The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Regular Journalism’

The People Will Know When You Have Failed Them

Posted by Matt on August 16, 2011

With it looking like I have failed to become a student of journalism, why not talk about journalism some more?

The more I think about it, the more I think that journalism is a fucking science. The ADHD news cycle has moved past it already, but there was a good month there where tabloids were being scrutinized for their shitty tactics and scary level of political influence in the UK. In Greater Canadian Motherland, we have no such problem, despite Quebecor’s ubiquity on the newstands of the nations (and yes, I see as many people picking up the Winnipeg Sun as the actual[ly kind of mediocre] newspapers). It has been kind of interesting/amusing to see Sun News end up as the failure pile in a sadness bowl it is, desperate for anyone to pay attention to it. So much for Fox News North, you conspiracy nuts.

I’d like to think most people who buy tabloids know that they’re paying for screeching paranoia for people who want to be outraged all the fucking time, and that it’s really only for entertainment purposes (shitty entertainment, but when has that ever been an issue for most?) That’s way too optimistic of me. Chances are the people picking up the Sun think they’re getting the same level of quality information as readers of the Free Press. But that’s probably because they see the news, in all its forms, as a form of entertainment. Through the fault of the press, who have on a whole dumbed themselves down to reach some mythical rich idiot demographic that keeps getting distracted by shiny rocks or something, and/or the people themselves, who just don’t fucking care, the idea of the news has been distorted into either something you gloss over before you look at the TV listings, or a thing you read to have all your previously held opinions validated.

It shouldn’t be either. For the most part, good journalism is essentially politically neutral (although not really, because most politics involves molding reality in the minds of the people who let you do stuff, and unfortunately truth and information often gets in the way of that). I mean, facts well told may be unpalatable to one person who overly identifies with a political mindset, but facts hold no biases and are equal opportunity. As long as the information is accurate and provided within the proper context, we can be sure that decisions are informed, even when they completely disregard the facts for wild fantasy.

The idea that it has to be either shrieking or bone-dry is a false one. There is style in news reporting, and it involves skillfully and clearly conveying all the vital information of a story. It can be informative and entertaining you know, unless you can only be entertained by bright colours and movement. There is no hope for you then.

Now down to the science part, which is hilarious considering how badly reporters often mangle stories from the world of science (documented pretty frequently by Ben Goldacre). Journalism has what should be a scientific model system built in: science papers have peer review, newspapers (presumably) have editors and/or fact checkers. Now, editors aren’t going to make your reporting go from shit to gold, and poor/manipulative writing can still creep through. Even so, there’s still a level of assurance that a second opinion is being brought in, so we don’t just get straight prose goop from the reporter’s notepad to your table.

Whether or not the editors are doing their job is another issue entirely.

There’s also the issue of transparency. Science has built-in transparency: all published papers are easily accessible, and references and details about experiments are required. Reporting can’t quite have the same level of transparency, what with confidentiality of certain sources imperative. That gets into a whole ethics battle that will likely rage between journalists forever.

This means the comparison isn’t 100% perfect, of course. But in a very broad sense, science and journalism are still pretty close: both are based on reporting real, tangible information, require truthfulness and clarity on the side of the reporter, and need to pass a review process, where hopefully the information is confirmed as legitimate before being released for mass consumption. Both should be readable by everyone, and both are essential to understanding the world and making sure we don’t screw it up further. The dubious examples of both should be easily identifiable for most, and they should be criticized for it. No one should be ‘tricked’ into reading a tabloid, they should be able to detect the sensationalist shit just from the headline.

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Posted by Matt on February 9, 2011

Might be taking a break from the novel posts for a little bit. I guarantee you that it will be finished by the end of the month, or your money back.

Let’s get back to other fun: AOL is buying the Huffington Post. What happens when a desperate corporation with nothing to give to society at large combines with a ‘news’ website known mostly for pushing psuedo-scientific garbage championed by rich cunts? Apparently, some sort of Shit Voltron, here to use its magical Sword of Low-Quality to smite anything resembling journalism. Whoddathunk.

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Posted by Matt on June 20, 2010

Thoughts on Sun TV:

This really, really isn’t as big a deal as some have made it out to be. The Quebecor/Sun Media empire is a tiny, trashy thing with little to no real influence. Sure, some people read their papers, but I’ve never heard anyone take them even the remotest bit seriously. They gleefully embrace their position as a distributor of sensationalist tabloid horseshit; that’s the key to their success.

Of course, they’ll never admit this. The moment they admit to pandering to idiots, the illusion is gone, and they will lose everything. Thus, all the talk about them being ‘hard news’ and an ‘alternative voice for Canadians’, when they have shown no real interest in anything resembling journalism in the past. And chances are, they aren’t going to change anytime soon. The new head of their television division on CBC Radio One Saturday morning saying ‘we answer to our shareholders first’ (of course, that was in response to a question about whether or not they’d listen if someone in government complained about their coverage) and his emphasis on their aim for high ratings pretty much confirms that.

I don’t have anything against there being a tabloid news network. Television is a sea of shit, so what’s another turd? Despite all their attempts to appear to be a legitimate news network in competition with CBC and CTV, there’s no reason for anyone who has ever even glanced at a Quebecor newspaper to believe that they will be anything other than what they usually are. And this is a sound strategy for them, because being real news would lose the attention of their base, who are generally not interested in real news.

especially if their gunning for ‘must-carry’ status funded by tax dollars. Not that most people honestly care about where their money is being funneled, except when the bill goes up. Even so, gunning for that status has already been a kick in the ass right out the gate. (Edit: Apparently, this is not true. ‘Category 1’ Status does not require anyone to subscribe to/pay for the channel)

As for the ‘Fox News North’ label…mmmm, maybe. It’s definitely going to have to be a lower-key affair; Quebecor may be a wide-reaching company, but they’re no Murdoch. It would also be wise of them to try to keep comparisons to Fox News to a minimum, considering that Sun TV will likely only have access to whatever droning knuckleheads the Canadian commentary backwaters offer, so they’ll essentially look like a boring, stupid Canadian version of Fox. And we’ve had a long, long history of turning boring, stupid Canadian versions of American things into an even bigger joke than the American source. Or, even worse for them, people will dismiss them outright and ignore them. Considering that one of the arguments Quebecor pulls out to justify the channel’s existence is that Canadians would rather watch American news than local stuff, what exactly can they do to convince them to watch this channel instead of US news/not-news channels? The chance of them lucking on a ranting hobo or overpriveleged white douchebag with as a strong a voice up here as the ranting hobos and overpriveleged white douchebags the US equivalent has is dreadfully slim, especially since most of Canada’s biggest nutters (Steyn) have moved to the US. And if they do as they say and tried to find ‘balanced’ commentary…what makes them so different from all the other news channels? They’re already fucked.

So, what do we have here? A channel that will likely offer mediocre news as competition for the rest of the mediocre news we have, coupled with boring, half-assed ‘alternative’ commentary delivered by bland personalities. It will likely suffer through development hell as it overestimates how much Canadians care about getting an ‘alternative’ news source and goes for the gold when all it will likely get is a rusty tin can. It’s not offensive, it’s not detrimental…if anything, it’s kind of sad, considering how doomed it is from the get-go.

Of course, they could always prove me wrong, showing that Canadians really did want to see a Canadian goblin-people yelling conspiracy theories at each other. I am willing to concede this.

Now read this take.

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Posted by Matt on October 18, 2009

This depresses me.

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