Journalism today sucks!
There’s no getting around it anymore. While there are exceptions, and long-form journalism is still worth reading, the news divisions today just suck.
And I think my experience allows me to make that judgment.
I’ve worn many hats in my life, including, during a couple of stretches, that of journalist.
I have always been a consumer of news, and got into it officially through my college paper, where I was on the editorial board and wrote the occasional Op/Ed column.
In the Fall of 1972, I caused a bit of a stir with an editorial column titled “Don Quixote vs. the Used Car Salesman.” It was about the impending Presidential election between George McGovern and Richard Nixon.
The simple point I tried to make was that I admired McGovern for his idealism and desire to end the Vietnam War, but that I thought him intellectually too muddled and living too much in the clouds to be an effective executive.
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Nixon, on the other hand, had a shady side to his personality that was off-putting, but he understood the powers and needs of the Presidential Office and would make for a better executive leader.
But it wasn’t the politics of it that got me in trouble.
No, a member of the Board of Trustees of the college was upset with a rambunctiously risqué image I wrote to illustrate McGovern’s weakness. His mere wanting a world of peace and harmony, I wrote, doesn’t bring it about any more than my wanting to go to bed with Farrah Fawcett is likely to make that happen.
Being a church-related school, my little joke did not sit well with the powers-that-be.
Later, I worked at the local Johnson City, TN, newspaper, the Press-Chronicle. Having played basketball at my college, I was a sportswriter covering local high school and college sports.
I enjoyed it quite a lot. Not just the sports, but all of the newsroom and what was happening in the area. I got to know the reporters and their backgrounds. Almost all of them had working backgrounds, rather than academic.
Yes, the newsroom had its bias. When Nixon got in trouble with Watergate and was forced to resign, the reporters actually stood and cheered the news. But you didn’t see it in their reporting.
I later became the National and International News Editor there, a fancy title for wire editor. My job was to lift a representative and diverse sampling of stories from the Associated Press and place them in the paper.
After a few years, I left to begin my graduate school journey, ending with a Ph.D. and a teaching position in West Virginia, where I also was the faculty advisor for the college paper.
When my wife completed her medical internship as a family physician, she took a position in Michigan, which led me to leave the college in West Virginia to be a stay-at-home dad for our one-year-old son. It allowed me to transform my doctoral dissertation into a published book.
After a few years I wrote an article for the local newspaper on behalf of the Optimist Club, of which I was a member, about an upcoming chicken dinner to raise funds for the local high school track re-surfacing.
Drawing on my sports writing background, I described a track meet at the school, in particular a spectacular come-from-behind victory by a local star in a distance race. I hoped to engage readers’ interest before I started talking about chicken.
I guess it worked, because the managing editor of the paper later talked to me about working at the paper full-time. Thus, I became the Copy Editor and an Op/Ed columnist for the Ludington Daily News.
As copy editor, I read all the news stories produced by the staff and, in addition to checking for grammatical barbarisms, I raised questions when I thought a bias was being introduced to the story. It sometimes led to arguments adjudicated by the managing editor, but usually writers saw what concerned me and made changes.
The point is, small though our paper may have been, we cared about presenting the news as fairly and as objectively as we were able.
My columns, of course, were another matter. Like these with The Blue State Conservative, I had a point of view and I expressed it. But I still wanted unbiased reporting of the news – all the news.
Later, after we moved to Indiana, I returned to teaching, this time at a university in Missouri.
I bring all this up as background simply to say that the profession has changed much since my days as a working journalist.
For one thing, journalists at the papers at which I worked were themselves working stiffs, many of whom did not go to college, and did not major in Journalism if they did. What they brought to the table was a thorough understanding of the sorts of people they covered, in local government, in local education, in local businesses, etc.
When you see who writes for the major mainline media today, they tend to be all J-grads from relatively prestigious schools. Don’t bother applying to the New York Times, for example, unless you have an Ivy League journalism degree.
The academization of journalism has had a negative effect, overall, turning it into an elitist profession with a narrow and ever-narrowing understanding of the mass of working stiffs who live, marry, raise children, and die in this country.
There are also the stylistic changes that have occurred. Back in the day, it was the “triangle” approach to news that was dominant, with the first paragraph ideally bringing in the who, what, where, when, why, and if possible how, of a story.
I still recall the turn when journalists all thought they were Tom Wolfe or Hunter Thompson, and the news writing of the day turned into what was called the “new journalism.”
“New journalism” was an attempt to adopt novelistic techniques in order to enhance a story, to give it an emotional tone and a point of view. The trouble is it also allows huge dollops of bias to become a part of the journalistic narrative.
For example, there is the classic story of a news writer describing a government official constantly looking at his wristwatch while being confronted by a constituent, clearly symbolic of the official’s disdain toward those for whom he works. A nice touch, that. It gives a reader a certain point of view and steers them in a certain emotional direction.
The problem is, one of the idiosyncrasies of this government official was that he never wore a wristwatch, preferring a pocket watch instead. But how many readers would know that?
Today, opinions and bias are all throughout news stories. Does anyone doubt where CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post and the New York Times stand on political and cultural issues, based on their news stories? Or Fox News, for that matter, though Fox in recent years has a far better track record for accuracy in its stories.
One can see the bias simply, as Sherlock Holmes might say, by the dog that does not bark. That is, by the news stories they choose to suppress.
Where are the Hunter Biden stories, and the alleged bank accounts shared with his dad and other family members fed by Chinese, Russian and Ukrainian Burisma funds over the years. Where are the stories about Durham’s investigation moving ever-closer to the Hillary campaign and its spying on Trump as a candidate and as President to feed the ridiculous Russia collusion narrative.
What do we get from the mainstream media instead? Parents who attend school board meetings and who hold board members to account are potential domestic terrorists, the media breathlessly insinuate. Hey, the Justice Dept. said so. Truckers, too, are potential terrorists. Certainly alt-right at the very least, insurrectionists all. Did any CNN or Post reporter go and talk to parents or truckers? Hell no.
It took an independent journalist to actually go out and speak to more than 100 of the Canadian truckers. What did he find? Just a bunch of ordinary working stiffs who think their government is arbitrarily tyrannical in punishing them for wanting the freedom to make their own decisions, to act in their own best interests.
They’re not political at all, it turns out. Far from it. Certainly not some monolithic insurrectionist political movement.
Another independent journalist, Andy Ngo, covered the Antifa and Black Lives Matter riots and lootings, at great personal risk, in order to do what mainline journalists refused to do. Namely, cover the news. “Mostly peaceful” riots, indeed.
What used to be a basic staple of journalism – curiosity – seems no longer to exist.
Don’t you want to know about Hunter’s laptop? Don’t you want to know about secret government flights moving illegal aliens around the country? Don’t you want to know about the real roots of the Russian collusion story? Don’t you want to know how the CDC and government officials have manipulated COVID data to serve their own political needs? Don’t you want to know where the COVID virus originated? Don’t you care?
Instead, mainline journalists today choose to obsess over Joe Rogan.
In part, talking about Rogan means they don’t have to talk about all that makes living under President Biden so miserable – the inflation, the crime, the border, the supply chain, the war on police, the perceived weakness of the United States in international affairs, our being bullied by Putin, Xi, the mullahs, etc. No, don’t want to talk about any of that.
Just keep screaming Joe Rogan, Joe Rogan. First, they tried to cancel him for using a horse de-wormer. He embarrassed CNN’s top medical advisor on that one, and by proxy all of CNN. And CNN did not take it well.
So now, CNN is leading the charge against Rogan and trying to get him canceled.
They tried saying he gives misleading information on COVID. My God, who hasn’t given misinformation on COVID, from Fauci and the CDC on down? When that didn’t work, they tried saying he used the “N” word, relying on a taped collection of quotes from his podcast over the years where he uses the term. Of course, the taped collection removes any context.
Regardless, he did use the term. Rogan apologized and said he’s glad it’s out now because he always felt uncomfortable with its hidden presence. And still, CNN cannot get rid of him. CNN’s Brian Stelter is apoplectic, utterly flummoxed that Rogan is listened to by more people (11 million subscribers) than CNN (no more than 800,000 listeners for any of its shows).
Well, let me explain it to you, Brian. Rogan, who, by the way, is not a conservative but a liberal supporter of Bernie Sanders, doesn’t have an agenda in his podcasts. He invites interesting guests from all perspectives and has a long-form conversation with them. Not edited sound bites to forward a particular narrative, but a long-form, give-and-take three-hour conversation.
More importantly, Rogan respects the average person, the working stiff, the middle-class subscribers who listen to his podcast. He doesn’t tell them what to think. That is fundamentally different from the credentialed elites of the mainstream media, who simply impose their own point of view when not ignoring and dismissing the vast majority of Americans as an ignorant mass of unwashed white supremacists and racists.
I particularly appreciate Rogan’s response after watching Stelter’s “interview” of Presidential Press Secretary Jen Psaki. The complaisant pundit meekly, and with all seriousness, asks Psaki what she thinks the media gets wrong.
Rogan’s incredulous reaction: “ ‘What are we doing wrong? What are we doing wrong?’ Like, hey motherf–er, you’re supposed to be a journalist.”
So yes, today’s journalism sucks, and seems to be getting suckier.
By Ron Nutter
Ron Nutter is a regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative, and retired college professor of Philosophy and Religion living in a cabin on a mountain in Western North Carolina with his retired physician wife, and he still reads voraciously.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Blue State Conservative. The BSC is not responsible for, and does not verify the accuracy of, any information presented.