Monday, April 20, 2009


I am not writing now to tell you a story. Not in the traditional sense. I am writing right now, at 1 AM, to talk to you about the News.

What we have now masquerades as the News; it is not, indeed, the News. Newspapers have become that in name only, and have been that for quite some time. They are controlled by advertisements and sponsorships because, in this age of information, they cannot continue in print based on their content alone. Newspapers are now on their last legs. Investigative journalism is dead. In this age of information, you might wonder why something so information-intensive is not only rare, but mostly extinct.

Investigative journalism does not pay, for one. There was a time where you could make money as a real journalist and it would be a Suitable Career. Now, traditionally, journalists go, watch their particular story unfold maybe in person or get responses from 'witnesses', and then feed this to their editor, who eats it wholesale and regurgitates it so that it is neither over-offensive or over-stimulating. The major 'News' outlets employ people to then find these stories written by other people, eat them, regurgitate them into the open mouths of their editors, who then regurgitate it into print after running it by the resident fact checkers. These fact checkers have no real way to verify the Truth other than using regulated Federal resources to verify identity and the relative accuracy of time and date.

Investigative journalism is dismissed as too tedious and inefficient. A good News story gets the same amount of attention and entertainment value, typically, as a well-forged or 'covered' 'News' story. We are fed recycled yammering about hardly even news-worthy 'News', daily. Go do a search for any 'News' story on our good friend Google. Look for a source that is NOT derived. Now look at the next story. Do any of these actually have a reporter describing personally what happened? Is the reporter detailed?

The answers to those questions, most likely, are all 'No'. The reason is simple. The Business Model does not incorporate the News. The Business Model does not incorporate the Truth.

However, there is a dichotomy here. As I am American, I must speak from an American point of view. We Americans believe we know what is what when it comes to the News. But most Americans watch or read 'the News'. The older generation tends towards watching and reading via the idiot box and the newspapers I mentioned earlier. The older generation also tend towards taking things at face-value. The newer generation typically tends towards watching and reading their 'News' via websites; the irony being that, other than time restraints, they are getting the same regurgitation. Both generations watch/read it because it is entertaining. They watch/read it because it tells them what they want to hear, or alternatively, because it thrills them with what they don't want to hear. It tells them about things that are included in the Plan.

The Plan goes like this. Bad shit happens in the world, crazyfucks live next door, people will knife you in your neighborhood, people are poor in certain areas, and in general shit is shit. We learn that thousands are dying in other countries, and it is okay to us because it is part of the Plan. We learn that fifteen Caucasian males die in the county next to ours? Aw shit naw.

But either way, it is still part of the Plan. Shit happens. Death happens. We have become dull to all of this. Investigative journalism from recognized 'News' sources no longer matters because even if it were economically viable, the American public is too goddamned over-saturated with information to take anything from these outlets any more seriously than we take reading about the Inquisition in history. We have to actually actively get worried about these things. We have to be Championing a Cause to have any kind of opinion on a 'News' story.

So we have talked about the Impostors. We have delineated that great mass of corporate sponsorship, regurgitated laziness, and general apathy.

Here's where it gets weird.

The News is still out there. I realize it is silly to say this, but the Internet is Serious Business. I have shown you how it can feed us 'the News'. Now, if you are reading this, you probably have a Twitter account. You can sympathize when I say that Twitter skips the editing, regurgitation process. It also helps to recognize when people are regurgitating. They either link, or the RT. Blogs risk 'the News', but when you give someone a limit of 140 characters to explain what happened, their opinion on it, and why you should care, they get pretty fucking close to the Truth. They have no time for regurgitation or bullshit.

Now, this is not to say it is impossible to still regurgitate, but the incidence of both low-likelihood of regurgitation and no lucrative money-making mechanism (using only Twitter, at least) makes it much less likely than you would find in blogs, or 'the News' outlets themselves. The fact that 'the News' outlets have Twitter accounts should show you just how little they actually report if you read them. They're regurgitating reports from all the little people.

With tools like Twitter, Friendfeed, what have you, we little people are the real News source now. We have always been, but it wasn't possible to actually facilitate it until now. We shouldn't have to listen to 'the News'. We don't have to. If we all become original reporters, we won't deal with 'the News' except for entertainment and maybe summary. Investigative journalism might be dead, but with this it will only be dead in body. Its spirit lives on in every cellphone video of a police line, every uploaded twitpic of a bloodied face, a shocked expression, a roaring crowd. It will live on in us all.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll get to the Truth.


Drew/THG said...

Dear Ms. Viktor Merryweatherspoon,

I still think it is possible for journalism to exist in a professional capacity despite changes in consciousness in what constitutes for "news." I know of times when an opinion columnist of the New York Times or some such would effectively be the unofficial mouthpiece of the government position on a sensitive country, or when cable news wasn't the laughing stock of all other journalism institutions.

This isn't to say that commercialized media doesn't have a shitton of problems in the US, but I think it would be a bit too much doom and gloom to assert that professional journalism (and investigative journalism derived from) is dead. Afterall, if they are still being trained to dig up shit, then they can still report on their shit. The problem is whether or not they are being trained.

There are ways to report news with photos, with videos, with live stream. The world of news is becoming larger and more available to those who want to spend the time to look for it. That, in itself, is likely much of the problem. Obsession with interactive media requires viewers to interact with it.

Thus, I'd argue it comes down to active versus passive listening to news.

hughster said...

Well, if you think you have it bad in the USA, try Japanese TV for totally content-free "news". We can have 10 minutes (out of 30, including weather) devoted to a rare crested ibis chick hatching, or a marathon runner's retirement. Little things like the fuckheads running the country into the ground go unnoticed and unreported.

And NHK never, never questions the "why" of things - politicians arrested for money - no-one ever asks why politicians might need so much money, or why the Education Ministry needs a tits on a boar-hog institution like the Kanji Aptitude Center, which has just been ripped off bigtime by the administrator and his family.

Viktor Walters said...

Admittedly, Drew, it's not so much as it does not exist in some new form, but as it was prior to, say, 1980, real journalism is dead. Journalists aren't exactly taught to fact-check, or ask uncomfortable questions. Perhaps this is a factor of society becoming overregulated, maybe it's the new-ish PC/Self-Esteem Culture. But journalism as I recognized it once is no longer alive.

It is not a lost cause, no, but it is far from where it should be. But perhaps I'm judging things too harshly because of the complete shit that's mainstream.

Hugh, I get where you're coming from. But did Japan /ever/ have a big press tradition? It seems like they might be a little less culturally comfortable for what might be conceived as disrespectful questions.

All i have to say is this... it's just too bad character assassination and hardline libel is no longer popular. :-p

hughster said...

Your Reverence

You are perfectly right in your assumption that Japan is basically an authoritarian culture that does not question the whys and wherefores of those set in authority over them. However, there is real journalism out there, mainly in the "scandal" weeklies, which do report on things that the mainstream press does not want to print. Part of the problem is the "kisha clubs" which consist of reporters covering institutions (police, industry, government, whatever) by invitation only. Break the rules (i.e. tell the truth) and you are no longer allowed to cover the topic.

As a for instance, when the Aum Shinrikyo nutters launched their gas attack on the Tokyo subways, my parents called me from the UK saying "It was that religious group, wasn't it?". The national press here only reported on Aum Shinrikyo a week later when permission had been given to inform the nation. And then the nation's top cop was shot by one of his own policeman (an Aum sympathizer, if not follower), who confessed, and was then released "for lack of evidence". And the press didn't think this was odd.

Of course, if you are arrested in Japan, the press assume you're guilty, anyway. There's no trial by jury, and judges are reportedly promoted on their conviction rate.