Journalists’ fight against propagandists begins in earnest

I’m proud to write for The Guardian, and I’m glad to see they’ve responded to a Breitbart onslaught with a calm but firm statement of the facts.

Let’s be absolutely clear. This is not “left wing” vs. “right wing.” The two sides here are not equivalent. This is truth vs. lies. In this case, it’s an attempt to label demonstrable facts on border crossings as “fake news,” lumping it in the same category as the websites that have made Weekly World News look rational.

And it’s part of an ongoing deliberate attack on the nature of truth, one that leads to many Americans going against overwhelming scientific consensus on everything from climate change to vaccines (with creationism still lurking in there somewhere). It leads to the propagation of absurd conspiracy theories like the one that prompted a North Carolina man to walk into a D.C. pizza place armed to the teeth in what we would call an act of terror if a Muslim did it.

Do Democrats sometimes bend the truth? Yes. Call them out on it. We all should.

But don’t pretend that it’s the same as what you’re seeing here, where the powers-that-be don’t just want to spin something but want to undermine the very forces that hold them accountable.

And we cannot allow that to happen.

An excerpt from the piece:

In so doing, Breitbart also appeared to foreshadow an emerging line of attack from Trump loyalists against journalists and media organizations who don’t adhere to the president-elect’s version of events. On Tuesday, this sentiment was loudly proclaimed by Newt Gingrich, a longtime advocate for the president-elect, who said that Trump supporters were entering a “world in which we get to tell the truth”.

Let’s talk about Gingrich and “truth” for a second. This is the man who called Trump’s border wall, which a lot of his supporters took literally, a “campaign device.” You know … fiction.

And there’s this memorable appearance in defense of “feelings” over “facts”:

That’s the closest you’ll ever come to seeing someone admit facts have a liberal bias.

They don’t, of course. But here’s the problem: When a journalist cites facts, that journalist is dismissed as having a liberal bias. Pointing out campaign promises a candidate has no intention of keeping is not “liberal bias.” Pointing to scientific consensus on climate change is not “liberal bias.” Fact-checking and pointing out fake news are not “liberal bias.” And in this case, pointing out the actual numbers on immigration is “liberal bias.” Or you’re a “Social Justice Warrior.” Case in point:

sjw

Journalists are far from perfect. We need diverse voices — we may not be amplifying the voice of the reasonable Republican as well as we should, but neither are we amplifying the voices of African-Americans or Hispanics as well as we should. We need to discuss and debate the headlines.

But we need to do so with respect to institutions that have long strived to be self-correcting. Newspapers are one of the few products ever manufactured that carry criticisms of that product (letters to the editor) within the product. You don’t buy a pair of socks that has a bunch of testimonials about how lousy these socks really are on the package.

We’re listening to legitimate criticism. Always have, always will. It’s sometimes tough to discern what’s legitimate in all the noise — I know plenty of journalists who have to tune out Twitter replies, or else they’d spend all day reading abusive junk in the search for that one good point — but be patient, polite (or at least amusing) and persistent, and we’ll listen.

If you want to be adversarial toward the press, fine. There’s a legitimate role for that. Just remember that the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

You want the truth. These people do not. Period.

The Guardian does run some risk here. Journalists don’t want to spend all their time responding to nonsense from disreputable people. But some of those people are in power now, and we need to hold them accountable. That’s the job we signed up for. And we’re going to keep doing it, no matter how much people try to bully us.

Truth.

Posted in journalism | 1 Comment

What would Jesus investigate?

Sharp letter from a Christian journalist to evangelical media-bashers:

Your quick dismissal of the entire “mainstream media” feels deeply inaccurate to me as a Christian and a journalist — at least the kind of Christianity I was raised on, where the newspaper informed how we understood the world. The act of doing journalism is a way to live out my faith, a way to search for and then reveal truth in the world around me.

Related: If you want a nasty quip on fake news, just ask the Pope.

Posted in journalism | Leave a comment

Show me the evidence

Normally, I would side with someone at USA TODAY over Jay Rosen. No disrespect to Rosen, but I’ve disagreed with him on occasion, and USA TODAY is still a special place to me.

But Rosen’s absolutely right here in arguing with a USA TODAY editor (someone I don’t know) about how they reported a story that’s just an allegation with no shred of evidence: Evidence-based vs. accusation-driven reporting (with tweets) · jayrosen_nyu · Storify

The good news: This approach may already be changing. I saw a couple of headlines (NYT, CBS) responding to Trump’s “I would’ve won if millions of people hadn’t voted illegally” Tweet with a headline “Citing no evidence …”

That’s how it’s going to have to be from here on. And probably should’ve been since the days of McCarthy.

Posted in journalism | Leave a comment

Fake-news entrepreneur blames his audience, and he’s right

Vital interview here with a modern-day P.T. Barnum:

Some of this has to fall on the readers themselves. The consumers of content have to be better at identifying this stuff. We have a whole nation of media-illiterate people. Really, there needs to be something done.

Source: We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here’s What We Learned : All Tech Considered : NPR

Posted in good reads, journalism | Leave a comment

Amanpour on ‘existential crisis’

Fake news, marginalized media, etc.

Source: Journalism faces an ‘existential crisis’ in Trump era – CNN.com

Posted in journalism | Leave a comment

Oral history of Trump coverage, summed up by Homer Simpson

The scary thing about this election — it’s one thing to distrust the media when we deserve it. It’s another to distrust everything the media (and academia) say.

Or, as Homer Simpson put it:

liar1lair2

Source: Accomplices or antagonists: how the media handled the Trump phenomenon | US news | The Guardian

Posted in journalism | Leave a comment

Lessons from Italy

Trump has pulled a Berlusconi.

We saw this dynamic during the presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton was so focused on explaining how bad Mr. Trump was that she too often didn’t promote her own ideas, to make the positive case for voting for her. The news media was so intent on ridiculing Mr. Trump’s behavior that it ended up providing him with free advertising.

Source: The Right Way to Resist Trump – NYTimes.com

Posted in journalism, politics | Leave a comment