This week brought another self-inflected wound for trust in journalism.
I've limited comments on this post to paid subscribers after 5 of the first 6 were, shall we say, not constructive. May just have to turn them off entirely.
747s can’t land at LaGuardia, by the way. So one landing there would still be news, though significantly less newsy than a UFO. 😉
Let me share, as usual, a foreigner's view of this:
Back in 2020, the Indian government brought in a bill in parliament called the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The act excluded Muslims from a few neighboring Muslim countries from being on the fast track for citizenship to India.
The Act did not apply to Indian Muslims who are already citizens. In fact, the act actually affected very few people.
However, the Indian opposition (which consists of both ethnic right-wing and left-wing elements) organized protests around this Act, claiming it would affect Indian Muslims who are already citizens.
To come up with a plausible scenario on HOW it would actually do that, they came up with an outlandish scenario. In this scheme, if I, a Hindu, lacked proper documents to prove citizenship, I would claim to be a refugee from Pakistan; and under the CAA, will be given citizenship, while an Indian Muslim in a similar situation would not.
This conspiracy theory was needed to make the connection that the Modi govt was actually excluding EXISTING Indian Muslim citizens from citizenship.
The US media, such as NYT and Washington Post, however, gave credence to this conspiracy theory by putting it under the "critics say" template - "Critics say Indian Muslims would be excluded".
This sustained for so long that a month back some guy wrote an entire article in the respected Foreign Policy magazine, repeating the claim, but dropping even the "critics say" formulation.
This guy was saying that the Indian govt was making Indian Muslims stateless.
I want to point out that, in spite of the belief among American liberals that they themselves are immune to misinformation, their media often is chock full of such misinformation about foreign countries, couched in a properly driven propaganda campaign.
As an example, CNN claimed 3, 4 years back that Indian Muslims were put into concentration camps in Assam, a North-Eastern state, a claim that similarly fed into escalating misinformation in western media.
For liberals, who pride themselves in nuance and "context" - they do not realise that they are themselves frequently the target of such context-free propaganda pieces, just like their conservative brethren.
Muslims were indeed in camps in Assam, but the majority in those camps were Hindus - the Assam issue is an ethnic conflict specific to that state, which had little to do with Hindu fascism or nationalism. By presenting a misleading half-truth, CNN propagandized its own viewers.
The idea that you can present foreign issues in such a tailor-made way for liberals, that they could immediately take a stand on it, is behind all these media missteps in the US. If the entire politics in a vastly diverse country like India could be reduced to "right-wing Hindus" and "left-wing liberals" it could then be applied to any issue. The same goes with the Israel-Palestine conflict.
They may be able to explain it away with "Palestinians say", but how do they account for the use of a photo of the wrong hospital - one located 25 miles away that had been heavily damaged, as opposed to the actual one? They swapped out the photo on the 2nd revision (without explanation of course).
I think there is also the fear of being scooped by other media outlets.
Plus, hasn’t the saying “claim runs on page 1, retraction is on page 17” been around forever?
I feel like every time I try to point stuff like this out, I'm a secret GOP-er according to blob-ites I know. There's no way to criticize media behavior without being othered and being regarded as a Trumpist, so it will continue to fester in its echo chamber.
The problem with agenda setting versus merely generalized reporting is that inherent biases will become all too clear, and those obvious biases will lead to a reduction in trust by media consumers. My conjecture: The editors at the Times WANTED the original narrative to be true, because it fits with their perception of the conflict. What those at the Times don’t realize is that their perceptions of events are not always accurate. It’s like pulling for one team in a sporting event; sometimes your team is going to lose!
Kevin Williamson at The Dispatch had a good article about this issue today. Apparently (if I reminder correctly) the author of the original article (who doesn't write the headline) was a former member of Rashida Tlaib's staff.
I find the situations like this are really great for understanding the character and timber of people I follow / follow me on social media.
Getting things wrong is bound to happen, and that’s okay!
How people and organizations deal with being wrong, especially when it comes to their cherished beliefs, tells you a lot about who and what you’re engaging with / exposing yourself to.
Trust in the media tracks pretty closely for independents and Republicans. That's pretty suggestive.
The thing is, though, the media isn't any worse now than it was fifty years ago. It's probably better along a number of dimensions. My guess is that the bigger issue is that it's a lot easier now to figure out that a journalist has made a mistake, or, has no idea what they're talking about.
On somewhat of a tangent, I think big media organizations need to move beyond the illusion that complex social issues can be faithfully covered by someone with a Harvard degree in the humanities and some moxie. A person with that background is not going to be able to, for example, write an informed piece on Modern Monetary Theory. And people with no knowledge of statistics should not be put in a situation where they cite studies or blindly quote whichever professor they can find whose opinion they like. The rest of the world is increasingly specialized, journalists need to follow suit.
All I ever really needed to know about trusting the media I learned in my 20s.
Once I ran a college event for a very controversial politician. He was not someone I supported, but he was a straight shooter who came to campus and told the audience things they didn't want to hear. He didn't really get a great reception because of this, but the reception also wasn't actively hostile.
I (and I think a lot of the crowd) respected that he was straightforward and that he was what people said they wanted in a politician; Someone who broke out of the two party structure and was not afraid to offend people or tell the truth. I said as much to a reporter from our state's largest paper during a long interview. We had a pretty wide ranging discussion of the event.
My quote in the article was "it was good". A news article almost specifically framed to paint the student attendees as idiots who didn't understand the issues and were bamboozled by this politician because they weren't frothing at the mouth mad. I mean he had the gall to say things the students (and reporter) didn't like! It was pure editorial by the reporter masquerading as a news article.
The second time I was interviewed I was ~27, and working as an expert on the economics of a rural region. The state's very respected and flagship public radio newsroom was doing a special on unemployment and the county I worked in had a city with a very high unemployment (it was 2008). I have maybe an hour long interview with the reporter about the unemployment rate in the area. I explain that while the unemployment rate is super high in this one city (the highest in the state for a city over 10,000), it was almost entirely down to the particular municipal boundaries and development patterns where it has a sister city where the unemployment rate was very low and so the overall unemployment rate for the community is basically "normal" (still very high since it was 2008 and a rust belt area), and only appeared inflated due to the happenstance of some lines on a map. We then talked at length about structural industry and business cycle causes etc.
What is my quote in the multi hour long piece on employment? A single sentence saying "this city has the highest unemployment in the state". Literally something you can lookup on 5 different state websites. Zero of the context from the hour long interview appeared in the multi hour special (it was ~5 programs over a week). And I know the reporter understood the context. Moreover the special on unemployment barely even really discussed the issue or its possible solutions, instead just focusing on how shitty being unemployed was...which umm...was anyone confused about that? Anyway, this was probably our state's single most respected economics reporter probably doing her major project for the year, and it was literally sensationalized garbage. Tear jerking and nothing else, nothing helpful or informative.
I had another friend who worked at that station and was the higher ed reporter. Guy who really bought into all the lies and myths about reporters as soldiers for truth, fighting for the man. Except I never once saw him challenge a single thing the university said, or have one even mildly critical questions for the administration. He was basically a press release stenographer, and one of the least curious people I ever knew.
I am not sure there is a single profession out their with a bigger gap between their image of what they are and what they do, versus the reality. Out there haphazardly manufacturing consent while they think they are impartial arbiters of truth. Fucking delusional mid-wits with fancy degrees and no brain cells. Even "On the Media" has become as disgusting hypocritical shitshow the past decade or so.
Speaking of mistakes, I'll forgive you "cited" for "sighted" if you edit it. Or was is it a subtle joke that flew over my head like a UFO?
There's a complaint that 'mainstream' media doesn't do journalism anymore. Instead, whatever the issue is, they just get comment from 'both sides' and then pass it on. Whether intentionally or not that's pretty much exactly what happened here, and if all you do is report what Israel says and report what the Palestinians say, you're going to leave everyone misinformed and disinformed and you'll only have made the whole situation worse.
In this country, and presumably it's getting that way everywhere else too, we don't have a common set of facts or reality to inform our decision making. Not only that, but we can't agree on a method by which we could acquire said common set of facts. This is one of the greatest problems and dangers of this century, and I don't know what the way out is.
I'll feel dumb if I am just missing a joke but is : “U.F.O. Cited Over Manhattan, Nate Silver Says” suppose to be "Sighted". (As I look it up "sighted" seems to mostly be defined as the opposite of blind so maybe I am way off)
I do not understand why this story is so difficult for mainstream media outlets to get right. The most obvious conclusion is to assume that young college educated people are far more sympathetic to Hamas than your average American and are, therefor, weary of adjusting a story which shines them in bad light. Whether or not that's true is incredibly difficult to determine. I'd like to believe that the NY Times is just unsure and is sticking with their original headline, but the volume of these errors makes it hard to believe that the Progressive (not liberal) bias of the national media is quite strong.