‘The Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, is taking aim at the nation’s largest and most powerful left-of-center newspaper, the New York Times, in an attack that may expose how the newspaper is being propped up financially by a Mexican billionaire.’
As for my own conspiratorial suspicions, I expect an influential cohort, if not an editorial majority of the NY Times, to soon resemble that of Britain’s ‘Guardian‘ (that’s Vanguardian to you, you neoliberal bourgeois sell-out).
From an interesting piece by Russell Blackford on the wages of speech and an open marketplace (thus producing incentives for the kinds of ‘gutter’ journalism found at Gawker):
‘Reflection on such cases can sharpen our conceptions of what free speech is about: of what it is actually for. Speaking for myself, and not for other free speech advocates, I defend a conception rather different from those I often see from political libertarians. I am less fixated on the power of governments; I am less absolutist in opposing restrictions; but at the same time, I worry about a wider range of threats. I worry not only about state power but also threats from private power and popular opinion.’
A quote by Mill I often put up:
“The likings and dislikings of society, or of some powerful portion of it, are thus the main thing which has practically determined the rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law or opinion. And in general, those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict with it in some of its details. They have occupied themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to individuals. They preferred endeavoring to alter the feelings of mankind on the particular points on which they were themselves heretical, rather than make common cause in defence of freedom, with heretics generally. The only case in which the higher ground has been taken on principle and maintained with consistency, by any but an individual here and there, is that of religious belief:…”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007), 8-9.
And another quote that makes me feel a fondness for the late Ken Minogue:
‘Roger Kimball recalls a lunch early in their friendship when Ken, puzzling over some implications of utilitarianism, asked: “Imagine someone invented a machine that could eliminate thousands of highway fatalities, only it needed to be fed six people at random to work. Most of us would recoil from such a solution, but why?”’
“…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”
Now, some folks further Left are taking-on those in the more ‘liberal establishment’ in a contest of ideological purity:
“[Political correctness] also makes money,” Chait says, using, as his example, one BuzzFeed post about microaggressions that has “received more than 2 million views.” I’m guessing that Chait makes quite a bit more money than the person who compiled that post. In fact, that’s true of nearly everyone who is presented as a victim of political correctness in Chait’s essay, from millionaire comedian Bill Maher to the anonymous professor at a prestigious university: They all enjoy superior social status to the people who are supposedly silencing or terrifying them. It’s hard to see how democracy was significantly harmed by Condoleezza Rice not giving a commencement address.’
PC isn’t just a vehicle for fame or money for the true believers. The truly ‘virtuous’ know all about the plight of the poor and the underclasses, and while they may not know exactly who’s deserving of power, they know the world as it really is and as it’s going to be. The Bill Mahers and Jonathan Chaits of the world may share common ground, but they too, are either for or against the march to equali-topia.
When exactly did what I would call such a radical worldview became mainstream enough for Gawker? I’m not sure exactly…
This blog is guessing that a good litmus test for how the ‘liberal establishment’ deals with the further Left, the radical and activist base, will be in Hilary Clinton’s behavior should she choose (still looking likely) to run for office again. Can’t seem ‘warmongering,’ uncool, ‘racist.’
Political risk and calculation in dealing with this base, how much she will need those in this ideological camp, and most in the popular media who don’t often think beyond what’s popular and what gets ratings; all will likely be involved.
‘The great irony is that The New Republic is repudiating contrarian neoliberalism precisely when we need it most. Obama proposes in his State of the Union address to jack up the minimum wage to $9 an hour, and instead of surveying the vast skeptical academic literature, or asking (pace Charles Peters) whether such liberal gestures are “more about preserving their own gains than about helping those in need,” TNR columnist Timothy Noah declares, “Raise the Minimum Wage! And make it higher than what Obama just proposed.”
‘Sometime in the past few years, the blog died. In 2014, people will finally notice. Sure, blogs still exist, many of them are excellent, and they will go on existing and being excellent for many years to come. But the function of the blog, the nebulous informational task we all agreed the blog was fulfilling for the past decade, is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs.’
Blogging is still a no to low-cost way to share ideas and reach an audience. Twitter, however, (water-cooler for many a journalist) and other platforms like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram are fulfilling similar functions that made blogging such a great diving-board for many to make the leap from print.
What about virality? No news outlet (nor marketer, really) can afford to miss out on viral content and the latest buzz, but, as Felix Salmon notes in ‘The Veracity Of Viral,’ this can raise other questions:
‘The reasons that people share basically have nothing to do with whether or not the thing being shared is true. If your company was built from day one to produce stuff which people want to share, then that will always end up including certain things which aren’t true.’
Successful sites like Buzzfeed and Gawker have managed to harness the power of viral content and the latest buzz, drawing big traffic and ad revenue, but they haven’t always figured out exactly how to connect their model with other duties that, say, your local newspaper may have fulfilled: Actual reporting, reporters on the beat etc.
Not such a big deal, unless, of course, you’re tired of reading everyone gossiping about viral content and the latest buzz, and everyone offering their opinion on a blog by linking to other blogs (addition: a reader points out linking is fine, it’s actually many bigger outlets that troll the blogs then often don’t link back to the blogs).
This reminds me of discussions I’ve heard for years about Craigslist, EBay, and Amazon, which hover around a common theme: Build the platform, app, or service first, and draw people away from the classified ads, flea-markets, bookstores and bring them online. Go from there. There are niches and people to reach, but it can be hard out there for a blog.
As to journalism and the punditocracy, I’ll leave you with this quote found here, by Andrew Potter:
‘In a philosophical debate, what everyone involved is trying to get at is the truth. In contrast, what is at stake in the political realm is not truth but power, and power (unlike truth) is a “rival good”—one person or group can wield power only at the expense of another. This is why politics is inevitably adversarial. Political power is ultimately about deciding who shall govern, and part of governing is about choosing between competing interests’
Remember The Maine! The good old days…by malik2moon
‘No, I don’t think that our problem is that our productivity as content producers isn’t growing fast enough; it’s that print media’s value as ad distributors is falling faster than their writing productivity is growing. Baumol’s cost disease may be a problem for other industries, but for print, the problem is simply that costs cannot fall fast enough to cope with the declining value of our ads.’
‘Does that mean there’s no market for news? Certainly not, any more than the fact that reality TV is ad supported means that there’s no market for reality TV. But when Google can sell a better targeted ad for 0.00001 the cost per targeted reader, the on-paper business model is not going to survive. People who want to do news are going to need to find a model that works.’
Outlets like Gawker and Buzzfeed are finding success, generating massive traffic, and can grow longer-form journalism should they choose. Whatever you may think of their content, these sites have found ways to capitalize and monetize the latest trends, memes and opinion. Advertisers follow eyeballs so the entire market can be affected.
Naturally, people working in media and/or working to have influence in media have always been dependent upon technology for their relevance, so they’d better stay competitive. Obviously, news-gathering institutions have always relied on a certain amount of sensationalism and celebrity-worship.
Yet, who’s going to fund informed, experienced, sourced journalism that takes time and money to produce?
I find myself thinking more like a populist these days: I’d rather pay for good journalism and acts of journalism myself than have a nationalized news outlet or a few congealed outlets at the top like the days of yore. Quixotic? Maybe, but the quality and kind of journalism we have can very much depend on how we vote with our dollars.
For what, if anything, are you willing to pay?
Would you pay every time you read a good piece?
Would you subscribe and then forget about it for a year, never quite getting around to canceling your subscription?