The state of the Fourth Estate—and who can save it.
Brittany Karford Rogers writes: If hashtags had been a thing, these would have been some #FakeNews whoppers.
The 32 BC Mark Antony takedown: it began with a fake-news campaign masterminded by Octavian, complete with Tweet-like proclamations on ancient coins.
The Simon of Trent humdinger: in 1475 a prince-bishop in Italy set off a story that local Jews murdered missing 2-year-old Simon—and used his blood for rituals. Fifteen Jews burned at the stake.
The Benjamin Franklin special edition: he concocted an entire 1782 newspaper, peddling a fake story about Native Americans scalping 700 men, women, children, and infants.
In short, fake news is old news.
For all the handwringing over fake news today, BYU journalism professor Joel J. Campbell’s (BA ’87) response is more “meh.” It’s another punch for a profession that’s been in the ring for the better part of a decade. Trust in news media is at an all-time low. Revenue models are upended. Reporters are exhausted. Readers are fragmented. And that’s just a short list of jabs.
Looming larger in Campbell’s eyes are analytics-driven newsrooms and disenfranchised readers, who, flooded with content, are living in information silos or, worse, opting out altogether.
So how does one make sense of the crowded, increasingly polarized news landscape? And what’s left of journalism as we knew it?
BYU faculty and alumni practitioners—their collective résumés spanning Fox News, C-SPAN, CNN, the Atlantic, and more—have some ideas.
Before you throw your hands up, consider the forces at play, take heart in journalists’ earnest self-searching, and look in the mirror—because the finger pointing goes all the way around.
It’s worth asking, “Is journalism still doing its job?” But as our panel of experts chimes, there’s an equally important question: “Do the citizens of this country have the will to save it?”
A Happy Accident
Journalism has a lofty goal—one epitomized by the career of R. John Hughes.
The emeritus BYU professor won the Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for his coverage of an attempted communist coup and its bloody aftermath in Indonesia. Over his career as a writer for and then editor of the Christian Science Monitor, he covered revolutions and interviewed world leaders.
“Journalism was almost like a religion to me, to get the story, and get it right, to help evince change,” Hughes says. “It’s a kind of love affair for most journalists, shining light in dark corners.”
Journalists call themselves the watchdogs, the truth seekers. The press is dubbed the Fourth Estate after all, the final check on all three branches of government. Democracy requires informed citizens; the press make up the informants. “Democracy Dies in Darkness” goes the new Washington Post tagline.
That’s the why of modern journalism.
The how—being objective, non-partisan—“is rather a new phenomenon in the history of news,” says Campbell.
It has always depended on who’s paying.
Wealthy traders and merchants underwrote the first news in the Americas, and it was all route intel. In the colonial period political parties footed the bill for most papers—party organs that were far more partisan and acrimonious than what we cry foul at today. It wasn’t until the penny-press era—the 1830s on—that a new funding model developed: scale up the circulation, then sell readers’ attention to advertisers. That advertising revenue could bring the cost of the paper down to something many could afford.
Writing to a mass audience, publishers began to recognize there was a market for real, honest news that could cross political divides and speak with a relatively neutral voice. This paved the way for professional journalism standards. And for most of the 20th century, it made newsrooms the information power brokers.
Then the internet smashed the model.
“For the last decade, we have seen a steady erosion of the advertising economy for newspapers,” says Campbell. That’s the nice way of saying it. Revenue streams have been gutted.
Department stores and auto malls, the go-to advertisers, cut back on ads, facing their own disruptions: e-commerce competition and recession. Craigslist happened to the classifieds. And reader eyeballs, once concentrated among a few media outlets, are now diverted to Facebook, YouTube, and that thing you just Googled—and the bulk of advertising has followed them.
As they say in the industry, the digital transition traded print dollars for digital dimes and, in turn, digital dimes for mobile pennies.
One thing is certain: it’s a fascinating time to study the news. Alum Seth C. Lewis (BA ’02) holds the Shirley Papé Chair in Emerging Media at the University of Oregon and is a leading scholar on the digital transformation of journalism.
“We’ve gone from media monopoly to media disruption and ubiquity,” says Lewis. And in ubiquity, no one gets a sizable piece of the economic pie.
Lewis suggests that maybe the last century of advertising-based news subsidy—which fostered these objective, non-partisan notions—“was just a happy accident. Maybe instead we’re returning to other forms of funding and thinking about the news.”
Stephen Miller TKOs Jim Acosta
Rich Lowry writes: When Donald Trump’s policy adviser Stephen Miller stepped to the podium of the White House briefing room on Wednesday to defend a plan for reducing levels of legal immigration, Jim Acosta of CNN was aghast and let everyone know it.
Put aside that Acosta believed it was his role as a reporter to argue one side of a hot-button political issue (this is how journalism works in 2017). The exchange illustrated how advocates of high levels of immigration are often the ones who—despite their self-image as the rational bulwark against runaway populism—rely on an ignorant emotionalism to make their case.
At issue is the bill sponsored by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia to cut legal immigration by half. The legislation would scale back so-called chain migration—immigrants bringing relatives, who bring more relatives in turn—and institute a merit-based system for green cards based on the ability to speak English, educational attainment and job skills.
Offended by the idea of putting a priority on higher-skilled immigrants, Acosta wanted to know how such a policy would be consistent with the Statue of Liberty. When Miller pointed out that Lady Liberty was conceived as a symbol of … liberty and the famous Emma Lazarus poem added later, Acosta accused him of “national park revisionism”—even though Miller was correct.
Stephen Miller is living rent free in Acosta’s head. pic.twitter.com/WR2AMEmDGW
— Nick Short 🇺🇸 (@PoliticalShort) August 3, 2017
At the dedication of the statue in 1886, President Grover Cleveland declared that the statue’s “stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression until Liberty enlightens the world.” His soaring oration did not include the admonition that so-called comprehensive immigration reform would henceforth be considered the only acceptable immigration policy for the United States.
Lazarus’ poem was added in a plaque in 1903. The words are not, as Acosta and so many others believe, emblazoned on the statue itself—the plaque is now displayed in an exhibition within the pedestal.
All of this might seem pedantic, but the underlying debate is over the legitimacy of reducing levels of immigration and whether it is appropriate to craft a policy mindful, above anything else, of the national interest. Miller clearly has the best of this argument.
One, making 21st policy in accord with late-19th century poetry makes no sense. We don’t ask, say, whether the naval appropriations bill is in keeping with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Building of the Ship” (“Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State! Sail on, O Union, strong and great!”)
Two, the cap on refugees in the Cotton-Perdue bill of 50,000 a year is in the ballpark of recent annual refugee numbers. We actually admitted fewer than this in the late-1970s and early-2000s, and the Statue of Liberty still stood … (more)
Source: POLITICO Magazine
CNN’s Jim Acosta claims victory in briefing beef with Stephen Miller: ‘He couldn’t take that kind of heat’
“I think what you saw unfold in the briefing room is that he [Miller] really just couldn’t take that kind of heat and exploded before our eyes,” Acosta said in an appearance on CNN Wednesday night, hours after the face-off.
Miller spoke to members of the White House press corps about a revised bill from Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas that would implement a merit-based point system for immigrants applying for legal permanent status. President Trump endorsed the immigration plan during a ceremony at the White House earlier Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »
Great website focusing on the design and history of pocket transistor radios manufactured between 1954 and 1965.
Source: ROCKET RADIO MG-306
Michael Barone writes: “The habits of progressive social and political discourse almost seem calculated to alienate and aggravate lower class whites.” That sounds like something an American might say, but actually it was written by an Australian.
Shannon Burns, who is now an academic but grew up in what he describes as a lumpen neighborhood, grew up with working class whites and Asian immigrants in Adelaide, the largest city in South Australia and, incidentally, the home town of media baron Rupert Murdoch. His work appeared in the literary magazine Meanjin Quarterly, headlined “In Defence of the Bad, White Working Class,” and came to my attention thanks to Glenn Reynolds‘s invaluable Instapundit.
“I confess,” Burns goes on, “that if a well-dressed, university-educated middle-class person of any gender or ethnicity so much as hinted at my ‘white privilege’ while I was a lumpen child, or my ‘male privilege’ while I was an unskilled labourer who couldn’t afford basic necessities, or my ‘hetero-privilege’ while I was a homeless solitary, I’d have taken special pleasure in voting for their nightmare. And I would have been right to do so.” Read the rest of this entry »
Democrats don’t want you to find out—and that ought to be a scandal of its own.
Kimberley A. Strassel reports: It has been 10 days since Democrats received the glorious news that Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley would require Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to explain their meeting with Russian operators at Trump Tower last year. The left was salivating at the prospect of watching two Trump insiders being grilled about Russian “collusion” under the klieg lights.
Yet Democrats now have meekly and noiselessly retreated, agreeing to let both men speak to the committee in private. Why would they so suddenly be willing to let go of this moment of political opportunity?
Fusion GPS. That’s the oppo-research outfit behind the infamous and discredited “Trump dossier,” ginned up by a former British spook. Read the rest of this entry »
Being a New Yorker is no excuse. This is the degradation of the presidency. This is what we have come to. None of us have ever seen this. The reason is, it’s not to be done. That type of language is not to be used, particularly when it’s infighting in the White House. The fact that the president is allowing all this to go on, I think it means it rests with him. He’s the only one who can actually restrain this. He appears not to. Perhaps he believes Scaramucci is the guy who will clear the swamp in the White House, but this is really disgraceful.
Source: National Review
In the latest episode of “White House Survivor,” the West Wing descended into chaos Thursday, as President Trump and his top aides turned on each other like vicious reality show divas … (read more)
Source: New York Post
Regime uses sanctions relief to beef up weaponry, leading their neighbors to do the same.
When a speedboat manned by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel approached American vessels operating in open water, the U.S. Navy patrol craft USS Thunderbolt issued a series of warnings, all translating as “stay away, keep safe distance.” The Revolutionary Guards kept coming, as they often do, probing until the USN reacts.
A fanatic’s boat weaving among American warships could disrupt the U.S. formation and cause a collision. Tehran propagandists would tout that as a victory at sea. Worse, an Iranian boat might be a water-borne bomb capable of sinking a big ship. The deadly October 2000 terror attack on the USS Cole is very much on the minds of Navy sailors when Iran’s small boats appear. Read the rest of this entry »
Beijing has been increasingly clamping down on use of VPNs in recent weeks. This has prompted concerns among various groups that it will stifle academic research and international trade.
Wasserman Schultz kept paying tech expert suspected of stealing House computers.
Alex Daugherty and Amy Sherman report: When a computer expert who worked for congressional Democrats was accused of stealing computers and data systems in February, members of Congress cut him loose within days, leaving Imran Awan with no supporters five months later.
Except for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The Weston Democrat has not explained in detail why she continued to employ Awan until Tuesday when she fired him — after he was arrested on bank-fraud charges at Dulles International Airport in Virginia attempting to board a flight to Pakistan.
“After details of the investigation were reviewed with us, my office was provided no evidence to indicate that laws had been broken, which over time, raised troubling concerns about due process, fair treatment and potential ethnic and religious profiling. Upon learning of his arrest, he was terminated.”
— Wasserman Schultz, in a statement
And she has not elaborated on what work Awan did for her after he lost access to the House computer network.
[ALSO SEE – ROGER SIMON: Imran Awan Case Needs Special Counsel 100X More than Russiagate]
She declined to answer questions about Awan in Washington on Wednesday, and her spokesman, David Damron, accompanied her to the House floor while instructing a reporter that Wasserman Schultz would not take questions about her former employee.
Wednesday evening, Wasserman Schultz released a statement:
“After details of the investigation were reviewed with us, my office was provided no evidence to indicate that laws had been broken, which over time, raised troubling concerns about due process, fair treatment and potential ethnic and religious profiling,” she said. “Upon learning of his arrest, he was terminated.”
Damron told the Miami Herald that Awan was still working for Wasserman Schultz in an advisory role until Monday, and was fired Tuesday. Wasserman Schultz was one of more than two dozen Democrats in Congress who employed Awan, 37, and four other information-technology staffers accused in February of stealing computer systems.
But months after Awan was fired by everyone else, Wasserman Schultz grilled Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa in May over why computer equipment was confiscated from her office as part of the investigation into Awan even though she was not under investigation. Read the rest of this entry »
Newly released footage shows the moment that police killed 27-year-old Antoquan T. Watson during a dramatic shootout. Watson had led police on a dangerous chase that ended with him leaving his vehicle and pointing a gun at responding officers. He was shot 45 times, and the officers were found not guilty of any wrongdoing.
Mediha Medy Salkicevic has claimed that her support of ISIS constituted “legitimate warfare” and that she was waging war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, just as the U.S. government is doing by supporting Syrian rebels.
Salkicevic was working for a cargo company at Chicago’s International O’Hare Airport when she was arrested in 2015. Investigators allege she said she wanted to “bury unbelievers alive” and kill infidels.
“Under United States law, acts of legitimate warfare during a civil war are not murder and are entitled to combatant immunity,” her attorneys said. They argue that Americans are “protected from prosecution as acts of legitimate warfare under the doctrine of combatant immunity.”
On Friday, her attorneys filed a motion to dismiss two charges: conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists.
Salkicevic and her alleged co-conspirators stand accused of sending money and military equipment to Bosnian national Abdullah Ramo Pazara, an ISIS leader in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »
Scott McClallen writes: Millennials rushed to the polls to vote for Bernie Sanders running as a Democratic socialist last election season. However, did they fall in love with socialism or just want free college and healthcare? A new video suggests they have no idea what socialism is.
“I think people throw that word around to try to scare you, but if helping other people is socialism, then I’m all for it,” one girl answered.
“It could really benefit our country in the future,” another said.
“Socialism as a concept, as a philosophy, is good,” a male student said. “I think it’s got a bad rep.” Read the rest of this entry »
For decades, conservatives have been complaining about bias in the media, but that wasn’t quantified until now. CNN’s fake news does more than get them ratings — its libel undermines the very nature of our democratic republic. In this Firewall, Bill Whittle lambasts the mainstream media for its toxic politicizing of the news and exposes the influence of media bias on elections.
W. James Antle III writes: It’s impossible in some quarters to discuss Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a shady Russian lawyer without being quizzed about similar bad things politicians from the opposing party have done.
This bit of rhetorical judo has become so common in our politics that it even has a name: “whataboutism.” Naturally, its origins have been traced back to the Russians, if not even further back. The Economist‘s Edward Luce described it as an attempt to “match every Soviet crime with a real or imagined Western one.”
More recently, the tactic has been deployed by diehard supporters of President Trump, as well as by his more removed “anti-anti-Trumpist” backers.
And you know what? Trump’s supporters are not wrong to urge us all to truly examine historical precedents. Because all too often, Trump’s fiercest critics declare his every utterance and action unprecedented without bothering to thoughtfully consider the precedents.
Now, when “whataboutism” is used to defend the indefensible, it is obviously wrong. But not every historical comparison can be dismissed as simple “whataboutism.” And there are good reasons why “What about … ” questions have so frequently been raised under this president. The case against Trump is not simply that he does things that are wrong or bad, but that he is bad in ways that are unprecedented and represent a sharp break from important political norms.
If we are going to chastise Trump for norm violations, shouldn’t we first establish how normal or abnormal his actions in a given area really are? If we are going to say he is guilty of doing the unprecedented, shouldn’t we look to see if there are in fact any precedents? Read the rest of this entry »
Turn Left and Go Over the Top
Stefan Kanfer writes: Pity the poor members of the Resistance. They decried violence on the right—only to have GOP congressman Steve Scalise shot by rifle-wielding left-winger James T. Hodgkinson. Then, a group of theater professinals decried any attempt to quash a staging of Julius Caesar with the title character, caparisoned as Donald Trump, assassinated with shouts of revenge and gouts of blood. But soon afterward, yet another assemblage of theater professionals decided that censorship was a good thing after all.
The Lincoln Center Festival is staging a four-night production this month of To the End of the Land, a dramatization of the acclaimed novel by Israeli author David Grossman. The play is underwritten by a cultural-outreach arm of the Israeli government. The Jewish State is anathema to the radical Left, and angry members of an organization identifying itself as “Adalah-NY, the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel,” are demanding that the production be taken off the boards before the Center dares to raise its curtain. Signatories to the demand include playwrights Tracy Letts, Lynn Nottage, and Annie Baker, as well as director Sam Gold, rock star Roger Waters, indie-film darling Greta Gerwig, and reliably anti-Israel playwright/actor Wallace Shawn.
Adalah-NY says that production of To the End of the Land will aid the Isralie government in its “Brand Israel” campaign, which aims to use arts and culture to beguile audiences into thinking that Israel is a modern, civilized nation—while the wicked Hebrews continue their “violent colonization, brutal military occupation and denial of basic rights to the Palestinian people.”
Never mind that the play is actually an antiwar document, that its Israeli writer lost a son to battle and is understandably reluctant to fan any fires, and that, in fact, it has a sympathetic Palestinian character. Never mind that Israel is surrounded by would-be assassins who have sworn to destroy the Jewish state and all who live there. Never mind that a quick glance at the state of human rights or rule of law among any of Israel’s neighbors provides the sharpest possible foil, and that not a peep has been heard from Adalah-NY about the lives of the citizen-victims of Egypt, Gaza, Syria, or Lebanon. Read the rest of this entry »
As HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones returns for its seventh season, Reason offers its own freedom-filled parody. A libertarian paradise north of the wall? What’s happened to Westeros’ social security trust fund? Should it take low-income Dothraki four years to get a hair-braiding license?
Written and produced by Austin Bragg, Meredith Bragg, and Andrew Heaton. Shot and edited by Bragg and Bragg. Starring Andrew Heaton, Austin Bragg, and Remy.