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 »
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
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.
Natalia Veselnitskaya was allowed into the U.S. without a visa by the former administration’s Justice Department; Catherine Herridge has the details for ‘Special Report’.
Nick Givas reports: Host of the Fox Business show “Mornings With Maria” Maria Bartiromo interviewed John Podesta Wednesday, saying she believed that his ties to Russia are even greater than those of President Donald Trump’s.
“Do you find it odd that there’s been so much attention on the Trump campaign and the Trump associates and potential collusion with the Russians, when it’s really the Democrats who have deeper and stronger ties to Russia?”
Podesta’s emails were hacked during the 2016 presidential race when he was the campaign manager of former candidate Hillary Clinton, and many of his opinions and private political agendas were leaked to the public. Many experts later said that this scandal damaged Clinton’s chances at obtaining the White House.
Bartiromo began by asking about Podesta’s recent meeting with the House intelligence panel, but moved to press Podesta as to why Democrats’ ties to Russia were ignored despite being more prevalent than those of the Republican Party. Read the rest of this entry »
Source: Covers | New York Post
‘What Do They Want, a Cookie?’ CNN Didn’t DECIDE to Retract the Fake Russia Story, They Were FORCED ToPosted: June 28, 2017
CNN faced $100M lawsuit over botched Russia story
Emily Smith reports: The specter of a $100 million libel suit scared CNN into retracting a poorly reported story that slimed an ally of President Trump’s — and forcing out the staffers responsible for it, The Post has learned.
The cable network’s coverage of Trump transition team member Anthony Scaramucci came amid federal scrutiny of corporate parent Time Warner’s pending purchase by AT&T — and the widespread belief among media execs that CNN President Jeff Zucker can’t survive a merger.
CNN immediately caved after Scaramucci, a financier and frequent network guest, cried foul and threatened to take legal action, sources said Tuesday.
— Mark Krikorian (@MarkSKrikorian) June 28, 2017
Scaramucci got an unusual public apology but still hired a top Manhattan lawyer to put further pressure on CNN and “look after [his] interests in this matter,” one source said.
“They called them in and said they’d pay out their contracts, but they should leave immediately,” one source said.
Zucker was afraid of facing a high-profile suit from Scaramucci while the US Justice Department weighs the proposed $85.4 billion media merger.
Meanwhile, a CNN insider said staffers are furious at “having lost the moral high ground because of this story.” Sources said Zucker tried to rally his staff during a Tuesday morning conference call.
“Zucker stressed that this issue was a ‘lapse in editorial standards’ and said it was a lesson to all reporters and editors to continue to strive for strong, accurate reporting,” a source said. Read the rest of this entry »
John F. Kennedy lowered taxes, opposed abortion, supported gun rights, and believed in a strong military. And he was a proud Democrat. But would he be one today? Author and talk show host Larry Elder explains.
We just discussed the free speech and academic freedom issues of schools investigating professors for their postings on social media. Now we have A New Jersey college professor who was fired by Essex County College after appearing on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Professor Lisa Durden staunchly defended a black-only Black Lives Matter event and caused an uproar of criticism over her highly insulting comments about “white people.”
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The decision came after the network deleted and retracted a post on Friday.
Jon Passantino reports: CNN is imposing strict new publishing restrictions for online articles involving Russia after the network deleted a story and then issued a retraction late Friday, according to an internal email obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The email went out at 11:21 a.m. on Saturday from Rich Barbieri, the CNNMoney executive editor, saying “No one should publish any content involving Russia without coming to me and Jason,” a CNN vice president.
“This applied to social, video, editorial, and MoneyStream. No exceptions,” the email added. “I will lay out a workflow Monday.”
The new restrictions also apply to other areas of the network — not just CNNMoney, which wasn’t involved with the article that was deleted and retracted. Read the rest of this entry »
“Up until now, the company had not indicated that layoffs would happen if targeted numbers weren’t achieved,” Grant Glickson, president of the NewsGuild, told Media Ink.
As part of the NYT’s ongoing restructuring of its editing ranks, 109 copy editors have had their jobs eliminated. There are estimated to be about 50 new jobs available in the restructured editing operation that the Times envisions for its digital- and video-oriented future.
When the downsizing was first revealed in late May, a memo from Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn portrayed the cuts as a “streamlining” of the editing process and indicated that some of the savings would be used to hire up to 100 more journalists.
But in a mid-June meeting with department heads, Baquet admitted that journalists could be targeted in a new round of layoffs once the editing ranks are culled. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Larry Sabato on Implications of Ossoff Defeat: ‘It’s Pretty Depressing’ for Democrats (CNN Staff Very Depressed)Posted: June 21, 2017
Leah Barkoukis reports: After suffering 17 months of brutal captivity in North Korea, Otto Warmbier died Monday, having spent more than a year in a coma before his release last week.
After news of his death, Twitter users were quick to resurface articles from liberal sites Salon, Huffington Post, and Bustle in 2016 mocking the college student for getting what he deserved.
Warmbier was accused of stealing a propaganda poster from the hotel he was staying at in North Korea and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
This Huffington Post blog sure aged well. pic.twitter.com/8DSZ1uL6qe
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) June 19, 2017