Friday, July 20, 2018

Journalism (Part 2)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) — the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse and back scratcher 
Iggy -- My designated Sticky
Dana -- My designated gentlereader

"The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made." -Groucho Marx

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

Last week's letter ended thusly:

"When I become king I'm going to require that all news media of a certain size or larger (metrics to be determined) must declare that they are partisan, in what way, and provide a simple, short, clear statement explaining their approach to the news. If they're about lurid pictures/video, lurid stories, and making as much money as possible that's fine -- as long as they acknowledge it." -me

Since Journalism is both an institution and a profession with deep historical roots, and I've taken it upon myself to drag it into the new millennium (kings can do stuff like that), I thought I'd explore the who/what/when/where and whys of...

[Can I ask a question, Poppa? What exactly is purple journalism? Ain't that what you called it?]

I'm flattered and honored you were paying attention, Iggmeister. I credit Marie-Louise for purple; the word popped into my psyche unbidden and I knew instantly it was what I wanted.

Purple journalism is not a new form of journalism, it's just a name for journalism as it's actually practiced nowadays. Take the New York Times. It claims to practice objective journalism but they have an obvious left-wing ethos that bleeds through on every page (traditional, partisan journalism).

However, they're hardly a tabloid. One can also find much in the way of good writing and quality coverage in any given edition (objective, professional journalism).

However, they're not above sensationalism and publishing obvious hit pieces about their ideological enemies. For example, anyone truly familiar with Jordan Peterson, fan or foe, could spot the obvious hatchet job written by Nellie Bowles and published on 5/18/18, that as best I can tell, is about Dr. Peterson's evil twin, it's clearly not about him. The article is pure, bright yellow journalism.

Clang! Fox News, fair and balanced  

No, it ain't, and everyone knows it. It's by conservatives and for conservatives. Rupert Murdoch identified a wildly underserved segment of the TV news market, conservatives, and gave 'em a news network of their own. They're happy and he made another gazillion bucks. Win-win.

Discussion panels with one liberal and multiple conservatives aren't fair and balanced. Ironically, all he did was reverse the ratios that CNN and PBS use. They claim to be fair and balanced as well.

Inviting political hacks, one (R)epublicrat and one (D)epublican, to throw bonkercockie at each other, preferably while behaving like Jerry Springer guests, isn't fair and balanced news, it's showbiz.


Given that it's widely acknowledged H. sapiens can and do strive for objectivity when it's called for (well, sometimes), but by nature are biased creatures, and

Given that most of the mainstream media are obviously partisan in nature, and

Given that what mainstream actually means is a relatively large audience and content that's not considered too far out there and

Given that, because of the internet, there's no shortage of content that is indeed far out there and much that's even farther out there than that...

Let's label this the era of purple journalism. Let's abandon hypocrisy (fair and balanced) and declare that honesty is the ideal of purple journalism. Not necessarily honest content, honesty about what sort of content.

"While we don't usually publish outright lies, we're not above it if we think we won't get caught, or even if we do that it won't actually matter. We're in it for the money and it sure beats having to get a real job."

While King Crank's Declaration of Honesty will be required for mainstream media outlets, my hope is that any outlet that offers content that it claims to be journalism will do so voluntarily.

For example, imagine The Drudge Report admitting declaring that "We're politically conservative but thrive on sensationalism. Many of the headline links you find on our site will turn out to be nearly as deceptive as clickbait links. We like to sex things up to get you here, keep you here, and keep you clicking."

I'll betcha a bottle-a-pop that Facebook's declaration would be as convoluted, confusing, and deceptive as their explanations of how to use their privacy settings.

[Whatever... but how would you enforce this law? Who or what determines what should be included in a Declaration of Honesty?]

Thanks, Dana, this is the best part. It doesn't matter what's in the statement.

The public, and a given outlets competition, will be the judge of that. If it's been determined that an outlet is large enough to be required to make the declaration, failure to do so will result in the CEO spending an hour in the royal pillory. Media coverage will be encouraged and facilitated.

A useful law that doesn't require bureauons or some sort of police to enforce, if I do say so myself, is a very cool law. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

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©2018 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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