A number of professional journalism organizations still promote truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability, but in the real world those goals are just a memory these days. What happened?
It ties back to money, as does so much of what happens in this world, but in a convoluted way…….There’s a huge shortage of revenue in news publishing, between the demise of newspaper advertising, the rise of social media, free news sites, and ad revenue based on clicks. It’s not that digital media is intrinsically bad. It’s just that it’s changed the economics of journalism dramatically for the worse, so that journalism is no longer something a person who is looking for a long term, well paying, steady and prestigious job would choose to pursue as a career.
Consider Time Magazine. That used to be a tremendous place to work……great pay, travel to exotic location, prestigious, exciting…..Time Inc. was once nicknamed “Paradise Publishing”. From what I’ve read about Time Magazine lately, long since spun off by Time Warner media (which is itself no longer in existence, having been absorbed by either Hachette or AT&T), it’s more like the “Franklin Mint” of publishing, and that’s no compliment.
So ask yourself, “who would choose a career in journalism?”. The answer is that only people who are fanatical about political issues will become journalists, and they do so in order to promote their vision and to accomplish their political goals. Objectivity, fairness, and impartiality aren’t even considerations. They religiously believe in their viewpoint, and aren’t interested in publishing anything that might detract from or contradict their opinions. The means justifies the end.
This is made worse by the fact most journalists today are young. The older journalists and editors, who might have passed on traditions and enforced the old standards, are now gone, either forced out, moved along, retired, or simply shuffled aside for a lack of digital skills. This accounts for the heavy leftward tilt of virtually all the remaining mainstream media…..as said by someone (Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, John Adams?), “If a man is not a Socialist at 20 he has no heart, but if he remains one at 30 he has no head.” At 22 college grads are looking for that first job and in this case, to change the world. At 30 years old, people might be starting families and want/need to make some money, so many people, now with “a head”, will abandon journalism for jobs that offer more long-term security and better pay. At 30 or 35 they might not be radical socialist any longer, but they aren’t journalists any longer either.
The New York Times is a perfect example, because it used to be the epitome of journalistic ethics. It was the premier newspaper in the US, known for its impartiality despite its leftward tilt, and was considered a ‘newspaper of record’. Not anymore. Now it’s known, most recently, for its staff walking out because the Gray Lady (the long time nickname for the NY Times) published an op ed by a US Senator that the young staff didn’t agree with. It’s also now known for caving into the demands of those young staffers and forcing out the editor who allowed that article to be printed. The Times is also the newspaper that published a ridiculous article on their front-page implying Trump was benefiting financially from his ‘deranged druggist’ approach to that quinine drug (hydroxychloroquine) to prevent COVID-19. The company that invented the drug (Sanofi) is part of an ETF held in a blind Trump family trust, and the drug itself is now available as a generic anyway). The total value of the Trump Family Trust’s investment in Sanofi is estimated at $1300. That’s Trump chump change. That the President of the United State was pushing a specific drug to take for COVID was also plenty ridiculous, but it’s irrelevant to why the Times published the story.
The Gray Lady today reminds me of that old adage ……”a rich man asks a beautiful woman if she would sleep with him for $5M. She ponders the question, thinks of all she could do with the money, promises herself to donate some of it to charity, and says ‘yes’. The man counters with, “how about for $100?” She slaps him and says, “what do you take me for?” His reply: “We’ve already established what you are, now we’re just negotiating the price.” I’m afraid that concept now applies to the Gray Lady, who sold her virtue for cheap clicks and, just like in the movie “Indecent Proposal”, that tradeoff won’t end well.
And for the record: The Wall Street Journal still tries to be impartial, and look at articles in depth. Of course, that makes it a little boring, but it is a great news source. (be warned—their pay wall works) Otherwise, I find I have to read all sorts of news sites—The US edition of The Daily Mail is a favorite of mine for the latest events and rumors (be warned—it’s the worst edited website I’ve ever seen……it’s loaded with spelling errors, wrong answers to quizzes, incorrect articles, sentences and paragraphs repeated, and an incoherent comment section. Other news sites worth visiting are Politico, The Hill, The NY Post, and Apple news. And I don’t even want to discuss cable news…..they are all unwatchable, from Fox to CNN to MSNBC. I’ve heard ABC Nightly News is decent, but haven’t tried it yet.