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News without nonsense

Until the turn of the 20th Century, most newspapers intentionally mingled fact and opinion in their reports, pushing a political agenda, like Fox News today. Gradually, newspapers figured out that they could sell more ads and attract more readers if they tried a newfangled concept we now call ‘objective journalism’ — trying to present the news fairly, without taking sides. 

Objective journalism gets a lot of complaints, including from me. Reporters can get the facts wrong, editors can quash stories they think would make advertisers uncomfortable, and in mainstream journalism you never see news that might upset our ultimate corporate and governmental overlords. The news is covered and written, edited and published by humans, almost all of them working for corporations, and humans can never be objective, and corporations suck, so objective journalism is impossible.

We get better coverage, though, and more honest information, when journalists try for objectivity. Same as the old saying about democracy, objective journalism is the worst, except for all the alternatives.

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Those highfalutin standards of objective journalism — just-the-facts, fair and balanced, straight-down-the-middle — have been monkeywrenched by the Republicans' nationwide strategy of lying about everything. When one of the two major parties simply lies and lies and lies and never stops lying, reporters and editors can't say, "Republicans are lying about everything." Saying so would be against the rules, because it would seem less than impartial, and it would piss off advertisers, and annoy half the audience.

The best the media's been able to muster are occasional ‘fact-checking’ sidebars, which most people never glance at. Some newspapers kept a tally of Donald Trump’s thousands of lies, but the people who desperately need to have those lies debunked don't believe the debunkings — because part of the Republican strategy is telling their audience, over and over, that the media is lying. And again, by the current rules, reporters and newspapers and media outlets aren't allowed to defend themselves from such slander.

All these stupid standards of objective journalism gotta change, and pronto. 

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I’ve been daydreaming about what journalism should be, so I'll be ready when George Soros hires me to run a news outlet that makes objective journalism great again.

My qualifications? Well, I’ve never taken Journalism 101 or worked in the news business or anything, but I’ve seen every episode of Lou Grant.

So send me an email, Mr Soros — and this is an emergency — don't dawdle. Here’s my proposal for new & improved objective journalism.

The basics: Most people get their news from television. Out of hundreds of channels on cable TV, that there should be at least one that's dedicated to covering the news, and there sure ain’t now. There are a few stations that carry news, but they also carry fluff and stuff, nonsense and opinion. Mostly nonsense and opinion.

We're going to launch an all-news channel, without nonsense or opinion, and it'll be available on all platforms: 

• A network of over-the air stations, maybe as substations of your local PBS affiliate, broadcasting news 24/7/365, free for anyone with rabbit ears, and part of every cable company's 'basic' package. 

• A simulcast of the same video, posted live to our website, and accessible for free.

• A simulcast of the same audio, broadcast live on a nationwide radio network.

• The full printed text of all our news articles will be published on the website, accessible without paywalls.

• The news should be available to everyone, so all written and spoken texts and video will be translated as quickly as feasible into all major languages spoken in America — Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, etc.

There will be no frickin' ads. It’s possible to have good journalism in an ad-funded format, but it’s endlessly problematic. If ExxonMobil is paying the bills, it gets tricky covering news about ExxonMobil, especially news that paints ExxonMobil in a negative light, which is all news about ExxonMobil.

In my pipe dream, we have dedicated funding to cover the costs, pay the staff well, and send out our steady stream of high-quality news coverage.

Real-time fact-checking. OK, now we're getting to the good stuff. This is my favorite item on the list, and it's non-negotiable:

Every statement made by every reporter must be factual and pre-verified, of course. But more radically, every time a politician (or anyone else) is quoted or paraphrased in our coverage, every time anyone claims anything, whatever they say must be pre-verified as well — before the story runs.

For example, if a politician says that the 2020 election was stolen by Joe Biden, the report must begin with something like, “Senator Floyd Flatbottom (R-Mississippi) falsely stated today that the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats,” followed by a quick summary of the evidence that the Senator's claim is false. And "falsely stated" is us being nice; if Flatbottom makes that claim again, the coverage will begin, "Flatbottom lied again today...".

All bullshit will be immediately debunked. No exceptions. Anything that's newsworthy enough to be news is newsworthy enough to be fact-checked before it's broadcast or published. 

No talk shows. No panel shows. No special interest shows. No weekly recap shows. No inside-politics shows. No shows “hosted by” anyone, and actually — no shows at all. 

There will only be the news, 24/7/365. 

The first six minutes of every hour: national and world headlines.

The next 44 minutes of every hour: coverage of news and events, with each story as long and detailed as it needs to be, to high standards of our new & improved objective journalism.

The last ten minutes of every hour: local and regional headlines, produced by area staff, possibly in partnership with local media. The time allocated for local/regional coverage can be expanded and override the national feed when events warrant. As with our national and world coverage, all stories, quotes, and claims will be fact-checked in advance.

On these around-the-clock broadcasts, stories will be repeated as deemed newsworthy, so a major story might run several times over the day, a minor story only once or twice. All stories are, of course, always available on the website, accessible for free by anyone with any interest and an internet connection.

Tune in any time, watch or listen or read for half an hour, and you’ll be better informed.

No news that doesn’t matter.

News that matters includes justice and injustice, campaigns and corruption, and events, rulings and legislation that impact people’s lives. 

• And it includes Investigative journalism: We will have a robust staff of reporters digging into news away from today’s headlines, to find tomorrow’s stories. We'll seek to expose corruption, graft, malfeasance and incompetence in political, corporate, religious, and other areas.

News that matters less, or nearly not at all: Celebrity news, sports scores, what’s trending on Twitter, and especially personal disasters — someone’s house burned down, someone got mugged or murdered, there's a four-car pile-up on Interstate 99, etc. We're not touching any of that crap.

Newspaper-style reports, not TV-style. In a newspaper, especially a good newspaper, the articles have some depth — literally, an article goes on for at least 6-10 inches. An article about major or complex news can be much longer. There might even be a page break, as the article continues.

That's the coverage we'll provide. We won’t air shallow 1-minute or 2-minute reports, like you see on virtually all TV news. The website will publish newspaper-style articles, at whatever length is necessary to report the facts, and our TV, video, and radio feeds will be exactly that same text, read in its entirety.

 No effort to appease idiots. We will not air “both sides” of any issue when one side is clearly horseshit. That means we’ll present climate change as a factual crisis, voter fraud as something that happens so rarely it’s negligible, science as a thing that exists and is usually not a hoax, police brutality as something that happens and is not good, etc. 

We will never use bullshit phrases like "enhanced interrogation" for torture, or "detained" for arrested or imprisoned.

We will never frame news or events with false equivalencies, like saying "both sides do it" when covering Republicans' lies. Both sides do do it, but one side does 95% of it, and that ought to be said.

We will issue corrections promptly when we've made a mistake, of course, but we will aggressively defend ourselves when lying bastards say we're lying bastards. When we're accused of whatever they'll accuse us of — being left-wing shills, socialists, communists, whatever — we will fight back, publicly, reiterating the facts we've reported and re-proving that they're facts. 

Our audience wants to be well-informed, with news, facts, and information. Fools can click to a different channel.

No anchors. Someone sitting behind a desk and reading the news is fine, but we don’t need to see that person, nor the plastic and plywood fake desk he/she is sitting at. It's phony, and the news shouldn't be phony. Having an anchor creates a false ‘authority figure,’ and unavoidably makes the news-reader into a celebrity. No journalistic purpose is served, so we won't have anchors.

Additionally, when the news is read out loud for broadcast, it will be read in a human but unaffected tone — always, and always in the same tone. That's the opposite of the current standard in broadcast news, where newsreaders go deep for 'gravitas' when reading about a terrorist attack, and you can hear a smile in their voice when they're reading a sunny weather forecast. That's 'acting', not reporting, and we don't do acting.

No reporters on camera. News doesn't need a makeup artist, and a reporter's face adds nothing to news coverage. That's show business, not news. We'll send reporters and videographers to get the story, but the reporter should never be part of the story, and never seen on film.

⑩ No concern about ratings. At all. If the ratings are down by two tenths of a point, that’s not a reason to rethink everything we do, and add coverage of viral TikTok videos.

Obviously we want an audience — getting the news out is the whole point — but our belief is that a quality 24/7/365 newscast will attract an audience. It’s our job to create that quality newscast, and when we do, the ratings will take care of themselves. "If you build it, they will come."

So why can’t we build it?

 8/3/2021

itsdougholland.com 

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6 comments:

  1. You have obvsly given this some thought. I'd watch that channel.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Captain HampocketsAugust 3, 2021 at 1:34 PM

    I haven't read past the first line yet. But it was either you or Fred Woodworth who made me realize the truth of this : EVERY TIME I have some personal knowledge about a news story, SOMETHING is reported incorrectly. I have been in the newspaper, local, or have had personal knowledge of a situation in the news, maybe a half-dozen or ten times in my life. EVERY FUCKING TIME, some small fact is wrong.

    When I was almost 3, I had my picture in the paper on July 5th 1976, because I looked cute sleeping in my stroller at the bicentennial Trnton NJ parade. They got my age wrong. Doesn't matter, but it's just emblematic. SOMETHING is always wrong.

    End of rant, gonna go read the post.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Captain HampocketsAugust 3, 2021 at 1:42 PM

    >So why can’t we build it?

    TV wizard Don Ohlmeyer, a far smarter man than I, once told me, "The answer to all your questions is: Money."

    Obviously, that's not me speaking, but a quote from former Washington Post writer and current sports talking head Tony Kornheiser. But the point is true.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ideally, it ought to be tax-funded. Democracy can't exist without a well-informed electorate, and ours is well-mis-informed.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't know journlaism either but I know BAD journalism when I see it and I see it A LOT. This all looks better.

    ReplyDelete

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