What’s The Matter With Media?
October 11, 2019 9:44 AM   Subscribe

 
That second link is eye-opening. I have to wonder, in this era of eroding trust in media combined with loss of disposable income in what passes for the middle class, what opportunities even exist in terms of funding models for responsible journalists. It's hard to know who and where to trust, and exciting innovations like omitted conflicts of interest and native advertising are not helpful. And the problem is that the outlets with the most reach have, for the most part, unacceptably abdicated all responsibility in the service of cash-grabbing.

Ugh. I want to ask for obvious solutions, but all I can think of is trying to follow specific journalists and collectives who report and develop areas of expertise on specific things, and that requires a lot of cognitive investment as an informed reader. When there's such a breakdown of trust, it becomes exhausting to try to be informed and follow up with everything at once. I don't know, however, how to re-form trust in journalism on a broader scale at this point.

Maybe I'm just tired this morning.
posted by sciatrix at 10:04 AM on October 11, 2019 [8 favorites]


Anyone else slowly coming to the conclusion that this swing toward fascism in the US isn't actually an aberration?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:09 AM on October 11, 2019 [31 favorites]


Anderson Cooper's hardly the worst when it comes to journalistic integrity, but he absolutely is the poster child for the need for disclosure.

When reporting on any story regarding wealth, the chyron should read "Anderson Cooper, Vanderbilt heir."
posted by explosion at 10:10 AM on October 11, 2019 [27 favorites]


And for another object example of the media refusing to be held accountable, we have brave Bret Stephens, defender of open debate, backing out of a debate with the professor who called him a bedbug because Stephens demanded it be closed to the public and the professor refused.

I cannot make this up, because there is not enough drugs in the world to do so.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:31 AM on October 11, 2019 [16 favorites]


You have to admit, not going somewhere he isn't wanted does prove that he's not a bedbug.
posted by Etrigan at 10:36 AM on October 11, 2019 [11 favorites]


Clearly I’m an outlier, but I had no idea of Cooper’s wealth and family until I saw him on an old episode of HL Gates’ “Finding Your Roots,” and I consider myself highly media-savvy (if fairly media-avoidant), so I agree this sort of disclosure would go a long way to clarify the agenda in any given piece of reporting.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:43 AM on October 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


I found out about Cooper's family background (I had a reasonable guess for his pay) in this here post.
posted by jeather at 10:51 AM on October 11, 2019 [5 favorites]


There's a famous picture of him as a baby by Diane Arbus, it was first published in Harper's and now it's in DC or NYC or something.
posted by Melismata at 10:55 AM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Melismata: "There's a famous picture of him as a baby by Diane Arbus, it was first published in Harper's and now it's in DC or NYC or something."

About that picture

It was Diane Arbus's idea to take pictures of me. She wanted to photograph a baby, and she had seen me when I was relatively newly born. She knew my mother and my dad socially, so she asked if she could come and spend time at the house, and she ended up coming for about three weeks, off and on.

posted by chavenet at 11:09 AM on October 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


While there's obviously plenty wrong with the media, I think it's as much a feedback loop of media to audience back to media that leads towards this kinda of celebrity/wealth culture as it is just a fault of media alone. There's been alternative media in plain sight over the lifetime of any person alive today. The Nation, which the third link goes to, has been around since 1865 for example, yet they don't find the same audience as "lighter" fare does, which is generally the celebrity culture stuff and other easy to digest stories with a clear narrative through-line to them.

Media celebrities become celebrities in part because they gain audience and the familiarity that comes from that. The increased fame increases their disconnection from the audience, that is for those who didn't start out near the top already like Anderson Cooper or many other nepotistish media figures that coast into their positions from already having some sense of fame in name. The part of celebrity that is attached to familiarity comes from the audience wanting to see people they feel they "know" rather than unfamiliar faces who might be more "like them". The ease of identification comes with polish, looks, and craft, the ability to entertain or provide connection without asking much of the audience.

It isn't just the media that keeps people in the dark, much of the audience chooses to remain that way. No one needs to con the audience about the wealth of so many of its stars because that is often what is flaunted as the draw to the shows and the shows that don't flaunt wealth tend to rely on folksy stereotypes or gamification of personal lives in ways that echo the ideals of celebrity culture and/or offer a toned down version of it. Fox news, for example, does both as it regularly features commentary about how great wealth is, while also placing an emphasis on "straight talk", folksy bullshit make easy to understand without additional effort. Trump's long history of terrible behavior has been well documented since the 80s, but many simply weren't interested in hearing or reading about it, preferring to rely on what they "like" instead.

That isn't just on the media, but on the audience. Like the working class that the Nation article reports on, the media too is diverse and has long been so but people ignore much of that diversity too. While there is certainly good reason to believe media corporations don't actively want to celebrate some leftist values, their biggest interest is in getting and maintaining an audience and have had times where even the mainstream media coverage was much more liberal when that drew the audience. The media works to fit the audience, while the audience draws its information from the media. Change comes when the pressure increases and the status quo becomes untenable and problems become impossible to ignore.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:24 AM on October 11, 2019 [9 favorites]


I cannot make this up, because there is not enough drugs in the world to do so.
posted by NoxAeternum


Not with that attitude.
posted by Splunge at 11:45 AM on October 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


Anyone else slowly coming to the conclusion that this swing toward fascism in the US isn't actually an aberration?

A guy named Mike Ruppert popularized what seems to be either made up or a misquote of Benito Mussolini:

“Fascism ought more properly be called corporatism because it is the perfect merger of power between the corporation and the state.”

So no, you are not the only one.

But really - same as it ever was. Ford, Linhberg, Bush, IBM, Coke and many others only were anti-Nazi once Germany declared war upon the US of A and sometimes it took time before the anti-Nazi stance happened.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:58 AM on October 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking lately about the interplay between writers and aristocrats, the sort of thing that led to effusive praise for some random aristocratic patron or another in the dedications of so many old books. The wealthy can be made uncomfortable by a good writer with a grudge against them; writers can be made comfortable by a wealthy person with some artistic cash to spread around. It's a natural alliance.
posted by clawsoon at 12:15 PM on October 11, 2019


Also, cause it broke after I posted this “YOU ARE TO STAND DOWN”: RONAN FARROW’S PRODUCER ON HOW NBC KILLED ITS WEINSTEIN STORY” (Vanity Fair)

While there is certainly good reason to believe media corporations don't actively want to celebrate some leftist values, their biggest interest is in getting and maintaining an audience and have had times where even the mainstream media coverage was much more liberal when that drew the audience.”

they’re more interesting in courting expensive advertisers, it was okay when the NYT was the paper for wasps rich professionals in a city with multiple competing papers geared toward different audience, but the nature of media monopolies, cut backs, and acquisition means the rich people News is the only news , as detailed in a previous post on this Media And Workers .

Or, another point, what happened to the labor desk?
posted by The Whelk at 12:19 PM on October 11, 2019 [13 favorites]


The vast majority of journalists and pundits are not multimillionaires. I don't think you need to look into bank accounts to explain the general media eschewing the sexual assault story when the answer is as old as the hills: misogyny.
posted by schroedinger at 1:18 PM on October 11, 2019 [11 favorites]


Or, another point, what happened to the labor desk?

Labor news died under Reagan's attacks on unions when more of the public was upset about inconvenience than worker's rights. It was replaced with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

I've got no problem with the complaints about media monopolies, bias towards wealth and all the other things media does that cause some harm to the world, I just don't think saying it's "them" that are the problem is enough when it's "us" that so often rewards their behavior by our preference of ease over effort and pandering over active involvement.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:34 PM on October 11, 2019 [3 favorites]


I mean people aren't looking at the major news networks or most of the old media in anything like the way they once did now that the internet and smart phones have so changed the landscape. People could look up anything they want, go to leftist sites as easily as conservative ones with no added barrier of cost or increased effort, but for the most part we don't. We prefer entertainment and social media hellscapes where "the news" is often flat out fabrication.

And that isn't even a secret, but it doesn't matter since many people just don't care, they don't want to know about that any more than they do about the threat of climate change, which certainly is not an unreported or hidden story, it's just an inconvenient one that would require people to change. It's easier to ignore the issue than deal with it, so people seek out or grab on to any info they find that tells them they don't need to do anything at all.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:56 PM on October 11, 2019 [3 favorites]


When the hours we labor are inevitably raised to afford those little luxuries like food, housing, transportation, and health care, our preference for ease over effort loses some of it’s mystery and places the burden for the problems back on the moneyed class. Of course, you’re read my differ.
posted by evilDoug at 2:00 PM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


In my previous life as an archivist, I wound up sifting through many Christmas cards featuring Gloria Vanderbilt and tiny Anderson Cooper, which was kind of surreal.
posted by ilana at 3:31 PM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


I did not know Anderson Cooper was a Vanderbilt.
That may be because I despise CNN.
(But I did attend Vanderbilt Elementary School in Long Island, back in the 1970s.)
posted by doctornemo at 4:32 PM on October 11, 2019


So what's the take-away here? We can train our outrage cannons on so many aspects of contemporary society, but as MeFi pal Mitt Romney pointed out, "corporations are people," and, as gusottertrout pointed out above, 'media audiences are people.'

While individually each of the original links are worthy of attention, as a buckshot collection there isn't a systematic problem being critiqued or even identified. Now that our limbic systems are all riled up at this grab-bag of outrages, what are we supposed to DO about it?
posted by PhineasGage at 4:37 PM on October 11, 2019


I think misogyny is definitely part of why we're not hearing more about the 43 new accusations against Trump, but I think it's mostly down to the bizarre double standard the media applies to Trump and (to a lesser extent) conservative politicians in general. If a Democrat politican or A-list celebrity was accused by 43 women (in addition to a previous couple dozen) of the kinds of things Trump's accused of, we'd hear a lot about that. It would absolutely destroy their career. I mean, those are Cosby numbers.

But Republicans can get away with a lot more evil shit, and Trump in particular is this weird, special case where he could give a press conference with his little orange mushroom hanging out and it probably wouldn't change anything much. We heard plenty about Stormy Daniels, because that was shocking then, and we heard significantly less (but still a little something) about E. Jean Carroll, and now this story that should have been a major bombshell fizzles out... and I think it's because there's simply no novelty left in the idea of Trump assaulting women. If the leader of the free world is a guy who assaulted lots of women, who's on tape bragging about it, and we all know he'll never face any consequences, what should it matter if dozens more women come forward? It's like how we only hear about the very worst school shootings anymore. When some kid walks into school and shoots up the place, it's only news if it's a real bloodbath.

I really would have thought this would be a bigger story, that 43 new accusers would still be newsworthy. At the very least I thought the late-night talk shows and Buzzfeed would be all over it, that there would be a million memes and all that. But nobody's paying much attention, because Trump grabbing women by the pussy isn't news.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:12 PM on October 11, 2019 [12 favorites]


Serious question: are y'all who didn't know about Anderson Cooper growing up with serious money straight? To me his longstanding refusal to come out always reeked of that kind of privilege.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:07 PM on October 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


To me his longstanding refusal to come out always reeked of that kind of privilege.

Anderson Cooper is 52. How do you think being gay was seen when he grew up? You think that fear and shame doesn't get internalized, and even as the world becomes more accepting it doesn't make it any easier to let that fear go?
posted by schroedinger at 2:54 PM on October 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


Uh, the same way it was seen when I was growing up because he's not that much older than I am. My point is that a lot of LGB folks who come from money and whose families didn't reject them tend to see being out publicly as something unnecessary because they haven't had to face the same realities as those of us who don't have class privilege. Thanks for making assumptions about me and about what I'm getting at, though!
posted by bile and syntax at 6:06 PM on October 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


I am straight, and also despise CNN, so haven't been paying attention to its minions.
posted by doctornemo at 7:53 AM on October 13, 2019


I read his memoir a while back, so I knew he was a Vanderbilt. His father’s side of the family was from New Orleans, which had some intersection with his coverage of Katrina and its aftermath. Also significant was the death of his brother (possibly suicide, I cannot remember details) and how it devastated his mother and changed many dynamics. There is self-disclosure from Anderson Cooper in that respect. He might have family wealth, but it did not immunize him from difficulty.
posted by childofTethys at 11:55 AM on October 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


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