3 thoughts on “Kerry Dougherty: Skewed News

  1. Ms. Dougherty proposes that newspapers are circling the drain because the news industry has quit it’s core mission along with the quality checks needed to sustain it.

    I think that’s right as far as it goes, but there’s another dimension: Journalism has an intrinsict flaw. To be a good journalist is a thing in itself which displaces other things. Thus, a good journalist who writes about science will not, typically, be a scientist. One who writes about politics, will not, typically, be a politician, and so on.

    The opposite is also true. Good scientists and politicians will not, typically, be journalists.

    As a result, journalism is necessarily a profession of outsiders who convey information they do not themselves command.

    This inherent limitation was hardly noticeable during American journalism’s heyday, marked roughly by the period of H. L. Mencken’s career. Because communications were primitive then, the mere fact of news was thrilling. The difference between news and no news figured more prominently in the attention of consumers than the difference between true and false news. Besides, false news often carries signals of truth for those who can discern them; if its news you want, false news may serve well enough.

    Today, news itself is no longer thrilling because elaborate communications make it abundant. The difference between news and no news doesn’t loom in our mental landscapes, because there is no such thing as no news. Under the circumstances, it is only natural for the difference between true and false news to occupy more of our attention and concern than it once did.

    This shift in our consciousness, however, runs smack into journalism’s inherent flaw. The profession of outsiders can never really tell you what is happening on the inside of things. At its best and most virtuous it can only summarize, interpret, tell tales, color and spin illusions from the outside.

    (To be fair to journalists in their predicament, the audiences they write for are generally outsiders, too. The implications of this are worth contemplating.)

    This is where the possibility arises that the whole enterprise of journalism may be corrupt, because the mechanisms of illusion can be manipulated by perfidious interests. That’s another story.

    The added dimension to account for newspapers swirling down the drain may simply be that they no longer serve a useful purpose. We are awash in news and other information of interest. Where once we needed journalists just to convey such things to us, we never really needed journalists to package and interpret information overmuch. Now packaging and interpretation are the bulk of what journalists have left to do.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Journalism is necessarily a profession of outsiders who convey information they do not themselves command.”

    I get your point–to a point. In the days of beat reporters, many journalists were, in fact, experts on the subjects they covered. But Kerry’s larger argument is that editors are largely absent from today’s newsrooms. So another layer of wisdom has been stripped from the process and the product.

    Use The Pilot as an example. In “the old days,” a veteran reporter like Bill Bartel would research and write a story, citing sources he’d worked with for years, if not decades, and that story would be vetted through several layers of editors. Now, an intern-turned-cub reporter like Saleen Martin writes a story–sometimes based on social media posts–and it could be posted on pilotonline minutes later. Who knows if it’s edited at all or, if it is, what the editor’s credentials are.

    Bottom line: News needs to be filtered. Otherwise, it’s just noise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: “But Kerry’s larger argument is that editors are largely absent from today’s newsrooms. So another layer of wisdom has been stripped from the process and the product.”

      That’s a good point I hadn’t thought about. My own experience with editors when I was young was pretty instructive. I had one who was fat, ugly and old. She kept a 36-inch Louisville Slugger on the front of her desktop.

      Liked by 1 person

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