Journalism’s narcissism problem: why their lens blinds their view of reality.

If you pay attention to the structural model of how journalists (particularly in the US) tell their stories, it is always Us versus Them, which is borderline propaganda in the best of times.

In the worst, it is Patriarchal propaganda where everyone is conditioned to see opposing views as antagonistic slurs to be “defeated.”

The notion that not everyone’s life requirements are alike escapes them.

Of course, the “bad guys” are the Them, and journalists paint themselves as heroes that save the world from itself.

This article is a classic example of narcissistic propaganda in the patriarchal style:

How ProPublica Became Big Tech’s Scariest Watchdog

Hardly.

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This is pure hyperbole. How many times have we read headlines like this before?

Like Clinton was Trump’s biggest nightmare in 2016?

Yes, and the n00b laughed all the way to the White House.

You would think journalists would have somehow been humbled by reality, reassessed their self-aggrandizing tendencies (and, when you are writing about journalism as a journalist, you are skirting a very fine line between reportage and self-promoting advertising, and I know how hard that is considering I was a journalist who covered journalism), and decided that perhaps that whole Great Men narrative was the actual problem.

No such luck.

There are no hard questions or skepticism on one side of the equation, which is always the hallmark of a Patriarchal Us versus Them yarn.  Often the lines are clear, such as when someone is a serial killer or mass murderer and there is no excuse or reason to harm others.

But when you are dealing with two groups of collectives, you have to be realistic. There is paranoia and fear-mongering throughout the piece, with the premise that one collective is moral and the other isn’t, and somehow, we have never had anyone deliberately manipulate the public before (and for all the Red Scare Version 2.0, the assumption that they had any influence on the American public is hogwash. People on the left didn’t vote for Trump, and Trump would have gotten the same votes because people on the right would have voted for him, anyway because Clinton was repulsive to them. Besides Clinton won the popular vote. The Russian narrative has always been a face-saving red herring to the left who equate their defeat with being villains as their own narratives have always implied the only villains lose at the end. That is not only inaccurate and childish, but one election is not an “end”: it is a perpetual beginning).

In other words, this is a classic case of puffing. Propublica neither has the means, resources, nor the power to take on social media giants, who have more than just algorithms: they have money, clout, personal information on billions of people, and they have cards to play. Propublica has none.

All any of these companies have to do is snap up Propublica directly or indirectly. They can hire a PR firm to counter something…or they can ignore it completely. Their fortunes will not change.

The only reason social media is not having the best time of it is that there is frustrations, but Russia and fake news have nothing to do with it. We had fake news for decades as I have written all about it in 2005, but no one cared back then.

Call it growing pains. People thought the Internet was a direct and painless path to the Promised Land, where they’d be famous, convince the entire world to think what they think, become prosperous, and magically find the answer to all of their problems with a point and a click.

When people on the Left couldn’t convince millions of people on the Right to vote for Clinton, or just not vote at all, that’s when social media became a target. The rig that were convinced they had in the bag wasn’t there.

If the bored Russians were trolling, and Trump lost, no one would have cared.

But when journalists, who were always used to talking at the public, making lofty decrees about their brilliance and bravery, couldn’t sway people, they knew they were finished.

Now it is grasping at straws time.

This article reads like an advertorial from a local magalog. If you are using ProPublica as your best example, you’ve just proved how useless the profession has become.

No one in Silicon Valley is losing sleep over ProPublica. Once upon a time Gawker was pure obnoxious and swaggering snark that honestly thought it had a modicum of power, until they ticked off someone in that Valley.

And got crushed out of existence.

Arrogance was always a staple of the journalist diet. It’s the reason their self-adoring bombast was always out of control, and why it still blinds them to the reality they now face.

Their fortunes collapsed, but not their conceit.

And they still believe they can snatch back their power in a world that has already written them off.

Dear journalists: It is 2018. We have a Dark Web and 3-D Printers. No wonder you never got this whole Internet thing.

With calls in the US for gun control, I am taken by the lack of foresight, and a big wallop of the confirmation bias.

Canada has gun control, but we have has mass shootings on the streets, in schools, in mosques, and on Parliament Hill. We have a fraction of the population with a greater spread, but gun control has not curbed gun violence or violence in general here.

But it is more than that.

We could have gun control, but it is 2018. We have the Dark Web. We have 3-D printers. You do not need to buy a gun; you can download software and make a gun. You can also make one with mundane objects as many prisoners in jails have done over the years.

If we had an ethical press, those would be the questions they would be asking: how can today and tomorrow’s technology put a crimp on easy bandage solutions. Terrorist groups have radicalized, recruited, and sent marching orders to teens and adults.

But we don’t have an ethical press. We have a short-sighted press. I do not blame people for panicking and looking for the quickest and fastest answer, but we also need realism, sensibility, and truth.

But you need to understand the past, which is our reference. The present is the purpose, and the purpose is to solve our problems. The future is our reward.

If we want to end bloodshed, we need to consider more than knee-jerk reactions. We need facts. We need to test theories and consider all sorts of upsetting variables.

In the latest Florida massacre, we have a troubled young man who had a very long paper-trail that screamed that he was a ticking time bomb. At any time, someone could have intervened without the need for gun control.

Because by the time we are discussing gun control, it’s already too late: because someone became homicidal.

We need an ethical information-gatherer to see how problems explode, and where can   we improve our ways. There is no mysterious or benevolent organization called They. It’s just Us.

The more information we have, the more control and power comes to us. Information gives us breathing room. We can find more accurate and complex solution that will actually deal with the core of the problem to fix it.

In this case, our technology has gotten ahead of us. We have voids, and a press that is far behind the times. The chasm has made society’s problems worse.

We need to bridge that gap. Perhaps gun control is a part of the solution, but it cannot be the only one in a world where you can use a 3-D printer and a special browser to access the Dark Web to get anything you want to express your irrational rage.

But irrational fear solves nothing. Facts, logic, and emotional literacy can solve anything if we can face reality and truth to see what needs to be done — and then go do it.

On breaking the journalism monopoly: Confronting rot from root to leaf.

When I was teaching Write to Publish at Sheridan College circa 2004, I was still actively working as a journalist, and was now writing Don’t Believe It! and then OutFoxed within the same year.

I also contributed giving workshops to other professors. The second one was how to incorporate “pop assignments” (a form of a pop quiz, but I argued out-of-the-blue assignments that had to be done right then and there were essential), but the first was talking about a novel use for blogs — using them as a teaching aid in classrooms:

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It sounds ridiculous now as it’s common practice: in 2004, it wasn’t. I was using a blog for my courses at Sheridan, and had been surprised it wasn’t common practice back then.

It was an interesting experience. Instructors were required to take a course in teaching fundamentals:

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Although I was teaching how to get published in fiction and nonfiction, we were required to have a videotaped lecture in front of our colleagues, and instead of what I normally taught, I decided to do a lecture on information verification for journalists — an idea I was trying to get through with absolutely no luck (when I find the video of that lecture, I will post it on the site).

I hand my handouts, and these were it:

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Those articles were all proven to be fake news.

And this was all something I had been working on for years as a journalist. I had tried to get a textbook for j-school students published for years. Here is a blind reviewer (not so blind that I could not figure out the identity) and the endorsement for the book…way back in 1999:

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Yes, a ringing endorsement, but it wasn’t universal: I had others knock down my experience, even though I was writing about the journalism industry for various trades such as Presstime, and one that thought I should team-up with a “name” journalist (which would have been a disaster). This was not the publisher that would finally publish Don’t Believe It! — that would be the Disinformation Company in 2005.

But in 2004, I was actively researching how those lies became news in the first place.

When I was the first female recipient of the Arch Award in 2004 as well, I was discussing what one of my long-term goals would be — in the final paragraph:

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I had researched as sorts of scams and lies over the years, however, not just in journalism:

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I have had many people over the years be dumbfounded when they find out my credentials and goal, and wonder why I have been as stymied as badly as I have been. The answer is complex as it is simple: bottom line, I am Writing While Female in a patently sexist profession that is obsessed with Great Men who they see as the only ones who can be visionaries. It is also a profession rife with egotism, meaning anything resembling criticism is seen as an unforgivable sin.

It is for those two main reasons why the profession destroyed itself (not the only ones, however). No one helped them in that regard. People need to be informed, but that is not what is happening: they are being agitated as they are being told how to react. There is a big difference.

But because journalism has been the only model of informing a general public, we assume that is the only way to do it.

And it’s not.

We need to get away from the Patriarchal mode because our world is now global. Before, a local paper had the monopoly of the community’s attention; now, not only can others read what that local paper is writing, but citizens can read any outlet they wish from anywhere in the world.

We have gotten away from the model of the One.

Journalism still is entrenched in it because its core has been rotted with that stifling assumption.

And that rot has gone up all the way to the top.

If we wish to have better form of mass communications, we have to consider something other than journalism. Social media doesn’t have the empiricism or the expertise to inform in a way citizens need to navigate around. We are living in an information void where we lack facts, but are overstocked with opinion.

Journalists never experimented in their labs — the real world.

Well, almost of them.

I did.

I was a psychology student in the mid-1990s when it hit me: why not be both the experimenter and the test subject and take the lab out of the ivory tower, and into the real world.

I even had a name for this brand of experimental journalism: Method Research.

Actors use a method to get into roles — they immerse themselves; so why not an experimenter?

Why not a journalist?

I set up experiments. I had results. I had hypotheses to test. I was a journalist looking at the problems of journalism — and then finding alternative ways of doing journalism.

Experimenters in laboratories do not have the same problems: breaking news happens, you hit peculiar roadblocks, and you have to wing it as you go along. Labs are not usually war zones to researchers, but they could be for journalists.

It could be done — but not through journalism. When you have celebrity gossip and “gee, it’s really cold out” leading newscasts, that is not the place to do something of value.

Journalism is an archaic concept that no longer fits in our diverse and changing world. It is anarchy in a void and journalism collapsed because it didn’t actually understand the environment or know the difference between reality and a narrative.

We need new models. We need Matriarchal theories, as Patriarchal has reached its limits. We need explorers, and people who have both the intelligence and humility to know they are not experts in an unknown field.

New paths cannot be build any other way. Journalism worked when they could hold all the cards, but they aren’t playing with a full deck these days.

But the world cannot sit and wait for them — and has marched on without them.

But they still need to be informed — but in a better way than they were before.

 

Stoney Brook j-school dean: Journalism students need to know how to spot fake news? I wrote the textbook for that idea way back in 2005. Too bad you are ill-equipped to teach it.

Stoney Brook needs to get with the times and the ethics of the profession of journalism. Their dean Howard Schneider is talking about how journalism students need to know how to spot fake news.

Really?

You just thought about this now when I came up with the textbook in 2005.

This book:

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That was the reason I wrote it in the first place.

Bakersfield had a class that used it when the book first came out, but it wasn’t j-school program per se.

But don’t expect Stoney Brook to have a course worth anything because their premise is too flawed — and do not touch the reasons for journalistic credulity.

There is no empiricism in their approach. A broken mindset will make matters worse.

You needed a course such as this over a decade ago.

You need an alternative to journalism now because to j-schools, they live in their ivory caves and have no natural feel for what needs to be done.

This is all about patching up things and keeping flawed and fragmented egos and mindsets protected. The problem is propping up rot doesn’t solve anything.

I had also proposed courses in information verification to various North American colleges and universities for twenty years. I was turned down by them all.

This isn’t anything but a face-saving course that merely wallpapers over the rot.

They are not equipped to devise a course like this — the problems in their educational system are too deep and too wide.

J-schools needed to make revolutionary changes a long time ago.

Now, they are cribbing ideas from elevators and trying to spin it as their own brilliant ideas as they get Great Man credit, but as they do not understand the nuances, they miss the mark, and make matters worse.

Start from scratch. The profession is dead and a course isn’t going to change a thing.

You need a new program run by fresh, untainted blood.

Not this.

 

How did Canadian journalism implode? By stringing words and saying nothing at all.

Three unrelated articles from three Canadian newspapers are riddled with a whole lot of nothing, but seem to be saying something. That is quite a feat, and Canadian journalism has a knack for it.

Andrew Coyne’s column in the National Post is interesting on many levels. It is artful. He seems to be arguing against bailouts, as I have been, and suggests that journalism should look inward, as I have as well.

Until you read it carefully.

The problem, according to Coyne isn’t about the core — but that journalism had clumsy forays into making their products in tune with digital media.

It is a whole let more problematic than just that. It is more than a cosmetic misstep: the entire profession has never questioned itself, how it conducts itself, how it gathers facts, how it analyzes them, and then disseminates them to the public. It never questions why it never got empirical. It never questioned its own folksy logic. Its entire mindset never kept up with the times. It is a relic of a bygone era because when you have all of the control, you think that’s Truth and not a fixed reality that can change at any time. He is still walking lockstep with the rest of that dead profession.

The second article is this knee-slapper from the Toronto Sun filled with innuendo and sophistry that seems to condemn one of Brown’s accusers without actual proof or logic. She won an award from CTV as a university student. So what? I interned at CTV when I was in j-school. I also won an award from a woman who her and her husband worked at the Hamilton Spectator. I have no pull or connections with either organization. I had a column with the Spec — and it amounts to nothing. I didn’t get the scholarship because I knew the woman or her late husband.

I did visit her in the isolated nursing home a few times after I won the award. She had no pull, either, and I never asked or tried to network with her.

So she won an award — so what? Brown was a politician in Barrie for many years — I am certain he schmoozed with those who work at CTV’s Barrie affiliate station — why didn’t the Sun mention that?

And speaking of pull, who chummy are the staff at the Sun with Brown? Have they disclosed any of it in their hatchet job or in their publication in general?

They really should.

Because they have a glaring confirmation bias because of it.

The Sun did elect to mention that Brown “passed” a lie detector test.

Again, so what?

As I have said before, lie detector tests mean zero.

And when you are the one who hires the lie detector firm, it means even less. So what? You can take the test until you pass — the company that you hired can ask loaded questions to your favour because you are the one paying for it. You also can be a sociopath who can not get rattled, or you can merely be deluded with no sense of reality.

You can pile up an article full of non-facts all you want, but there is nothing in the piece that has any merit. It is pro-Brown propaganda meant to shade and skew, but merely draws attention to its own glaring holes.

The third is a pair of articles from the Toronto Star is an example of puffery dodge.

It is hyped as an “investigation” with Ryerson University — and for all the puffery, it boils down to common knowledge that is easily accessible: how much jurors get paid according to province (something easily obtainable to an average citizen), and that jury pools come from those who own a house, also not a big reveal.

The article is in response to the Gerald Stanley verdict. A white man shot a young First Nations man and was acquitted because the all-white jury believed the defence theory that the gun accidentally fired.

But the Star’s spin masks the real issue that turned the Stanley verdict into a watershed moment: the town where the trial took place had a First Nations population at about 40%, but it was not as if the pool was exclusively Caucasian. The defence lawyer merely picked off potential jurors based on race until he rigged the racial make-up to be all white.

That was the central problem. This is not to say the system isn’t dysfunctional and archaic, but the central flaw was not who was called to serve jury duty — it was that the accused’s lawyer literally could have a White’s Only decree and the courts could indulge him.

So it doesn’t matter who is in the pool — it is who is allowed to actually serve that is the bigger problem. The Stanley trial was not in Ontario — so the fact that Ontario pays the least than the other provinces also would not have made a difference in the Gerald verdict. Those jurors were paid more and began as a more diverse racial make up from the get-go.

It didn’t matter who much the juror were paid or the skin colour of those responding to the summons — the outcome was the problem, meaning even if the government paid more and had a more diverse pool coming in — the outcome would still be the same.

But that is the problem that felled Canadian journalism — they dance around central and critical issues as they tackle everything else save the thing that must be confronted.

Three different newspapers. Three different articles. Three different subjects with different reporters from different ideological schools.

And all of them make the same error in the same way, informing no one, but skewing perspectives so we cannot even begin to find a solution to any of our problems.

Stupid Journalism Cures: Let’s ignore the death, and slop some makeup on the corpse. Maybe that will save the profession.

If journalists were doctors, they would never know the patient had cancer because they’d never run a single test to find out.

Nope, the patient has to be healthy.

If there were glaring symptoms, their idea of a cure would be to deny those symptoms were bad. Coughing up blood? Well then, you have colourful coughs! Isn’t that special! And superior! Yay!

Too sick to work? Well, let’s get the government to pay your employers for your job. You can’t get to work, but money is still flowing somewhere.

The patient is dead?

No, it’s not. You are being hysterical over some stench (and is it stench? That’s just your opinion) and melodramatic about some nonsense of a body decomposing.

Look, if it looks that bad to other people, slap on some make-up and tell the kids this is thinking about the future of the patient.

Not only would the doctor lose that license, they would probably end up in jail or in an asylum.

But that is the thinking that has ensnared journalists. They do not get it.

This perky press release from GeekWire is proof positive that people in the profession are that deluded and out of touch with reality as a collective. The Hive Media Lab is mere window-dressing, and it does nothing of value to touch the core rot that felled journalism, let alone can it be about a dead profession’s “future.” The fact that it pretends to be “one-of-a-kind” is kind of silly: many public libraries have maker’s space that do pretty much very similar things.

This is pure grifter-speak at its cheesiest.

The layout of this empty space looks like something you’d find on Pinterest for how to place your IKEA furniture. There is nothing remotely innovative, original, or realistic here. Just another narcissistic piece of puffery that does everything except the very things that are needed to fill a void.

And then is this knee-slapper piece of cornfed logic from the Winnipeg Free Free about how a survey that proclaims that people believe journalism is important.

Yes, but they are not getting journalism from media outlets, and that’s why they abandoned them in droves.

Yes, being informed is important, but journalism forgot how to deliver it.

It forgot how to face shortcomings so they can be overcome, not be seen as signs of health.

A survey is not a selling point to get people to buy a defective product. Stop trying to persuade people to go back to something that no longer does its job.

Find out why you collapsed; so the same mistakes won’t be made again.

The Implosion of Patrick Brown. Offence is a terrible defence, especially when you are outgunned and outnumbered.

This column from the Globe and Mail echoes sentiments I have expressed before here, here, and here: namely that Brown has infantalized himself, revealing himself to be me-centred, has few allies in a party that was all too happy to throw him under and bus, and that while he is attacking his accusers, he is all too silent on the other problems dogging him.

In the old days, a coup d’état would usually end in the dethroned leader conveniently being dispatched gorily, but this is Canada 2018, and we don’t roll that way, but at a price. In a nannied society, we see the little brats for who they are really when someone takes away the paper crown and the cools toys.

Brown is behaving like an ill-behaved child in a toy store once he realizes mommy isn’t going to buy him anything because they are there to buy someone else a birthday present. He once had a bland and innocuous way about him, but now the his explosive temper is coupled with excuses and finger-pointing, he is turning out to be someone very different than what he once pretended to be.

And he is showing the worst qualities a leader could possibly possess: he did not see the storm coming. He had no loyalty among the ranks with some of the most powerful members of both the federal and provincial levels distance themselves from him. He is making excuses. He obviously has never had crisis management training — something every good leader has in emergencies, and there is always a possibility for an emergency.

He reminds me of Hillary Clinton not preparing a concession speech in the even that she lost. The fact that she didn’t entertain a Plan B showed how poorly prepared she was as a leader. You don’t make concession speeches because you think you are going to lose: you make them because if you are a capable leader, you have to entertain multiple scenarios because by mere randomness alone, something can come from left field. You may not be able to anticipate what bizarro thing is going to sucker punch you, but you have to be aware that you may not be able to succeed. You still need an exit strategy.

Brown’s tactical errors say a lot about him. He, like Clinton, never had a vision or a plan to justify wanting the position.

But now that his stealth advantage has been lost and he now damaged goods, how he plans to win back a seat without his usual bag of tricks will be very instructive for those looking at what was transpiring during his tenure. They can compare and contrast to find out how he won the last time, and what it took, squaring it with what he is doing now.

He has been shrill and coming off as a peculiar mash-up of Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck. The high pitch voice, the sheltered bumbling, and the explosive temper all give off a piteous cartoonish way about him. He is not in charge. He is not shrewd. He acts entitled, and in Canadian politics, a leader does not throw temper tantrums, strut with a paper crown in public, and can never suggest that the system is flawed in any way shape, or form (Justin Trudeau’s comments about the jury system has broken a spell with the public for that very reason, but that’s another story).

Especially not if you were in charge. Any rot that hits you means it’s your fault.

And worst of all, Brown as suddenly found the one thing to defend with his every grain of his being: himself.

If you are going to be a leader in this country, you better have something else you have a passion for, and when you don’t, you will not be winning any popularity contests.

Especially if your main defence is an offence. Brown is attacking the women who accused him of being slimy. He is absolutely silent on the “rot” that has been turning up in the party, and his strategy is not one that any adept leader would stoop to using.

He is behaving like a rank amateur, making it increasingly difficult for the press here to defend someone who is not abiding by the unspoken code, and with an entire political party who do abide by it, he is alienating a base who have three luxury names they can support instead. Brown is outgunned, outnumbered, and most of all outclassed. No one wants an excitable gnat at their dinner party. He is making Doug Ford look downright stately now, doing him a huge favour. Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney are smart, diligent, have class, and most of all, dignity. It is the reason Elliott lost to Brown once, but now can easily enter the race once more.

Because she carefully thought about her Plan B, and proves who was the better leader for the party the last time.

I would be surprised if Mulroney doesn’t win this contest. Compare her to Brown and she wins in that competition. So does Elliott, and Ford.

Brown was always a poor fit. He went for a position out of his league and it showed. Glaringly.

He is imploding as we speak. If the allegations weren’t true, he had better options to confront them, but the narrative has long ago drifted away from sexual harassment to the other little problem.

The one that got the party faithful’s attention and focus. As usual, he has his guard down where it counts the most, and the knock out punch is coming. This election is the Tories’ to lose, and if they lose it, it will be an ugly mood — and Brown has provided them with a perfect punching bag to take their wrath on.