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May 18, 2016

Comments

Matt Moore

'Low pay' is never a cause of anything - its an outcome of something else. In this case, a very willing supply of eager-but-dim Henrys and Henriettas. Journalism is still very cool, and there are lots and lots of people quite willing and able to work for next to nothing.

The other blade of the scissors in this case is that the public don't demand high quality information. The primary satisfaction from news is a sort of refined entertainment value. Those who need actual information get it from specialist sources like Blomberg

Luis Enrique

there is also something, which I can tell I am going to fail to articulate very well, which is a combination of a desire for sensation with a strange attitude to the truth. When deciding whether to run a story journalists do not ask is this true or reasonable, but more something like: does this stand up? They need stories, and they set their 'good enough' bar low. They have structural incentives not to probe the flaws in a story because doing so will ruin the story. When you sit in that news meeting with the editor, they do not want to hear "nothing to see here", the industry selects individuals who can make a story out of nothing and somehow convince themselves that's a valid thing to be doing.


Matt "'Low pay' is never a cause of anything - its an outcome" - causality can run in two directions

MN

A fairly decent list. I also think Nick Davies's 2008 book, Flat Earth News, should be compulsory reading for anyone with even a slight interest in news (especially Chapter 4).

Won't come up with an alternative list, but will mention one thing I've found in my experience, which is that news organizations are prone to the same office politics that afflict any organization. This can impede the people with the best knowledge of a story from setting the editorial direction, as they don't always have the loudest voices.

In my experience, this can become a real problem when a story gets big and you suddenly have an abundance of cooks. And some of these cooks can be sharp-elbowed types who see the story while its big as a great vehicle to advance their ambitions.

In these situations, the reporters who know the story best can lose complete control of it at precisely the time it's getting the most attention.

Andy Cooke

I'd add "Artistic snobbery".

That is: people that work in the journalist industry tend to see mathematical and scientific illiteracy as not only being nothing of which to be ashamed, but often something of which to be proud. This lends itself to the writing and promotion of mathematical (even arithmetic) and scientifically illiterate (and even completely logically incoherent and inconsistent) stories.

gastro george

Ah, that was Ann Coulter that I bumped into on the Today programme this morning. I never thought (perhaps naively) that she was actually that insane. It was definitely a WTF moment.

An Alien Visitor

In the 1980's you only needed 5 o Levels to get a job on a newspaper, I should know I went for the interview!

The 'professionalisation' of many trades such as journalism has led to a class bias, which was predicted and widely discussed at the time. This did not stop the Blairites pushing through that agenda!

Culturally, of course, we are in a cesspit, where programmes are now disturbed by 5 minute entertainment news reports. This is what the 'masses' must want and what the 'masses' want...

I sometimes watch RT and I don't know if it is because it is their foreign service, but the quality of the reporting, while obviously serving certain interests, seems of a far higher intellectual standard to the news media we put up with.

Our media is a never ending stream of objectionable and privileged and nauseating 'columnists'.

If we were to follow up your list with a list of 'how to solve the problem' then putting the 'columnists' up against a wall would be high up on the list.

Blissex

as to sell-side Economists it is not just City Economists plenty of academics are also sell-side. A few because of ideology but many because of the prospect of working for the sell-side as "consultants" or a new employer. Only those political economists who are willing or condemned to suffer on a miserable upper-middle class professorial salary wont feel the temptation to ingratiate their potential sponsors on the sell-side.

rogerh

You cannot hope to bribe or twist
(thank God!) the British journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do
unbribed, there’s no occasion to.

Humbert Wolfe's words from way back.

The media has become more trivialised and more tribal. Advertising revenue down, support from vested interests up. Ed Bernays started the rot back in the '20s when he invented spin and the politicos caught on. Anyway, where else is a 2.2 in meeja studies to get a job? Indeed getting any sort of job that pays is a pressing problem.

Blissex

«Culturally, of course, we are in a cesspit, where programmes are now disturbed by 5 minute entertainment news reports. This is what the 'masses' must want and what the 'masses' want...»

«The media has become more trivialised and more tribal. Advertising revenue down, support from vested interests up.»

I tend to agree with the previous commenter that the problem is the 'masses'.

The 'masses' don't want to pay for good journalism, don't want to pay for loyal politicians, don't want to pay for internet services, and so on. The (southern propertied) 'masses' by and large think "Blow you! I'm allright Jack" and consequently "Entertain me!". They think that politics, information, communications, are spectator sports.

The 'masses' in other words think like absentee rentiers, and much good it will do to them :-).

The problem is that systems designed by (and not necessarily for) absentee rentiers tend to be long lived and resistant to change, especially when there is a sliver of hope for some of the outsiders to become insiders.

Chis

Another bias that is natural to news is speed. We get reports of things happening now. Lots of improvements to the world happen slowly, whereas many bad things happen quickly. If only the very recent is reported, we get a distorted world view.

It's why we don't generally know how many fewer are dying in war, how much improved developing countries are off, wtc.

MN

Yes, speed is a news bias. The first take on a given item of news, which is usually just a headline, has to be done within seconds of the news breaking, and the second take within minutes of that. Then a decision has to be make whether a third take is needed. Most news doesn't make the cut, so the first couple of takes are all you're left with.

I'd focus on the practical question of what this implies about most news given the speed/quality trade-off, rather than the abstract point about good things happening slowly and bad things happening quickly. If anything, we're bias against bad shit happening slowly, eg climate change, the erosion of public services caused by austerity, the political and social collapses of countries and whole region.

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