Monetising misinformation
May 7, 2017 5:28 AM   Subscribe

 
Then what about the gap between legitimate salaried journalists and the truth, I don't have a laundry list of examples but the few times I've been at an interview and the resulting article there's always been a "wait, was that actually said?" moment when reading the article. And this one about space from a business magazine, the writer just totally misses the point and then adds a correction that misses even further.

Remember the rule of thumb: Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you read.
posted by sammyo at 6:45 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]


It's interesting that these young men from Veles could not get much purchase among Sanders supporters. Here is one reason why, a couple of women made lists of fake news sites. And bad English, really bad English was a thing they noticed first. Sadly a LOT of Sanders supporters quit caring about the point of origin for articles after the election. I don't consider this helpful.
The reality is bad enough.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:59 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


Fake News is alive and well here, too.

Interesting piece, though. Gross inequality sure does ruin everything.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:05 AM on May 7 [3 favorites]


As long as news is treated as a product that needs consumers, things will only get worse.
posted by Captain Fetid at 7:09 AM on May 7 [12 favorites]


Jimmy to the rescue!
posted by sammyo at 7:17 AM on May 7


> Then what about the gap between legitimate salaried journalists and the truth

You realize that this false equivalence is exactly what Trump and his minions/puppetmasters spout to muddy the waters? We can hold professional journalists to high standards without mindlessly equating them with Macedonian fake-news purveyors.
posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on May 7 [56 favorites]


This piece, published by the Guardian today, is also relevant.
posted by roolya_boolya at 7:40 AM on May 7 [8 favorites]


We can hold professional journalists to high standards without mindlessly equating them with Macedonian fake-news purveyors.

I'm not seeing a lot of daylight between these Macedonian fake news guys and Judith Miller's NY Times continued employment of Moustache Friedman, BoBo Brooks, and recent hire Bret Stephens. Given that company, Miller's biggest sin, as near as I can tell, wasn't that she was wrong. It's that she was a she.

But yeah, I witnessed a traffic accident a few months ago. The TV reporter that reported on it that night got every detail wrong - including the street names(!). Don't get me started on coverage of things I do for a living.

Individual journalists might care about how the profession is perceived, but the people paying them don't seem to.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:37 AM on May 7 [7 favorites]


@ rooly_boolya interesting that the DUP is a player in this mess.
This is a highly enlightening article! Thanks! In fact thanks for this entire post.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:39 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


Pogo: are you really unable to see a difference between unabashed propaganda passed off as journalism and op-eds or a reporter whose career ended with a public apology for publishing her work?
Miller suffered more because she was paid to research and present news rather than telling stories which were politically convenient.

I find Stephens excreable as well but his work was clearly labeled as an opinion piece rather than real journalism and the actual science reporters quickly distanced themselves. I think it was a mistake to give him a forum at all but that seems like a fairly important distinction to completely gloss over.

As for other errors, the two questions you should ask are whether it's substantial and whether it's corrected. A reporter getting an address wrong doesn't seem to be in the same class as intentionally printing politically-target falsehoods which will never be corrected or retracted.

Trying to conflate all of this is literally the same excuse offered by Trump supporters for why they can subsist solely on Breitbart and Fox talk shows.
posted by adamsc at 9:10 AM on May 7 [25 favorites]


Katjusa Roquette, the DUP's probably a player because of privacy rules surrounding political donations in Northern Ireland which exist due to sectarian violence. In this case, they appear to have been used as a conduit. They also funded large advertising spends in Britain, despite their political base being entirely in Northern Ireland.
posted by ambrosen at 9:20 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


The fake news in 2016 was secondary to the fact that the voter-victim was already brainwashed before that point. The fake news was just a conversation starter to quickly spread more misinformation on social media.
posted by Brian B. at 9:35 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Pogo - Local TV reporters are, by and large, not journalists.
posted by tommyD at 10:07 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


(For a week in July, he experimented with fake news extolling Bernie Sanders. "Bernie Sanders supporters are among the smartest people I've seen," he says. "They don't believe anything. The post must have proof for them to believe it.")

Wow. Just think, if Bernie's supporters were as uncritical and share-happy as Trump supporters, there might've been a chance there.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:09 AM on May 7 [10 favorites]


The fake news in 2016 was secondary to the fact that the voter-victim was already brainwashed before that point.

People have always been brainwashed. They've always been easy to dupe. People are always skeptical of sources outside of what they want to believe and accepting of sources which tell them what they want to know. But people who exploit that are still despicable.

If your game plan involves "create a smart voting population," you will never get anywhere.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 10:29 AM on May 7 [6 favorites]


If your game plan involves "create a smart voting population," you will never get anywhere.

Perhaps, but I don't believe that brainwashing damages our brains, and I think a smart vote is also a dumb vote for one's relative market position. The current problem is that imaginary ideal values are put in the foreground to bluff the actual costs and risks to the voter. But if we pretend that everybody has access to an application that analyzes their future retirement position relative to each candidate, and the probable influence the candidate will have, then we have simply made them aware of the likely costs of voting for or against that candidate.
posted by Brian B. at 11:17 AM on May 7


I find Stephens excreable as well but his work was clearly labeled as an opinion piece rather than real journalism

And the difference is what, exactly ? Its an editorial decision to run that on the Op-ed page, and those same editors then go on make similar decisions about how and where to run the submissions by so-called journalists.

Well, yeah, you say, that is how sausage is made. But, the NYT and WaPo and CNN all trade on one thing - credibility.

a public apology for publishing her work?


So what do CNN/NYT/Wapo, etc all have in common with Fake-News purveyors ? An utter lack of accountability. Yes, I know the NYT had to say they were very, very, sorry about publishing Miller's fabrications, but, look, ink is cheap and the dead are still dead. Does that really count as holding "professional journalists to high standards" ? That's basically no standard at all.

I know these are all complaints that trumpists have. Stopped clocks, blind pigs, and so on. You and I would like for the MSM to be seen as credible. The shareholders and editors, on the other hand, are more concerned with profitable. Couple that with the aformentioned lack of actual accountability, and the MSM has a lot more in common with the subjects of this post than there are differences.

Local TV reporters are, by and large, not journalists.


They are not True Scotsmen as well, I am sure.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:45 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]


So what do CNN/NYT/Wapo, etc all have in common with Fake-News purveyors ? An utter lack of accountability.

This is completely wrong. I get that you're angry at the failures of these news organizations, but it's leading you to exaggerate and catastrophize and you might as well be shouting "Fake news!" and "Failing NY Times!" for all the good you're doing.

First off, I read an "utter lack of accountability" to mean zero accountability, and your next statement, "NYT had to say they were very, very, sorry about publishing Miller's fabrications" flies right in the face of that. Public apologies and public corrections are a form of accountability. When's the last time you saw Breitbart or InfoWars or even Fox News issue a public apology? Everyone makes mistakes, so the sign of a trustworthy source is not that they've never gotten anything wrong. It's that they admit to their mistakes when they do.

The NY Times has a "Standards and Ethics" section on their website. The Washington Post does too. These standards are among the highest that any news organizations have ever held themselves to. If you believe they're violating any of them, make a complaint. Cite the guideline they're violating. They have a process for handling these kinds of complaints because they fundamentally believe in accountability.

Of course, there are ways for them to get things wrong without violating any of their standards. One of my biggest problems with the Times is not in how they do their reporting but in how they choose what to report on. I am still furious about the way they covered the Comey letter, for instance.

But the response to dealing with these kinds of complicated, thorny issues is to engage in conversation about how to create new journalistic standards. Not to throw away the very idea of standards by equating news organizations that try to live by standards with those who gleefully subvert them.

adamsc: I find Stephens excreable as well but his work was clearly labeled as an opinion piece rather than real journalism

pogo_fuzzybutt: And the difference is what, exactly ?


If you read the NYTimes' guidelines, in particular the document Assuring Our Credibility, written by the executive editor of the Times in 2005, you'll get a decent explanation:
Even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages. While The Times is and always will be a forum for opinion and argument as well as a source of impartial news coverage, we should make the distinction as clear as possible.

I have asked Tom Bodkin to head a small working group of reporters and editors to devise standardized formats for news analysis and other reportorial formats that are authorized to carry voice and viewpoint. We can do more than we presently do, with rubrics and layouts and other devices, to give readers clear signal s that a column is different from a news analysis is different from a critic’s notebook is different from a news story.
It used to be easy to tell the difference between 'news' and 'opinion' - the opinions were in the back section of the newspaper, clearly labelled as Op Eds. But nowadays people get their news from single links shared on social media or from turning on shows with talking heads and no clear labels in sight. The vital distinction between 'news' and 'opinion', underpinned by the far stricter journalistic standards that 'news' is held to, has become so blurred that it seems people have forgotten it even exists.
posted by galaxy rise at 12:57 PM on May 7 [27 favorites]


And the difference is what, exactly ? Its an editorial decision to run that on the Op-ed page, and those same editors then go on make similar decisions about how and where to run the submissions by so-called journalists.


I'm baffled. You genuinely don't understand the practical distinction between news reporting and editorial opinion? You genuinely don't understand that when the NYT publishes an article on the front page of the news section, they are representing that it reflects the truth as best the Times understands it at the moment, and when they run a columnist on the opinion page, they are saying, "This is what this guy thinks?" They're not even the same editors!

The division is not as black and white as one would want it to be, of course, there is plenty of nuance to fret about, but if you don't grasp that the front page and the opinion page are literally supposed to be serving different functions and have different represented truth-values, no wonder you're mad.
posted by praemunire at 1:18 PM on May 7 [17 favorites]


Yeah, it might be helpful to look at this Reader's Guide:

The news and editorial departments do not coordinate coverage and maintain a strict separation in staff and management.

Op-Ed Column: An essay by a columnist on the staff of The Times, reflecting the opinions of the writer on any topic. Columnists are expected to do original reporting. Some travel extensively. Op-Ed columns are edited only for style and usage, not for content. Columnists do not submit their topics for approval, and are free to agree or disagree with editorial positions.

Stephens, Friedman, and Brooks are all Op-Ed columnists, not reporters. Your statement that "Its an editorial decision to run that on the Op-ed page, and those same editors then go on make similar decisions about how and where to run the submissions by so-called journalists" is completely wrong.
posted by neroli at 1:19 PM on May 7 [9 favorites]


I don't know if they're Scotsmen or not, but not many of them do journalism.
posted by tommyD at 2:56 PM on May 7


Shifting the responsibility for communication failures onto the recipients is ALWAYS a sign that you are fucking up.
posted by srboisvert at 5:25 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Not necessarily. There are mental illnesses that affect people's perception of messages they're getting from others, forms of PTSD that make people feel under attack or like they're being criticized when they aren't. It's not always the fault of the messenger when a message gets garbled. Receivers can break, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:18 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


While I'm certainly fist-pumping here at a guy gettin' told, I hesitate to agree that the New York Times has high editorial standards - the way the NYT handled the election compared to, say, the Washington Post, is quite stark, if you go back and take a look in the archives. Take a look at the NYT's equivocating during the Republican convention compared to the Washington Post's clear statement that Trump was a bad nominee and did not deserve to win. Or, of course, the focus on Clinton's secretary of state email server, something that smelled like a media beatup even from here on the other side of the ocean. Again, the Washington Post covered it and moved on, but the Times just. Would. Not. Let. It. Go.* And, of course, there's the Op-Eds, and I'm sorry, but I don't buy the idea that the NYT isn't responsible for what they put in their paper just because it says 'opinion' in the header. You're only entitled to an opinion you can convincingly argue for, and many of the NYT opinion writers can't clear that bar.

I am not American, and if you asked me to guess which paper was the paper of record in the US, it wouldn't be the New York Times. Then again, people keep treating CNN as a serious news channel so maybe the idea of a paper of record doesn't even matter any more. The lack of policy coverage was extremely strange, in a country where speculating on the effect of a proposed policy is an easy way to fill up column inches and airtime.

*For the record, as far as I understand, the story was that Clinton was moving into an environment where there was no functional email infrastructure, given the previous administration used their Republican Party email addresses. She asked her pocket IT guy to set something up, which was both a regulatory breach (albeit of regulations that erred far too much on the side of security over usability) and absolutely something I would have done in his position. It's an email server. Every other government can run an email server. Yeah, every other government can implement the metric system, too, IT guy. This, to me, only seems dishonest if you've already decided Hillary Clinton is dishonest, which you've largely decided, when you follow the narrative to its beginning, because she was a feminist in the 70s.
posted by Merus at 8:38 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth, "the paper of record" is a meaningless term. At one point, all it meant was that announcements of local civic import (public meetings, bankruptcies, etc.) were published in the Times. Now it's just a way for people to elevate the paper to some arbitrary standard only to harumph their disappointment that it doesn't meet it.
posted by neroli at 8:51 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


The rights and wrongs of journalism vs. editorializing do not matter to me; I only hope that these little shits suffer in times to come for the damage they've done.
posted by Captain l'escalier at 7:00 AM on May 8


Public apologies and public corrections are a form of accountability.

I'm so sorry to say this, but no, they're not.

*rimshot*
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:12 AM on May 8


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