fair and unbalanced no really this time its real
June 19, 2007 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Paul Jay of the self-styled "Real News" plays Twenty Questions with himself... "We have a full time staff now of fourteen. We have raised about five million dollars over the last three years, and we still have most of it..." That's how television producer and filmmaker Paul Jay starts off, and like an energizer bunny, he just keeps on going. He makes a compelling argument.. or does he? Guess that's entirely up to you. mentioned previously on MeFi about two years ago. [more inside]
posted by ZachsMind (16 comments total)
Real Real News plays Twenty Questions..

"We have a full time staff now of fourteen. We have raised about five million dollars over the last three years, and we still have most of it..." That's how television producer and filmmaker Paul Jay starts off, and like an energizer bunny, he just keeps on going. He makes a compelling argument.. or does he? Guess that's entirely up to you.
mentioned previously on MeFi about two years ago.

When I see "real news" I'm reminded of "the Real Ghostbusters" cartoon series which was a lot of fun but it wasn't real cuz it was animated and the real guys wouldn't even do the voiceovers. Last I heard, Dan Ackroyd was trying to get GB3 happening and it was all gonna be computer generated, but Bill Murray had to get his hair done so it fell flat. In other words, the word 'real' isn't even real anymore. So I see real, and I hear 'subjective'.

Paul Jay is real serious about real news. He really thinks it's really gonna happen this time. No really. They even have an empty loft of office space they plan to fill with stuff as soon as they can get the funding to buy stuff to put in the empty office space. This time he even has a brochure. Since he can't afford to print it out, he's made a downloadable version online for you to print out and pass around to your friends. This is real ground roots journalism, ladies and gents.

Paul Jay makes no bones about his own self-interest, and even encourages his viewers to be selfish themselves so long as they're informed, and somehow he thinks this will prevent global warming. He knows this cuz he can see the patterns in news journalism that the other networks won't let you see. He's gonna show you all this with humor and no money and debates shows and a daily news show that won't be called The Daily Show cuz that's already taken. He knows 70% of his potential audience are watching The Daily Show, or YouTube videos of people riding skateboards into oncoming traffic. He's after the other 30% who feel disempowered and apathetic and lethargic and uncertain as hell and they're not gonna take this anymore. Then when the next Katrina or Nine Eleven happens, he thinks the other 70% will turn their heads and go to The Real News, because the other news networks don't have thew word "real" in it, so naturally we'll turn to his product over the others. I'm sure by then he'll slap a "new and improved" label over "Real News" so that we'll know that it comes fortified with essential vitamins and minerals and may not cause obesity or cancer.

Are we seeing the next evolutionary step of journalism? No corporate funding. No government funding. Just 250 thousand people giving about ten dollars each. Why does this sound familiar?

Paul Jay is quick to point out this is different from public television, because PBS doesn't have a daily news show. They have a regular show in the evenings that's mostly news commentary. Further, PBS accepts corporate underwriting and government handouts. So is Real News just PBS before it sold out to corporate interests and federal funding? Didn't PBS start with this economic model thirty or forty years ago, and turned to Big Money when The People alone didn't keep them afloat?

Is this for real? No, really. Or is this just another way to market to the masses what they think they want? Some two or three years after MeFites dismissed this guy, it looks like he might actually get this bird in the air. Anyone wanna start the betting pool on when she's gonna crash?
posted by ZachsMind at 3:01 PM on June 19, 2007

[...]PBS doesn't have a daily news show. They have a regular show in the evenings that's mostly news commentary.

Anything short of being on the scene yourself, reporting on an event to yourself, is "news commentary." In choosing what they do and do not broadcast, they comment; in determining the length of the story, they comment; in choosing which reporters cover which areas or events, they comment. All news is comment, and we accept this, not as sheep, but as people who can pretty easily find out, in this day and age, who funds which channels and which media outlets are directed toward which audience.

Furthermore, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer to which you refer is probably one of the best news shows that exists in the United States today, given the awards from all sorts of places - not just those with one particular agenda - it has received over the years. It's a pretty trusted source, and it's not as if the for-profit networks are more open about their funding; on the front page of the Online Newshour, you can see the ADM, Chevron, and AT&T logos right there.

I don't know what you're really trying to say here - whether or not a news show is "fair" is something entirely up to its viewers and the other media who comment on it, and I doubt that any one media organization can meet all the biases desired by its viewers (and we do like to hear things we agree with, no?).

This is on the front page of their website:

We will combine breaking-news footage from around the world with reportage from some of the world's best journalists, expanding from several news items per day to a 24/7 news website and daily news hour for television.

If their ultimate goal is an hour of television a day, then sure, this is possible, but if they're trying to build a worldwide, time-zone-spanning media organization, I really doubt that they'll be able to make an impact on such a tiny budget.
posted by mdonley at 3:37 PM on June 19, 2007

posted by Stan Chin at 3:38 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Did anybody watch that Naomi Klein video?

Jeebus. I tried I really tried.

According to Naomi the Iraq war is like Tinkerbell , if only we unpatriotic fact lovers just believed hard enough... reeeeeal reeeeeal hard... it would have all turned out swell... I mean, heck, they had an election man! It's all OUR fault. Us liberal pussies could have supplied the last little bit of magical pixie dust to push the war from a poorly planned and deadly immoral farce to a veritable Baghdad Disneyland. We needed to knuckle down and ignore all that bad news like Abu Gharib and everything would have worked out fine.

These are the scant remaining 27% of deluded morons that still think Bush is doing aheckuvajob. Yes. They should have their own self funded news service. And the logo should be of the Titanic sinking and everybody happy happy happy.
posted by tkchrist at 4:09 PM on June 19, 2007

BTW. Invert that. I got some that backwards:

I meant "according to Naomi the Bush administration thinks the Iraq war is like..."
posted by tkchrist at 4:16 PM on June 19, 2007

MDonley: "I don't know what you're really trying to say here..."

I poorly summarized what Paul Jay says at the website, but in my own words. I apologize for miscommunicating. This right here is typical of the problem between 'facts and opinions' and how you can't really differentiate the two easily.

What I originally said was:

"Paul Jay is quick to point out this is different from public television, because PBS doesn't have a daily news show. They have a regular show in the evenings that's mostly news commentary."

In hindsight, I see that the second sentence looks like it's my thoughts. However, I was abbreviating something I heard Paul Jay say in that twenty questions thing which was still reverberating in my head: something I disagree with. He talked about the Lehrer News Hour but described it as more of an opinion show and less of a fact show, but I didn't remember the exact words so I didn't put it in quotation marks. I *think* he might have actually used the words "news commentary" but I'm not sure, and I was too lazy to go back and check.

I'm not a journalist, but that's no excuse for miscommunicating. After MDonley's response, now I feel perhaps I should have repeated in the second sentence that Paul Jay said that too. The crapola I'd typed out up until that point was already too damn long and I was trying to wrap up what I wanted to say.

Originally I wanted to just put one sentence in this thread and let everyone else respond to it, but that one sentence turned into a paragraph so long I couldn't put it all in the FPP. So I moved some of it to a notepad window and kept coming up with more I wanted to say.

Jay can be elitist and sit on his perch and say "other networks do it for suck! WE will get it right!" and maybe he will, but he's saying this now before the actual pressures of deadlines and due dates on bills and viewer reaction and all kindsa variables weigh in on his idealistic view of journalism.

A time is gonna come when he's gonna have a twelve minute piece that he he has to cut down to seven minutes, and the five minutes he cuts will be the five minutes those many variables want in the piece the least. There's no getting around that. And he'll do it, and he'll sleep that night, and little by little his idealistic view of how to do journalism correctly will get whittled down to a nub.

What was I really honestly trying to say here? I honestly don't think Paul Jay can do it better than Jim Lehrer already does it. Paul Jay is no better at this than anyone else. He might as well open a chain of fast food restaurants and brand name them "Better Than Both McDonalds And Burger King Combined." He's trying to reinvent the wheel, and he's insisting that his circles are better, when really a circle is just a circle.

If I ever have ten bucks a month to throw away, I'd give it to PBS/NPR long before I'd give it to IWT. Not cuz their better or more or less liberal than I'd like, but cuz I listen to them every morning anyway, and they're already there.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:58 PM on June 19, 2007

their THEY'RE.

posted by ZachsMind at 5:01 PM on June 19, 2007

Reading this post (and the more inside[s]) was better than clicking on the link. I mean that in a good way.
posted by blacklite at 5:32 PM on June 19, 2007

I doubt how effective REAL NEWS will be in its fundraising efforts if they tell everyone they seek funding from that they have thus far lacked the ability or even the desire to truly understand the world around them, which is just wrong. The whole project seems to be founded on the idea that the media's mission has changed from objective reporting to being subject to copying corporate press releases.

Jay also seems to miss the point that in a democracy, you have the media you have legislated and regulated your country into having. We in the US have chosen to accept large cities having one major daily newspaper; we don't seem to have a problem with paying for cable to get wall-to-wall corporate-funded news; and we are happy to sit tight while the local PBS celebrities ask us to call in and pledge. We have what we have created for ourselves. It's our doing.

To condemn privately-funded media while also saying that you won't be like PBS because of their (completely transparent) acceptance of corporate sponsorship seems to say you won't be happy with any media except the one you create, which is your right but also your responsibility - you can't claim to be surprised when viewers choose to tune into something that offers more depth, and you can't be angry with us sheep because we choose to watch something other than the Amy Goodman and Naomi Klein. Now, can you be out there, getting mentioned on blogs and talked about among the chattering classes? Sure. Will that change any of their minds about things they probably already agreed with your network about? Probably not.

It all just seems so whiny, you know? We have some of the freest and most vibrant media in the world (in dozens of languages, too), along with some of the best reportage on the media itself, and to dismiss it all as inferior is just not going to go over well. I can't see his project succeeding.
posted by mdonley at 5:39 PM on June 19, 2007

I imagine there might be some way to do this whole "real news" thing (as long as you didn't call it that – it's too easily discountable-sounding as some wacko on the internet) but I don't think this guy has figured it out.

I wonder what the best way to do it might be. Certainly Katrina was an impressive show of how many resources there are online and how a community of interested people (hi mefi) can rally around a serious crisis. It was inspiring.

Everyday stuff, on the other hand, is such a damn grind sometimes that it probably is better to leave it to the big guns. Even if they are corporate pawns, at least that means that whoever is sitting there typing up 1500 words on the latest bullshit press release is getting paid ok money. People aren't going to do that for free, not for very long, anyway.

There's a ton of information out there. Even the information you and I would like to see featured more prominently, and commented upon more intelligently... it's out there. It's just a matter of bringing it to the attention of the right people. I really, truly, don't think that gathering the news is the problem. At this point I think it comes down to assembling, editing, presentation, and, yes, commentary. That's where the breakdown happens. We have tons of data. But I don't think anyone really cares, much, on the average American street corner, and that is the key issue.
posted by blacklite at 5:43 PM on June 19, 2007

(It occurs to me that next time I have a crazy idea I should make a website and wait for a MeFi thread so I can see all the problems with it.)
posted by blacklite at 5:45 PM on June 19, 2007

While I was living in Indonesia last year, the most important news source I had was the BBC World Service on my shortwave radio. Far from being solely news-focused, they broadcast music, arts, culture, literature, technology, and sports shows, along with lots of things you wouldn't expect, like the BBC Proms and weekly documentaries on a theme (one of my favorites was "India Rising").

I didn't feel the need to seek out an "alternative" news source because I trusted the integrity and objectivity of the BBC; I heard about events in Indonesia on the BBC before I heard about them on local media in any meaningful way (that is, besides "earthquake!"). The Jakarta Post, the country's largest English-language daily, was full of AP copy and "special supplements" from multinationals and other corporate interests (and had a terrible crossword). There was no, as far as I know, English language television news available without a satellite dish.

As blacklite says, it seems like there really isn't a problem acquiring stories as much as there is developing and fleshing them out, and getting to the human story behind the news ticker and the infographic. The world already has a bunch of organizations doing this, and I worry that Jay's going to end up just one more voice in the background, being criticized for not being "balanced" enough, because he's just too small to compete.
posted by mdonley at 7:13 PM on June 19, 2007

David Suzuki is really angry.
posted by unmake at 8:49 PM on June 19, 2007

I recognise his critique: the Q&A was interesting. And wish him well. It could be good: I'll wait and see. It doesn't need much more than that.
posted by imperium at 1:25 AM on June 20, 2007

David Suzuki wasn't all that angry. The interviewer just pushed his buttons. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 11:12 AM on June 20, 2007

Jay is stupid. The internet is not for playing with yourself.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:05 PM on June 20, 2007

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