Media News This Week
There are terrific media stories this week and some valuable studies. Still, two sister pieces stuck with me: The Economist’s cover story on illiberalism and NYT’s Thomas Edsell on becoming a different country. Given where we sit at the epicenter of university knowledge sharing, I thought they were worth a read.
Certainly, it seems to be a time of reckoning in the big tent “media”. I, no surprise, include social media in this even though many believe it to be but the pipes. Where are we headed? What will we do with a few enormous newsrooms for national and global news while local relies on user-generated content? How does our media serve us as a society? What’s necessary? Where is the innovation? What does the consumer want? What role do universities play in shoring up our information ecosystem? What role do politicians play? Bolsonaro and Governor Abbott think the government has the ultimate position, as you will see with their similar rulings. These are the questions I am thinking about this week,
The threat from the illiberal left - The Economist
The attack from the left is harder to grasp, partly because in America “liberal” has come to include an illiberal left. We describe this week how a new style of politics has recently spread from elite university departments. As young graduates have taken jobs in the upmarket media and in politics, business and education, they have brought with them a horror of feeling “unsafe” and an agenda obsessed with a narrow vision of obtaining justice for oppressed identity groups. They have also brought along tactics to enforce ideological purity, by no-platforming their enemies and cancelling allies who have transgressed—with echoes of the confessional state that dominated Europe before classical liberalism took root at the end of the 18th century.
Superficially, the illiberal left and classical liberals like The Economist want many of the same things. Both believe that people should be able to flourish whatever their sexuality or race. They share a suspicion of authority and entrenched interests. They believe in the desirability of change.
However, classical liberals and illiberal progressives could hardly disagree more over how to bring these things about. For classical liberals, the precise direction of progress is unknowable. It must be spontaneous and from the bottom up—and it depends on the separation of powers, so that nobody nor any group is able to exert lasting control. By contrast the illiberal left put their own power at the centre of things, because they are sure real progress is possible only after they have first seen to it that racial, sexual and other hierarchies are dismantled.
One Thing We Can Agree On Is That We’re Becoming a Different Country - Thomas Edsell, NYT
A highly charged ideological transition reflecting a “massive four-decade-long shift in political values and attitudes among more educated people — a shift from concern with traditional materialist issues like redistribution to a concern for public goods like the environment and diversity” is a driving force in the battle between left and right, according to Richard Florida, an urbanologist at the University of Toronto.
This ideological transition has been accompanied by the concentration of liberal elites in urban centers, Florida continued in an email,
“brought on by the dramatic shift to a knowledge economy, which expresses itself on the left as “wokeness” and on the right as populism. I worry that the middle is dropping out of American politics. This is not just an economic or cultural or political phenomenon, it is inextricably geographic or spatial as different groups pack and cluster into different kinds of communities.”
How Educational Differences Are Widening America’s Political Rift - The New York Times
College graduates are now a firmly Democratic bloc, and they are shaping the party’s future. Those without degrees, by contrast, have flocked to Republicans.
These skirmishes may be different in substance from those that preceded them, but in the broadest sense they are only the latest manifestation of a half-century trend: the realignment of American politics along cultural and educational lines, and away from the class and income divisions that defined the two parties for much of the 20th century.
As they’ve grown in numbers, college graduates have instilled increasingly liberal cultural norms while gaining the power to nudge the Democratic Party to the left. Partly as a result, large portions of the party’s traditional working-class base have defected to the Republicans.
Journalism Schools Leave Graduates with Hefty Student Loans - WSJ
Students take on debt for master’s degrees in hope of news jobs even as opportunities diminish
Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that jobs for those or similar positions (journalism) fell to roughly 52,000 in 2019 and predicted a further 4.8% decline by 2030, faster than in most white-collar professions. Those figures don’t include additional newsroom roles such as photojournalists or editors.
News reporting has lost thousands of jobs over the past decade, with a further slide predicted. Yet, journalism schools continue to churn out heavily indebted master’s degree graduates hoping to find a footing in the cratering industry.
Many students leave even the most prestigious private graduate programs, such as those at Northwestern University, Columbia University, and the University of Southern California, with earnings too low to let them make progress paying off their loans, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Education Department figures released this year.
Texas forbids political ‘censorship’ by social media companies. - NYT
The governor of Texas signed a bill on Thursday banning social media platforms from removing posts because of the political views expressed in them, a measure that is likely to draw significant legal scrutiny after a similar law was blocked by a judge in Florida.
Under the new rules, large platforms like Facebook and Twitter cannot remove, play down, or otherwise moderate content because of a user’s political perspective, or ban the user entirely. The companies will also need to publish regular reports showing how often they received complaints about content and how often they took posts down.
Brazil’s President Bans Social Networks From Removing Some Posts - NYT
The new rules in Brazil appear to be the first national policy that restricts how tech companies can control their sites, analysts say.
Amazon enters Democrats’ crosshairs over Covid-19 misinformation - The Washington Post
Social media companies like YouTube and Twitter have typically faced the brunt of lawmakers’ backlash over misinformation online, but congressional Democrats are now dialing up scrutiny of Amazon on how it may amplify misleading information about coronavirus vaccines.
The trend follows a series of reports that Amazon’s recommended products boost falsehoods about the vaccines, that bad actors exploited its systems to encourage medical conspiracy theories and that its reviews pushed unproven cures despite federal warnings.
Russia sows distrust on social media ahead of German election – POLITICO
A video on YouTube alleging anti-vaccine conspiracy theories in Germany was viewed more than a million times. A Facebook post promoting a local far-right political party was shared by tens of thousands of people. A Twitter message attacking a leading politician ahead of the country's upcoming election was liked repeatedly over months.
Thousands of social media posts like these are spreading through Europe's largest economy, and they all come from RT Deutsch, the Kremlin-backed media outlet.
In total, the Russian broadcaster — whose aim is to provide an alternative to the Western media's perspective on current affairs and promote Russian President Vladimir Putin's strategic interests — has become the most prominent media outlet on social media in Germany just weeks ahead of the country's federal election on September 26.
The Last Time We Worshipped in the Church of the Nightly News – SLATE
9/11 marked the final gasp of the ministerial anchorman. by MICHAEL J. SOCOLOW. He would know since his dad was the longtime executive producer for Cronkite and likely Cronkite’s closest friend.
Opinion | How the rise of Politico shifted political journalism off course - The Washington Post
Politico pioneered the fast-paced coverage of Capitol Hill and campaigns that now thrives on Twitter and cable news. And it recognized that there is a real audience of people who love the behind-the-scenes machinations of politics. I was a political reporter when Politico was founded and was envious of its compelling and often fun coverage.
Politico became very influential, particularly among people involved in politics, as well as among political journalists and editors who didn’t work at Politico. For more than a decade, not only did Politico keep gaining strength, but the entire political media became more like Politico. Editors rushed to hire staffers from the Northern Virginia-based outlet. They also pressed their existing staffers to cover politics the way Politico did — more scoops, more insider gossip, a faster pace.
“Politico showed there was a viable market hungry for both the minutiae and the gossip of politics,” said Nikki Usher, a journalism professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
And this is where things went wrong. It was (and is) fine to have a publication focused on insider politics. But it was not ideal when The Post, the New York Times and many other major mainstream news outlets drifted toward this model — and when they did so was particularly problematic.
Moral Majority Media Strikes Again - TK News by Matt Taibbi
When Rachel Maddow, Rolling Stone, and others jumped on a dubious report of ivermectin overdoses, it was just the latest in a string of moral mania mishaps…
The problem lay in the reason the error spread, which happens to be the same reason underlying innumerable other media shipwrecks in the last five years. These include everything from wrong reports of Russians hacking a Vermont energy grid, to tales of Michael Cohen in Prague, to the pee tape, to Julie Swetnick’s rape accusation, to the Covington high school fiasco, to Russian oligarchs co-signing a Deutsche Bank loan application for Donald Trump, to Bountygate, to the “mass hysterectomies” story, and dozens beyond: the media business has become a machine for generating error-ridden moral panics.
News has become a corporatized version of the “Two Minutes Hate,” in which the goal of every broadcast is an anxiety-ridden audience provoked to the point of fury by the un-policed infamy of whatever wreckers are said to be threatening civilization this week: the unvaccinated, insurrectionists, Assadists, Greens, Bernie Bros, Jill Stein, Russians, the promoters of “white supremacy culture,” etc. Mistakes are inevitable because this brand of media business isn’t about accuracy, but rallying audiences to addictive disgust. As a result, most press people now shrug off the odd error or six — look at Maddow leaving her tweet up — so long as they feel stories are directionally right, i.e. aimed at deserving targets.
How a story about ivermectin and hospital beds went wrong - CJR
Not long afterward, the story started to spring some major holes. As detailed on Twitter by Drew Holden—a public-affairs consultant in Washington, DC, and former assistant to a Republican congressman—and by Scott Alexander on his popular blog, Astral Codex Ten, the first sign that all was not right came with a statement from a large Oklahoma hospital, which said that there was no bed shortage due to ivermectin overdoses, and that the doctor quoted in the KFOR report hadn’t worked there in months. Others pointed out that in his original interview with the Oklahoma news outlet, McElyea hadn’t said anything about ivermectin cases crowding out other patients, but that the initial story and subsequent coverage had linked separate comments about ivermectin overdoses and scarce beds.
The episode caught fire with right-wing Twitter trolls and conservative commentators, who represented it as yet another example of the mainstream media’s tendency to willfully publish news stories to either make citizens of rural areas look stupid, or to overstate the risk or frequency of non-mainstream COVID treatments. Many pointed to the tweet from the Maddow account as evidence that no one fact-checks their statements any more
Likes’ and ‘shares’ teach people to express more outrage online – Yale news
“Our studies find that people with politically moderate friends and followers are more sensitive to social feedback that reinforces their outrage expressions,” Crockett said. “This suggests a mechanism for how moderate groups can become politically radicalized over time — the rewards of social media create positive feedback loops that exacerbate outrage.”
“Amplification of moral outrage is a clear consequence of social media’s business model, which optimizes for user engagement,” Crockett said. “Given that moral outrage plays a crucial role in social and political change, we should be aware that tech companies, through the design of their platforms, have the ability to influence the success or failure of collective movements.”
She added, “Our data show that social media platforms do not merely reflect what is happening in society. Platforms create incentives that change how users react to political events over time.”
“Social media’s incentives are changing the tone of our political conversations online,” said Yale’s William Brady, a postdoctoral researcher in the Yale Department of Psychology and first author of the study.
Media moguls and political donations: We tracked where news executives give their money – My OpEd for USA Today
We are in desperate need of a real-time database for super PAC spending, along with transparency on which media and platform owners fund lobbyists.
The Washington Post launches 'The 7,' a new dynamic, daily news briefing | Editor and Publisher
The Washington Post today launches “The 7,” a short daily briefing, guiding readers through the most important and interesting news as they start their mornings. Published each weekday at 7 a.m. ET and updated through 10 a.m. ET, “The 7” will be available across Post products and platforms and feature news topics ranging from politics and pop culture to the latest on COVID-19 and climate change.
“We are constantly thinking about how readers are accessing information and want to create exciting ways to surface news that time-crunched readers want and in ways that are easier for them,” said Coleen O’Lear, head of mobile strategy at The Post. “With a focus on how we build that habit and how we can get people caught up, this digestible format enables readers to quickly consume meaningful stories as part of their morning routine, so they can feel informed and equipped with news they can trust.”
The Lawfare Podcast: Content Moderation Comes for Parler and Gettr - Lawfare Podcast
Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with David Thiel, the big data architect and chief technical officer of the Stanford Internet Observatory.
Let’s say you’re a freedom-loving American fed up with Big Tech’s effort to censor your posts. Where can you take your business? One option is Parler—the social media platform that became notorious for its use by the Capitol rioters. Another is Gettr—a new site started by former Trump aide Jason Miller.
Unfortunately, both platforms have problems. They don’t work very well. They might leak your personal data. They’re full of spam. And they seem less than concerned about hosting some of the internet’s worst illegal content. Can it be that some content moderation is necessary after all?
The Newsletter Network Effect - by Alex Kantrowitz - Big Technology
“Subscribers to one Substack are more likely to subscribe to another,” Substack spokesperson Lulu Cheng Meservey told me. “And people are more likely to subscribe to a new publication if their email and payment information is already saved from a previous subscribe.”
I call this the “Newsletter Network Effect.” It’s not a perfect term, but what’s happening with newsletters is mirroring what happens to social networks as they expand. Just like each member of a social network makes the network more valuable, every additional newsletter writer makes reading news and analysis in the inbox more commonplace by introducing the behavior to new audiences.
This phenomenon has paved the way for more independent writers to make a living, and it’s also shifting resources in larger media companies toward email. The New York Times, for instance, rolled out more than a dozen subscriber-only newsletters last month. Puck, a new digital media company, decided to debut with personality-driven newsletters ahead of a website. And Vox this week acquired Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. The acquisition likely won’t be the last time a big publication buys a smaller newsletter.
But now I’m subscribed to 30 newsletters on Substack and plenty more from established publications. My Gmail “Updates” tab is the place I go to read.
Gmail’s secondary tabs — like Updates — are starting to resemble Google Reader, bringing back memories of the beloved but defunct RSS reader. Compare the two products side by side and you might be surprised by the uncanny resemblance. I asked Google if it had any further plans to build around this experience, but the company declined to share.
American Journalism Project Receives $5 Million Gift from Kathryn & James Murdoch’s Quadrivium - Medium
Democracy is one of Quadrivium’s primary focus areas. Philanthropy, in the foundation’s view, can and should play a central role in strengthening the core elements of a healthy society, particularly those elements that contribute to an informed and engaged citizenry.
Kathryn Murdoch, president of the Quadrivium Foundation, said “having strong local journalism is key to holding government accountable. We are impressed with AJP’s track record of helping newsrooms find business models that work without compromising quality.
“We encourage philanthropists who care about our democracy to consider supporting their local newsrooms,” she said.
Misinformation on Facebook beats factual news when it comes to clicks, study finds - The Washington Post
A new study of user behavior on Facebook around the 2020 election is likely to bolster critics’ long-standing arguments that the company’s algorithms fuel the spread of misinformation over more trustworthy sources.
The forthcoming peer-reviewed study by researchers at New York University and the Université Grenoble Alpes in France has found that from August 2020 to January 2021, news publishers known for putting out misinformation got six times the amount of likes, shares, and interactions on the platform as did trustworthy news sources, such as CNN or the World Health Organization.
High court ruling in Voller defamation case puts media companies firmly in firing line – The Guardian
This historic decision makes the law clear: publishers that facilitate third-party comments on social media will be held legally responsible for them.
The previous position was that persons could only be held liable as publishers after they were on notice of defamatory publications – a requirement that caused defamation lawyers in the digital age to pull their hair out as they tried to give proper notices to platforms and hosts whose locations were not obvious and processes incomprehensible.
Journalism managers are burned out. Is it time for a work redesign? - American Press Institute
The lone editor at a small newsroom owned by a large corporation was overwhelmed, once again. A few big stories had consumed his entire staff of nine reporters — most of whom were newly hired and inexperienced. As he tried furiously to edit, coach and organize, he also was fielding phone calls, emails and Slack messages from company higher-ups. From afar, they were giving advice, asking questions, requesting changes.
What they weren’t doing, however, is what this manager needed: helping to edit those stories and guide those green reporters. Ensuring that he didn’t work 16 hours every day that week. Finding ways to reduce his anxiety and stress.
Changing minds and machines: a case study of human rights advocacy in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) - ORA - Oxford University Research Archive
Below the visible aspects of social media and other Internet applications lies a vast infrastructure, where opaque organisations and unaccountable technologists exercise significant power over the Internet. This dissertation is a first-hand anthropological study of how the culture of one such important organisation, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), influences infrastructural politics thereby shaping the development of technology across the Internet.
Former ProPublica “Electionland” journalist heads up new program to train freelancers in journalism called The Friendly State News. Hussman is also the editorial director of VoteBeat. Here are the funders of the nonprofit VoteBeat.
The Friendly State News aims to bring the high quality education found at elite journalism schools to freelancers, students and small newsrooms at a far more affordable price. While conferences, continuing education courses and college courses are rich in resources, they are not always accessible to local and student newsrooms, whose budgets are being stretched tighter each year. Freelancers, likewise, can typically not afford to spend hundreds of dollars on flights and hotels to access location-specific training. With The Friendly State News, you'll get the same — and often more interactive — training you would find in person, but scaleable to include as many or as few reporters as you like. Freelancers can access these resources from home, and the tools used in these sessions will be permanently accessible to all attendees.