
Also agree with author that reporters need to stop with the headlines. Too many just read that and don’t get the true meaning found in the story.
Yes, of course, journalists/reporters should listen to people they are trying to understand, I.e., the Trump voter. This last election cycle, I watched way too much television reporting of Trump rallies (in a state of numb disbelief) and my main thought, besides wondering why the rallies were granted so much coverage, was the fact that the questioning of the attendees by reporters was almost never accompanied by a follow-up asking HOW the immigration problem affected them, HOW Obamacare ruined their health and financial situation, HOW Muslims in their community negatively affected their lives. Apart from Donald Trump telling them, why do they think the press is “disgusting,” etc. The Trump rallygoers were given a forum to regurgitate Trump lies. The Trump audience, the “regular, everyday Americans” should have been challenged, just as candidates and surrogates are, and not permitted free air time to merely echo Trump but perhaps to reveal themselves as the useful idiots they are.
Make them think. What a concept. HOW, WHY…
Democracy is premised on the public will, but the public will is not always wise. There is often an assumption in the press, among the educated, among elites especially now when they are in defeat, that the popular will is sacrosanct in our American democracy. That it must always be idealized as noble.
We must remember that the popular will formed lynch mobs just as easily as it assembled blood donors during the turmoil of 9/11.
The job of the journalist is going to become very straightforward, I suspect, during the Trump years. Not just officials, but the Trump supporters who voice a counter-factual must be confronted with the factual and asked how they reconcile the two. This will lead to the inevitable follow-up. “Are facts not important?”
I suspect everyday citizens, unschooled in sly evasions, will start talking about their feelings, privileging feeling over facts. Clearly, feelings are what Trump and his cadre are trading in. The journalist’s job may be simply to continually separate the two. To call each by its proper name As Orwell wrote. “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”
Agreed. Trump received so much free airtime that he didn’t need to run paid advertising time. There was no truth check on his claims of supporters lined up by the thousands waiting outside, even as now his crowds have grown small, not enough to fill a high school basketball court. The press colluded with Trump to create the bandwagon effect that he wanted. Bernie drew larger crowds all along, but neither he nor Clinton got all that free coverage. Trump is a master of manipulation, of the public and the press. He knows that his early morning Twitter comments will become the news story of the day, crowding out other, more illuminating and meaningful stories. The media has been functioning as an amplifier for Trump; even now as it wakes up to the fact of it’s own manipulation the media cannot stop itself.
I think this piece supports a return of The Fourth Estate from lapdog-pundit-wannabes to coherent, critically thinking, outsiders. Reporting on and dissecting polls is not journalism that clarifies, foretell, or is insightful. It is simply a quickly disposable, reactive, activity that takes time and focus away from serious work. Couple an invigorated Fourth Estate with The Fith Estate as described here, and there is hope for the protection of our democracy.
It seems as though you want to better connect with citizens. But many, journalists are extremely tired or jaded eg: “I’ve seen this 100 times before”, or just plain lazy. Just before the election, I visited Ohio. I did my own very unscientific poll. I counted yard signs and listened. 44 yard signs for Trump; two for Clinton. But listening the divide was even greater. They had very little good to say about Hillary and thought Trump was at least speaking about them. Almost all of the people I listened to were dependable Democrats. Only one thought Hillary would be a good President. If any journalist heard the same deep anger and resentment, I never read it, except for Michael Moore. At least he was an investigative journalist.
Enjoyed reading this, and not knowing much about journalism I have to agree with your ideas and suggestions.
But what I must have missed was how this would be financed. Will it be self-sustaining by subscription and disclosed private donations, or rely on big corporation monies that lead to where we are now?
Those who wish to “make news great again” as in the days of Cronkite, Reasoner. et al. should remember what was and wasn’t told us then too, (communism to whip up fear so the military-industrial complex could thrive.)
Anyway I am glad there are a lot of people that are a lot smarter than I working on this dilemma, thanks.
Is my face red, I just re-read points 19 and 20 from part 1 which answers most of my earlier comment, wish I could delete it.
Roger, SO glad to see that you re-read this. I think most of us are too lazy to read it once. I did find it engaging, and I also found myself wondering how long it was, scrolling to see how much more. Embarrassing, but true. I am engaged AND lazy. And I consider myself at least minimally committed to the truth. Left or right. We are all in this together. We need to engage everyone, of every opinion. To dig for truth.
There has been a crisis in the field of reporting that I have seen now for over 4 years. Massive failures across many types of news organizations on natural gas pipelines for starters. Reporters and editors have failed to make corrections, are unable to recognize valid claims from claims that are preposterous and more than one reporter or publication has failed to make corrections to factual errors when asked to. You were in rhe post truth era on natural gas and pipelines years ago and even when told this was the case failed to pay attention since you were hearing this from a citizen. There is a massive failure in the field of reporting at the intersection of energy and the environment. You don’t recognize sources who are not credible if they come from antifracking environmental organizations.
There is a lot of good there, but nothing here truly addresses the fact that some of the tools being used actively harm the practice of traditional journalism. For instance, if Cambridge Analytica ends up working with the Trump administration and microtargets gullible/fact-proof individuals, the way stories are covered and spread should change as well. See https://medium.com/@pdehaye/microtargeting-of-low-information-voters-6eb2520cd473 for some evidence towards this micro-targeting.
Journalists on Red State Radio: Trump’s promises vs. his actions. Be accurate, rather than rack your brains for a quixotic “even-handedness.” Don’t try to win your audience with candy. Be plain, be direct. Accept that only a fraction of them will hear you, but they will carry the message better.
Jay, I have a pretty short attention span (an ADD survivor of the baby boom, before diagnosis) and I think I understand “instant digestion of instant headlines”. I did find myself fully engaged while also being distracted by its length (my fault entirely). But my personality type is what is the problem. Too lazy or impatient to give real issues the time they need. We have become a 140 character attention span. Sad but true. Can we change this? Should we adjust to it?
First off, good to see that you’re back from the (election-created) abyss, Jay!
That being said, while these suggestions are really, really substantive and intelligent, substance and intelligence misses the point nowadays. The news business has tried to act as a referee between in the war between the “reality based community” and the forces of disinformation — but in a war, there are no referees, only post-mortems. We reached the point where the news business either picks sides (with the good guys), or embraces an infotainment model of profit based “reporting”.
That means no more pussy-footing around subjects like racism (just say that Jeff Sessions has a history of overt and covert racism — forget the ‘alleged’) and craziness (Michael Flynn should always be described as a conspiracy nut). The legitimate news business has lost the “bias wars” — the perception of ‘liberal bias” is now so baked-in* that it doesn’t make any difference if they strive to avoid it, so why not tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may?
Finally, any accusation of bias must be responded to one way — demand that the accuser provide their source of unbiased news, and then be ready with 10 times as many examples of that source’s bias. Fight fire with fire, and don’t let the forces of disinformation get away with anything.
* “baked-in” is the most over used term this year, and I never want to hear or see after midnight tonight
Hi Jay, Marina here, formerly @ reported.ly, I would like to translate this into Italian – so many issues you raise are currently at the center of a debate among journalists (and government) despite obvious differences with the US situation. Please let me know if you have any objection and/or in which shape you’d like to frame it (I was thinking of a very simple Medium post, fully created of course. You ca also reach me via DM or email of course. Many wishes of a happy new year.
that was “fully credited”, not “created” ofc
Here’s a good example of listening to those other voices: :https://www.washingtonpost.com/unnatural-causes/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.fdaf0954c692
Overall this is really excellent. I am trying to figure out how much of it works in the real world. For example, that “listening journalist” in Texas is going to be listening to a lot of terrible sounding but factually suspect things that are simply made up in the right wing media that many of the people the journalist is listening to believe with all their hearts. These will be things that really matter to them, for many to the point of obsession (Jade Helm, Pizzagate). How does serious journalism deal with these? If they do a bunch of investigative journalism and uncover who is behind them and what their purpose is, they will lose even more trust from the believers.
Also, on a separate point, serious media outlets simply must start publicly burning sources who feed them lies, and make their lies the story.
This is, of course, quite brilliant, Jay. Implementation against a background of revenue losses, however, is another matter, and why, I believe, any attempt to rewrite rules of journalism must approach revenue as well. Remember, media is really in the advertising business, for the market for news, regardless of its former acceptableness, is just not there anymore. For example, here in Alabama, I have absolutely no reason to subscribe to the New York Times. A YouTubeRed model would be very interesting to me, one in which I could select the news entities to pay that would populate my feed. These entities don’t have to give me EVERYTHING. I’m interested only in “the news,” and that’s what would differentiate between being a subscriber and a participant in their product. This would require media companies WORKING TOGETHER, which is as revolutionary as any of the above statements regarding coverage of the news. Then there’s the idea of directly competing with Google, et al, in the search, local ad network, local ad exchange businesses. I promise you that if they could bring themselves to actually do this kind of stuff, the newsrooms of America would be much freer to experiment with your ideas. I think that both sides of the newspaper/media business are connected, and you can’t have reform with one without reforming the other. It CAN be done!
Why are “what we stand for” manifestos like Voice of San Diego’s so uncommon, or at least hard to find? And is Rosenstiel’s ideal of “giving readers the information they need to be free and self-governing” archaic, or just not practical, or what?
On news sites that let members ask questions and then vote on which to investigate, the questions generally seem to be fluff. Is the more substantive stuff not being asked, or is it being filtered out?
I feel like a dinosaur after reading this excellent 2 part article. I had been hoping that investigative journalists would uncover a link between the Republicans and their backers with Russia and then our country would rise up ala Watergate. After reading this article I realize that this type of journalism will no longer save our country. I see now that journalism will need to be more organic by linking people’s troubles with the issues at stake. I believe they can start with an issue such as the coal miners in West Virginia. Black lung disease is hitting the miners hard at an earlier age. This is because there is more rock with silica mixed in with the coal seams. The ACA provides coverage specifically for black lung disease. The miners and their families depend in this coverage. Unfortunately they voted heavily for the Republicans who of course want to dismantle the ACA.
After the election, women in my community reached out, inviting all female elected”s, past and present, planned parenthood proponents, progressive activists and initiated a discussion about how to proceed as we put in the presidency of these United States a misogynist who cares about no issues but what gets him popularity with a segment of our country who are white angry males. While not having many, if any solutions other than staying connected and ready to unify our voices en masse, we agreed that united we must stand and act… and I have not doubt we will. That is my take away from this election
All positive, provocative strategies. Thank you for thinking them through.
In the end, this approach seems quite dispiriting in the lieu of a business model to support it. For example, there’s a reason journos quote ‘players’ and print press releases, even if they are not labelled as such. It takes far, far less time than cultivating many dozens of insider sources, many of whom would suffer greatly for even talking with you. Many journalists now work in settings where they cannot have more than one decent conversation per day, and even that must produce copy.
Without trying to map this kind of reporting to a business model, you are basically proposing journalism as philanthropy. That’s been around for a long time, of course. But this time around it’s the journalists themselves who are donating their time and energy, not a donor. Yes, you can find people to do that. But they will be dilettantes without the training, objectivity, or infrastructure to sustain this mission.
I think we need to benefit from the prior art of journalists around the world who’ve had to cover autocrats and kleptocrats. A journalist from Argentina called me to ask about Trump and I turned the question on her, asking what we should expect. She echoed a few of your points, saying we should expect no access and should expect attacks on the press. Her primary advice: “Investigate, investigate, investigate.” Follow Fahrenthold.
But investigate what? The problem with this man who breaks all rules, norms, and institutions, as you’ve pointed out, is that we cannot rely on old methods. We also must learn to take *nothing* he says at face value. He lies.
I would argue that we need to develop investigative hypotheses to test against. Why does he act like he acts? What motivates him? What can we expect him to do? We do not know. We need to test reasons. Mine begin with:
* He’s in it for the money. Keep on every deal and every business relationship he — and his family! — have to see how he benefits them.
* He’s in the pocket of the alt-right. Check his actions against their agenda at every turn. They are trying to destroy institutions. He has shown disdain for every institution from the Energy Department to the FCC to the election to the church. Is destruction the goal?
* He’s in the pocket of Putin. Follow the one journalist who is tracking this angle — Sarah Kendzior — and send her to Moscow (if she’d be safe there) to follow every relationship.
* He’s insane. This is not a joke, not hardly. This is a very serious angle that requires examination. He acts insane, can’t we agree? What is the definition of insane? What do we do with an insane leader?
Like you, Jay, I am not suggesting a prejudice, a bias toward one or the other. I am suggesting we need to gather and test evidence against the possibilities.
I would also suggest we need to collaborate. These are big jobs. As you say, Jay, Fahrenthold reported in the open. We should do that across the industry and build on each others’ work. Screw the scoop. We have higher priorities than credit, eh?
I like that idea. Start with hypotheses, and then update them as the evidence comes in. If I had thought if it myself, I would have made it #34 and moved the rest down. It’s similar to the “campaign promise tracker,” which is already in motion. The updates would have to include data that disconfirms the hypothesis, as well as anything that supports it. You could also crowdsource the updates by asking users to send you items that bear on the hypothesis.
One thing that stands in the way of it. Newsrooms that did this would have to admit to themselves that this presidency is different, that we are a state of interpretive, as well as civic emergency, and therefor need new methods. I can see them being reluctant to take that step. The “business as usual” bias is enormous.
Yeah, kinda like agenda journalism huh?
From the horses mouth…
You hit the nail on the head with your topics of investigation necessary. The man lies and lies and his so called spokespeople lie. Why do we even interview the liars if we know that that is all they do? If he cuts access to us, we should deny access of his stooges. If we don’t provide an audience for his stooges, then we can start to control the lies.
Great ideas. Rachel Maddow did a piece on how Putin became the richest man in the world. I suspect that the ever-competitive Trump is following his playbook. I hope someone is on this for the duration.
Jeff, that was outstanding too.
Jay, once again you hit it out of the park.
On the mental health issue. Look to Tony Schwartz as he, likely, knows Trump best. As others have reported, he’ll be guilty of impeachable offences virtually as soon as he takes office. Is Congress not forcing him to sell his company to, say Hilton or Marriott, because they want leverage over their ‘useful idiot’? If that’s the case that story is as bad or worse as Trump’s ascension.
Insightful. I’d suggest two more solutions. One: bring editors, journalists and facebook honchos and programmers together for a confab on what goes into reporting (documents, interviews w credible sources, facts, fact checking, multiple sources, etc)..to help facebook understand what their algorithms need to track, measure when evaluating what is real news and what is fake news. Second, help grow Snopes. This national treasure should become “the most trusted source in fact checking in The United States.” A third (unactionable) step is to start teaching critical thinking again. A lost tool.
Jay, Brilliant analysis. As a former journalist I’m deeply disturbed at the trends in media (local newspapers being swallowed up, broadcast news at the national level becoming the “Happy News” of the local level, and the economic issues you pointed out.
If it’s possible I think Trump should be covered like the financial markets are covered. If you can’t trust a company’s financial statements, then it’s stock will tumble. Uncertainty breeds chaos. (Of course, we haven’t been able to see Trump’s financial documents and that would solve a lot of the unknown issues in how he’s acting toward Russia and any other foreign power.) Every day there are press reports, SEC documents and other items that come out about a company. Why can’t we hold Trump to the same standard — even if it’s not in law? He understands when investors lose confidence in a business and how it affects the company’s stock/bottom line. We must keep asking for his taxes and related loans of his businesses. I hate to say it, but it might have to be an insider that discloses that information (which would be illegal and hurt the IRS’ integrity), but it may come to someone getting that information out that allows people to come to their senses about who they voted for. Trump’s margin for error for this voters won’t be large bec I think a number of people who voted for him did in on a whim, not thinking he would get elected. But when it affects their retirement/investments, a number of Trump voters will change sides and so will the political winds.
Liked the serious attempt to grapple with a range of issues in both posts. But still too much of press as an interest with an ideological edge. A fundamental problem is precisely that the media is too far from too many of its audience.
Thank you all for a stimulating discussion. I read both parts with great interest, but was underwhelmed by the plan to strengthen journalism. I use digitized newspapers dating back to the 1700s daily, so I can testify that we live in an age where fact-based news is more readily available than ever before. People who seek the truth are safe. People who don’t care about it voted against their own best interests. Even if Trump burns DC to the ground, it will be Obama’s fault. Newspapers have always had a political slant (I grew up in a family employed by a Hearst paper but the LA Times eventually won out.) It seems that our country has outgrown itself; infrastructure, agencies, elections, courts, healthcare, the military, Social Security, transportation, etc., are all completely disfunctional. If news organizations could fix themselves, would the giant corporations that own them permit it? Requiring news outlets to be operated by a non-profit organization seems ideal place to start.
I think No. 38 is, and has been, an important point that has for too long gone unaddressed. In my newspaper journalism career (1975 to 2007), I witnessed the sometimes ridiculous contortions and mental gymnastics engaged by editorial management to shed themselves of any suggestion of bias or favoritism. By the late 1990s, the battle cry by my newsroom bosses was the stenographic “just the facts.” This was a natural tendency, I suppose, to an increasingly savvy strategy by those we cover to accuse us of hostility on the realization that the surest way to turn around the interview is to make us answer to them rather than the other way around. (The last refuge of a scoundrel may be patriotism. For the last generation or so, the first refuge has been to blame the media.) Yet we continued to express opinions on a daily basis, endorse political candidates and advocate for what we felt was a public good on the editorial pages. When this evident bias came up from critics, the practice was defended by paper arguments that made sense largely to those of us in our institutional compartments. In 1997, I was in a meeting that, by happen, included a friend who was the Sunday opinion section editor. Making conversation, I mentioned that I was tiring of the old line of question avoidance techniques, including “you guys want to set the agenda.” I said I believe that’s exactly what we are and should be doing if we are to call ourselves watchdogs of democracy — and we should be forthright in saying so. By acting as a check on the public arena, we have in fact inserted ourselves into it. The idea that we are “impartial observers” is a figleaf. My friend looked at me like this was an unheard of — and blasphemous– thought. I, no doubt, looked at him with the shock that this idea had obviously never been broached either in his experience or education. As you point out, there is a thin and very dangerous line between “thinking politically” and politicizing what we are doing. However, this episode made me aware that we were ill-equipped then as we are now to communicate a cogient and convincing argument for what we are doing, whether in advocacy reporting or in the courage to formulate and articulate meaningful conclusions to where “just the facts” lead us. You have put together a comprehensive outline of “why the media has fallen.” I hope there will be a larger examination of this subject by you in the future.
Thanks, John. This pattern has brought untold damage to the press. Here’s something I wrote about it years ago:
This comment came in via email and is posted with permission.
Hi Jay: I lived in NYC for about 24 years, leaving recently. My grandfather lived in Ashland, Ohio which is a conservative town in central Ohio, with a conservative university.
Over the years of visiting him, I noticed what the Republican party was doing, which I am sure has been repeated elsewhere in the country and it is brilliant and under the radar. They would send various members of their farm team to give speeches at the university....basically propaganda/talking points. The community was THRILLED with its brush with fame, and the local paper would report on the speech, and sometimes interview the guest, with zero fact checking or push back....just stenography. And most everyone in town would believe whatever each visitor would say, whether or not there was any truth to it. The appearance made the townsfolk feel good that someone associated with the administration would actually come to their town. It was brilliant strategy on the part of the Republican party and it worked.....
In 2007, I quit my well paying job to volunteer full time for the Obama campaign and I spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio, canvassing. Basically I asked people what issues were important to them and then I just listened and I took notes, and asked more questions. It was incredibly powerful and one of the best things I've ever done. People told me all sorts of personal things.....and many were grateful that I wanted to know (and I did). I think I learned how important it is for people to feel seen and heard. Some had never had anyone come to their home from a political campaign before.
Many of your ideas address this... and I think it is critical, both for journalists to understand where the country is (or different areas) and also to form a trusting bond with the public, which can help to counter the lies out of Washington.
Thank you for your essays. I stumbled upon them through Twitter. I hope that those working at news organizations consider what you have to say.
Ellen (last name withheld)
Those damn conservatives! Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to take over education!
Do the employers of journalists, corporations, want to challenge power in any way? No. In fact this is the back story of what has happened. It goes deep because big ‘J’ journalists who strive to reach the top have internalized all the attitudes that allow them to seamlessly frame stories according to the consensus among institutional powers.
An additional suggestion wrt Trump’s tweets. Reports on them should include evaluations of the maturity of the author. This is not to say that one should be horrified if Trump writes something childish. It is to say that if he writes something childish the report should note that what he wrote is the sort of thing a 10 year old would write. Don’t be scandalized; be objective about his immaturity and report it along with everything else.
Your #39 is a perennial – the more intelligent journalists regularly bemoan their profession’s failure to notice the real concerns of the public, and vow to correct the error by listening more closely; and yet their good resolutions always come to nothing. Now, when someone has recognized a threat to themselves, and found a clear solution to it, but makes no attempt to follow that solution and remove the threat – there is something wrong, deeper than what shows on the surface.
In this case, the answer appears when we consider what makes the press a significant political actor in the first place. It’s simply stated: the power to tell the public what issues and events are worthy of attention and debate (and which are not.) To ask the public “what do you want the candidates to be discussing?” during an election is to abdicate that power; a thing very few people are willing to do. And it’s so easy to invent justifications for not listening, to say “they only care about [X] because they’re ignorant and prejudiced” …
It strikes me that many of these press points have been gestating for half a year or so, and would apply no matter the result of the election.
I don’t imagine the GOP would be reining in their crazee and disruptive, win or lose. I’m just wondering what our political press is going to learn from this for 2018 or 2020.
Faith in the press and our government institutions has been undermined by our cultural practice of making fun of the people who work in these institutions. Post office employees who are lazy. Politicians who are crooked or lecherous. I stopped watching Jay Leno many years ago because he opened each night’s show with a “joke” about lecherous, lazy, crooked politicians. My representative in Congress was Henry Waxman, who was none of those things; and if I thought he was, I would have been able to un-elect him in 2 years.
Last week, I had to call tech support for Time Warner Cable. The support center is in Colorado Springs, and my tech support person engaged me in a discussion about the need to be vigilant and “do your own research” about truth in politics. I told him that I agree, and therefore I have just subscribed to the New York Times and the Washington Post. “How can you read such biased publications?” he asked. “They didn’t even report on the fact that Hillary Clinton caused AIDS in 30,000 children by selling tainted blood from Arkansas prisoners!” I told him that I know something about AIDS, and that there have not been 30,000 cases of AIDS in children in the US because this country got a handle on maternal-child transmission and blood transmission early in the epidemic.
Then a 21 year old friend posted on Facebook “California Democrats Legalize Child Prostitution” from the Washington Examiner. The new law, of course, makes police treat child sex workers as victims rather than criminals.
Re-establishing confidence in the truth, and in our institutions, is our work for the next period of time.
p.s. I am one of those Fahrenthold subscribers! I work in the nonprofit sector, and I am so glad that someone in the press has learned how to dissect what goes on in these foundations. I would like to see similar work done on so-called charitable foundations established by businesses such as sports teams and grocery stores. Where does the money come from? Customers, fans, and sponsors; not, for example, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who get the credit for the charitable donations of their foundation.
Trump won the game of lies and manipulation, he has had alot of practice over many years. The confidence of his Pathology or the Pathology of his Con in Trump’s reality is now on full display. My hope is that Truth and Facts unravel the Con bit by bit exposing Trump.
Shorter summary of Part 1: All of our usual tricks didn’t work this time, what are we (journalists) gonna do now?
This is especially rich when you consider that the media worked to help Trump in the primaries as the preferred candidate for Hillary. Trump may turn out to be a Frankenstein, but he’s all yours, Doctor.
This really isn’t that difficult:
Quit the “objective” pretense, we’re onto you. Admitting the real problem you have is the first step. You wrote Part 1 without ever admitting that the whole bunch of you are in the tank for the progressives. Yeah, we read the ‘hacked’ e-mails.
Try some ‘Diversity’ (of thought). All those conservatives that just handed you your lunch? Go hire them. You just gagged a little, didn’t you? Now you are starting to get it.
We need a fourth estate, not a fifth column that’s working for the progressive project.
Hard to keep track of when media is allegedly trying to hurt Trump & when they’re trying to help him
Don’t be disingenuous. Out of all the Republican candidates during the primaries, Trump had the worst poll numbers for the general election. That made him (apparently) the easiest person for Hillary Clinton to beat. Hillary’s partisans therefore had good reason to bolster his campaign until he was nominated, then turn on him.
As it turned out, Hillary couldn’t even beat Trump, because she’s an utterly incompetent campaigner – but the logic of trying to get the least threatening opponent for the candidate you really want is tactically sound, and not hard to recognize.
You are all a bit late, you should have thought this out before Trump won the race against the idiots, and got nominated, who were more interested in themselves then winning an election. Now you have to wait 3 years, or so, to finally realize your, very obvious mistakes.
I feel like you’re missing something extremely important and incredibly obvious. **Until you the press figure out how to be as good at distilling down and marketing your messages as the Trump campaign is, you’re losing.** Trumps devout followers for the most part, think and speak in memes and snack-able bits of information. They’re not going to read an article in the Washington Post. First because of all the reasons you stated in part 1, and second because it’s too much effort. Times have changed and you need to think and act like a marketing and PR firm. However while maintaining journalistic integrity, and while still offering detailed reporting to those of us who will take the time to read it. This is more than just a great headline. It’s empowering legions of readers to care enough to share.
Trump was elected on seven or eight ideas distilled down to sentences no longer that his campaign slogan. Those sentences spoke to people in a way that they immediately related to. “Make America Great Again”, “Crooked Hillary”, “ISIS is coming”, “Washington is out of touch”, “Liberals will take your guns”, “Liberals hate God”, “Only a successful businessman can bring back your Job”. Yet how was the Washington Post reporting on the campaign? By doing what they’ve always done, which is excellent, but no longer enough.
I think this essay from Eric S. Raymond refutes the idea that “packaging the message” is all that’s called for. It’s a more acute analysis of how Trump won the election than anything said here, couched as advice to the Democratic party.
I am not the press.
Trump has not yet DONE anything. Part of his manipulative agenda is to keep the press reporting with top coverage of his mere words. Cover it less and cover Congress, who are starting to do something, more until Trump is actually inaugurated. After that, prioritize his actions over his words.
By the way, if you want to read classic coverage from lower down on the Totem poll, go to McClatchy and read the archived coverage from McClatchy (then Knight-Ridder) Washington bureau. All the lies and exaggerations were revealed there in real time, as they happened.
Whoops! I meant to include “George Bush’s invasion of Iraq” in the above.
Re: listening, I’d add: Being willing to accurately report, not sanitize, what they hear (i.e. reporting racism & xenophobia as “economic anxiety”). Impossible to get to the real issues if we don’t hear the real troubles.
Certainly the first story that needs to be done — and kept up to date — is to find out by digging deeply what the Trump voters thought they were voting for. And keeping them — and us — posted on what they and us are getting. We know (or think we know) it’s been bait and switch. But there was a lot of bait out there, which worms did the voters take? And why?
You’re all a bit late, you should have thought this out before the master was nominated. Now you must wait almost 3 years for revenge. I’m very disappointed and have actually stopped all paid subscriptions of all medias. Even a child could have figured this out.
Once again – the nearly-identical reply to that left (multiply) on the Part One of this whole semi-simple-minded screed, applies pretty clearly to this Part Two of the entire Silly Symphony (with heavy emphasis on the “PHONY” part…) – as follows:
This whole piece of near-insanity would be amusing, if it wasn’t so abysmally stoopid – you klowns don’t get it: the MSM have CREATED the whole atmosphere of near-total distrust towards them and virtually all of their “works”, by being near-constantly a pack of Left-leaning, unrelenting liars, by either omission or commission OR BOTH, and by totally ignoring their own fellow journaljismists’ processes of being so. They CREATED THE WHOLE FALSEHOOD-STRUCTURE, and they NEAR-CONSTANTLY DEFEND SAME!!
When will you WAKE UP, and take notice of that?
Trump is NOT the “problem”, nor even any part of it – he’s the ATTEMPTED-SOLUTION, coming to fruition!!
As said: True for Part One, still true for Part Two – doubled and re-doubled, in spades, clubs, hearts and diamonds.
Stop doubling- and tripling-down on doing what’s WRONG, and start trying to move back towards what’s RIGHT – if you do, eventually you’ll start to actually become part of the SOLUTION(S), rather than a near-impenetrable chief component of the problems, doing nothing but making matters worse whenever and wherever you can…
Instead of tearing further at the fabric of Truth and useful Justice, try some straightforward, unblinking Honesty – and generating reports of What Is, rather than whatever imaginary attempts at “alternate views”, aimed at “CREATING” “NEWS” to suit the Leftist, collectivist, Socialist/Marxist “Visions” that further damage the American Republic…try genuinely helping to Make America Great Again!
As a non-journalist reading this, it seems to me that much of this advice can be summed up with the basic business dictum “listen to your customers.”
Not everyone can afford subscriptions to well-written news. Many, if not most, of the free options are of poorer quality.
Finally, common sense. Yes, break the norms, the “correctness” we have developed over the years that put every one to sleep and allowed unscrupulous people to rise, lying overtly, denying facts, and gathering huge following. Demagogues just took power. Trump’s election might just have slap that wake up call. But Trump’s tyrant style is really dangerous. China just threathened war if meddled with in their affairs. He has to be kept in tight leash, and journalism has the duty to be the hand holding this leash. But current “correctness” is not just in journalism, it’s pervasive.
For decades now, we are living in a system that profiles groups of people, targets them, questionning focus groups for defining clues. It is driven not to find what people want to be supplied with, but to help define them, so to use their specifics to sell them what we want to sell them, be it for business or political profits. No conspiracy, just how things are.
But after all this time, the constant use of this knowledge reinforced those specifics in the self-image of people, through typical hooks in commercials, in entertainments and so on, possibly even masking other important traits in one’s own eyes. Have you noticed how all couples in movies and tv shows get to it now by pushing the other on the wall and fevirishly undress her/him? it’s the norm. It happened to me! (This relationship never really started… But I digress). Hollywood is no demagogue, but it used systematically a working tool and reinforced it doing so, creating a social norm.
Another example. Trump’s followers now deeply and truly believed they need a small government, even though it’s against their very own interests, because it is associated with America, Freedom, God, and what have you. It’s the norm: Freedom is a small government.
My point is that the task will be difficult. Yes, we need to listen with what people want, but we need to not stop on the first layer, the current “norm”. What should this new journalism look for before approaching politicians: “we need a smaller government, so to have a job” or “I can’t find a decent job because of new technology”?
Most media would be tempted to stop at the first layer seeing quick profitability. If it’s so, Trump will have it his way, with tyranic consequences: no more ethics, no more regulatory bodies, even the negation of civil rights, war ? Democracy is at stake here. The task will be difficult, but it is vital.
Sidebar – Trump Twitter feed with press responses that are:
Short Pithy Engaging Accurate Relevant Respectful
appealing to young people, Trump supporters, the public.
Taken together these pieces probe deeply and they evoke. Yes, it is a wicked mess and the suggestions for action could no doubt be helpful, if observed and practiced. But at the nexus is the truth of a decampment in American culture.
Among the fault lines in our social order is a malefic divide from which there may be no recourse. We are split among those who are informed and who seek information and those who are entertained and who seek entertainment.
The subtext spells out the poison of this divide. Information is now parsed by political or ideological affinity and few people find this offensive. News by flavor is not news. It is a dishonest pandering by an effort that is designed not so much as to inform as to build an audience. Audience building is the primary endeavor of that other side of the divide, entertainment. The notorious “low information” voter along with the keen denizens of a “post-truth” world probably draw their “news” as easily from the entertainment portals-on line-broadcast/cable-social media as they do elsewhere.
Back on the information side of the divide you have carnie hustlers from the ideological web sites calling themselves news organizations, the fake news cyber operatives, the news by flavor pimps, professional “careerists,” bumping and grinding with those who try to fulfill a mission to inform, but who must do so in a toxic environment where even “facts” are subjected to scorn by those armed only with opinion.
When facts, or some approximate to quantifiable truth, i.e., gravity exists, get equal weight as someone’s opinion, the world is out of balance. Yet this strange brew of news by flavor, social media as gospel, cyber deceit, opinion hustlers, “my mind is already made up-tell me only what I want to hear” viewers, is not an environment where objectivity, honesty, facts and reality are likely to strive. It’s a bit like sending Bob Cratchit’s son Tiny Tim into the Mos Eisley Cantina on the planet Tatooine. That was the Star Wars bar described by Obi Wan Kenobi as a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
Our world has become metaphor. Facts matter, so does truth, honesty and accuracy, but only to those who know they exist. Far too many people have their heads (eyes, ears and what is left of a brain) far up their own Tatooine.
As a plain ole’ citizen I really appreciate these two articles. My take away is that you can’t play the old game anymore and you shouldn’t play TRump’s new game, instead you need to start your own game: one that you call, one that you make the rules for. After all, he did the same to you.
You forgot a couple: 1. Resist the urge to link bait, and let your quality work do the job. 2. Have an objective, unbiased view — we are way, way too saturated in the op-ed world. Let people make their own decisions based on the facts you provide from both sides. Nobody really reads media for journalist’s opinions. 3. Quit being emotional. There are so many large issues this country has been facing for decades. Your/my/whoever candidate did not win. People need facts, not your feelings. 4. Maturity, tact, etc. are the things that used to be the benchmark of great journalists, not “cool” reporters who are “crushing it.” 5. The media used to never care to be everybody’s friend. In fact it was the opposite. 6. Be thorough – fact check, see it from all sides. 7. Know how to argue and debate. 8. Remember, YOU are championing the idea that America is FREE — that means other people can have their own wants, needs, way of life, choice. It doesn’t just mean those who side with your opinion. 9. Stay strong. The media has not had the chance to be real media for ten years. Time to rise.