The Day the News Died

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The Day the News Died

The media melt­down about the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion has under­lined the cor­rup­tion of jour­nal­ism in the United States.

That cor­rup­tion started in the 1980s when jour­nal­ism empha­sized mak­ing money over cre­at­ing pub­lic debate, wended its way through sig­nif­i­cant eth­i­cal scan­dals from Jason Blair, Brian Williams, and oth­ers to the Rolling Stone’s rape of the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia, and cul­mi­nated in the dis­may over Pres­i­dent Trump’s elec­tion and the scan­dalous report­ing of the Rus­sia investigation.

Amaz­ingly, it appears that much of the media don’t under­stand just how low jour­nal­ism has fallen. Only a few voices have called for a seri­ous and much-​needed inves­ti­ga­tion of the press.

Matt Taibbi, a con­trib­u­tor to Rolling Stone and a left­ist of the first order, has writ­ten a sting­ing indict­ment. “Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Spe­cial Pros­e­cu­tor Robert Mueller is headed home with­out issu­ing new charges is a death blow for the rep­u­ta­tion of the Amer­ica news media,” he wrote. Here is the full story:https://​taibbi​.sub​stack​.com/​p​/​r​u​s​s​i​a​g​a​t​e​-​i​s​-​w​m​d​-​t​i​m​e​s​-​a​-​m​i​llion
Taibbi con­tin­ues: “There will be peo­ple protest­ing: the Mueller report doesn’t prove any­thing! What about the 37 indict­ments? The con­vic­tions? The Trump tower rev­e­la­tions? The lies! The meet­ing with Don, Jr.? The finan­cial mat­ters! There’s an ongo­ing grand jury inves­ti­ga­tion, and pos­si­ble sealed indict­ments, and the House will still inves­ti­gate, and…

Stop. Just stop. Any jour­nal­ist who goes there is mak­ing it worse.”

The enig­matic Glenn Green­wald has been chron­i­cling the fail­ures of the media dur­ing the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion. His top 10 list is worth read­ing at https://​thein​ter​cept​.com/​2019​/​01​/​20​/​b​e​y​o​n​d​-​b​u​z​z​f​e​e​d​-​t​h​e​-​10​-​w​o​r​s​t​-​m​o​s​t​-​e​m​b​a​r​r​a​s​s​i​n​g​-​u​-​s​-​m​e​d​i​a​-​f​a​i​l​u​r​e​s​-​o​n​-​t​h​e​-​t​r​u​m​p​r​u​s​s​i​a​-​s​tory/

All of these ‘errors’ go only in one direc­tion: namely, exag­ger­at­ing the grave threat posed by Moscow and the Trump circle’s con­nec­tion to it. It’s inevitable that media out­lets will make mis­takes on com­plex sto­ries. If that’s being done in good faith, one would expect the errors would be roughly 5050 in terms of the agenda served by the false sto­ries. That is most def­i­nitely not the case here,” Green­wald wrote recently.

It’s worth­while recount­ing some of the sto­ries from Greenwald’s top of the pops:

–On June 12, 2017, For­tune claimed erro­neously that Rus­sia hacked into and taken over C-​SPAN.
–On Decem­ber 30, 2016, The Wash­ing­ton Post reported incor­rectly that Russ­ian hack­ers pen­e­trated the U.S. elec­tric­ity grid through a util­ity in Ver­mont, caus­ing pre­dictable out­rage and panic.
–On Decem­ber 9, 2017, in what Green­wald described as “one of the most humil­i­at­ing spec­ta­cles in the his­tory of the U.S. media,” CNN and MSNBC reported that Don­ald Trump Jr. was offered advanced access to the Wik­iLeaks’ archive of mate­r­ial from the Demo­c­ra­tic National Committee.

Can the media recover from this dis­as­ter? It’s unlikely, but here are some suggestions:

  1. The Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Act of 1996 and sub­se­quent changes in 2017 allowed sig­nif­i­cant con­cen­tra­tion of own­er­ship across all the media. Six cor­po­ra­tions — AT&T, Com­cast, Dis­ney, Fox, CBS, and Via­com — own the lion’s share of the U.S. media. Here is a chart: http://​for​tune​.com/​l​o​n​g​f​o​r​m​/​m​e​d​i​a​-​c​o​m​p​a​n​y​-​o​w​n​e​r​s​h​i​p​-​c​o​n​s​o​l​i​d​a​tion/

It is time to break up these oper­a­tions, which pro­mote busi­ness results through rat­ings and adver­tis­ing over the pub­lic inter­est. That’s why the net­works, par­tic­u­larly cable, pro­mote shout­ing matches over con­struc­tive analy­sis and 247 cov­er­age of mass shoot­ings and other disasters.

  1. Social media oper­a­tions, such as Face­book, Twit­ter, and oth­ers MUST be held account­able for myr­iad prob­lems in the trans­mis­sion of infor­ma­tion, such as the live stream­ing of the New Zealand shooter.
  2. Jour­nal­ists must exam­ine under­ly­ing news prac­tices. Let’s face it. The media have become par­ti­san. As a result, the press must exam­ine its ethics codes, includ­ing a wide­spread move toward trans­parency of reporters’ polit­i­cal beliefs and biases.

  3. Jour­nal­ism pro­grams must admit their left­ist bias and seek to cor­rect it. Many pro­grams empha­size a sub­set of social work over accu­rate report­ing. The fac­ul­ties are filled with social jus­tice war­riors who hide behind a façade of objec­tiv­ity, fair­ness, and balance.

It sad­dens me to see how bad jour­nal­ism has become after the more than two decades I spent as a reporter and more than two decades teach­ing oth­ers how to become good reporters.

I hope the Mueller deba­cle will force the media to try to fix what’s gone wrong. Unfor­tu­nately, I doubt it will happen.

The media meltdown about the Mueller investigation has underlined the corruption of journalism in the United States.

That corruption started in the 1980s when journalism emphasized making money over creating public debate, wended its way through significant ethical scandals from Jason Blair, Brian Williams, and others to the Rolling Stone’s rape of the University of Virginia, and culminated in the dismay over President Trump’s election and the scandalous reporting of the Russia investigation.

Amazingly, it appears that much of the media don’t understand just how low journalism has fallen. Only a few voices have called for a serious and much-needed investigation of the press.

Matt Taibbi, a contributor to Rolling Stone and a leftist of the first order, has written a stinging indictment. “Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death blow for the reputation of the America news media,” he wrote. Here is the full story:https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million
Taibbi continues: “There will be people protesting: the Mueller report doesn’t prove anything! What about the 37 indictments? The convictions? The Trump tower revelations? The lies! The meeting with Don, Jr.? The financial matters! There’s an ongoing grand jury investigation, and possible sealed indictments, and the House will still investigate, and…

“Stop. Just stop. Any journalist who goes there is making it worse.”

The enigmatic Glenn Greenwald has been chronicling the failures of the media during the Mueller investigation. His top 10 list is worth reading at https://theintercept.com/2019/01/20/beyond-buzzfeed-the-10-worst-most-embarrassing-u-s-media-failures-on-the-trumprussia-story/

“All of these ‘errors’ go only in one direction: namely, exaggerating the grave threat posed by Moscow and the Trump circle’s connection to it. It’s inevitable that media outlets will make mistakes on complex stories. If that’s being done in good faith, one would expect the errors would be roughly 50/50 in terms of the agenda served by the false stories. That is most definitely not the case here,” Greenwald wrote recently.

It’s worthwhile recounting some of the stories from Greenwald’s top of the pops:

–On June 12, 2017, Fortune claimed erroneously that Russia hacked into and taken over C-SPAN.
–On December 30, 2016, The Washington Post reported incorrectly that Russian hackers penetrated the U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, causing predictable outrage and panic.
–On December 9, 2017, in what Greenwald described as “one of the most humiliating spectacles in the history of the U.S. media,” CNN and MSNBC reported that Donald Trump Jr. was offered advanced access to the WikiLeaks’ archive of material from the Democratic National Committee.

Can the media recover from this disaster? It’s unlikely, but here are some suggestions:

  1. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and subsequent changes in 2017 allowed significant concentration of ownership across all the media. Six corporations—AT&T, Comcast, Disney, Fox, CBS, and Viacom—own the lion’s share of the U.S. media. Here is a chart: http://fortune.com/longform/media-company-ownership-consolidation/

It is time to break up these operations, which promote business results through ratings and advertising over the public interest. That’s why the networks, particularly cable, promote shouting matches over constructive analysis and 24/7 coverage of mass shootings and other disasters.

  1. Social media operations, such as Facebook, Twitter, and others MUST be held accountable for myriad problems in the transmission of information, such as the live streaming of the New Zealand shooter.
  2. Journalists must examine underlying news practices. Let’s face it. The media have become partisan. As a result, the press must examine its ethics codes, including a widespread move toward transparency of reporters’ political beliefs and biases.

  3. Journalism programs must admit their leftist bias and seek to correct it. Many programs emphasize a subset of social work over accurate reporting. The faculties are filled with social justice warriors who hide behind a façade of objectivity, fairness, and balance.

It saddens me to see how bad journalism has become after the more than two decades I spent as a reporter and more than two decades teaching others how to become good reporters.

I hope the Mueller debacle will force the media to try to fix what’s gone wrong. Unfortunately, I doubt it will happen.