Friday 3 February 2023

Legacy journalism looks headed for oblivion

David James has a robust TCW piece on legacy journalism.

Legacy journalism looks headed for oblivion

WHEN the failures of legacy journalism during the pandemic period are analysed, as may eventually happen, the concentration will probably be on the failure to expose relevant facts. While obviously important, that is not the main lesson that should be taken out of the debacle. If disinterested journalism is to have any future – and at the moment it is all but extinct – there has to be something more than just the recording of facts, or the eliciting of different points of view.

So great has been the intensity of the propaganda and the censorship of alleged ‘misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information’ that it is no longer possible for journalists to rely on a degree of reasonableness in the audience. The civic ground has been poisoned, including by journalists
themselves. It will remain unusable for a long time.

Worth reading because many people clearly gave up on legacy journalism long before the pandemic debacle. To my mind the suggested remedy is also interesting because it is used by many alternative sources. Not consistently perhaps, but so far the legacy media have shown little interest in veracity as a journalistic ideal. 

The professional liars have won. Newsrooms have been eviscerated because Google and Facebook took all the advertising revenue, and the spin merchants in business, government and nonprofits have almost limitless resources. If journalism – as opposed to commentary in blogs, websites, social media and online channels – is to have a future, a new approach is needed.

To counter the tidal wave of falsity two things suggest themselves. They are the analysis of semantics and the exposing of logical fallacies. A better adherence to ‘the facts’ is of course desirable, but the problem with facts is that there are so many of them, and often the picture they paint is incomplete and conclusions can be hard to draw. There is also the perennial weakness of mainstream journalism: the tendency to select events on the basis of what makes a good story.


Sam Vega said...

Thanks, that's an excellent read. I particularly liked the bit about definitions being challenged by journos. It's quite easy to fool people with stats, as most of the audience lack the ability to follow even the simplest mathematical explanations. But we all use words, and most of us can tell when an implicit definition changes before our eyes. Journalists should be up to spotting that.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Offhand I can't think of any genuine 'newspapers' any more, they are all 'opinionpapers'.

I recall one of my Junior School masters (Mr Spratley) asking us where history was recorded daily - then revealing that he was talking about newspapers. This was more than 60 years ago. How things are changed.

My suspicion is that even then the editorials were paid more attention than the unvarnished news, but now opinion is everything commercially as you can fabricate attractive opinions from very little fact. If indeed those facts are not fabricated too.

A K Haart said...

Sam - yes it's the most basic failing, not opposing furtive shifts of language. Journalists with any level of experience must see it and must be aware of their own failure to correct it.
That's part of the divide, it's not possible to put yourself in their place.

DJ - I often wonder if it was much the same in the past and opinions and attitudes were given a higher value than facts and tolerance. Censoring old books and warning people about old attitudes does suggest that tolerance hasn't improved. Maybe the media sell intolerance and always have.

Tammly said...

My English and history master at school once said to me 'I don't buy newspapers, I believe they spread lies. It's an eccentricity of mine.'
Over the years I've decided he had a point.

A K Haart said...

Tammly - he did have a point and maybe it's always been that way. Different lies stemming from different attitudes, but still lies.