A couple of articles touching on the same theme in different ways. The Intercept has a solid article about 60 Minutes’ softball interview with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman with the author of the piece asking the hard question:
Launched on CBS in 1968, “60 Minutes” has been described as “one of the most esteemed news magazines on American television” and has won more Emmy awards than any other primetime U.S. TV show. It claims to offer “hard-hitting investigative reports, interviews, feature segments and profiles of people in the news.”
Got that? Award-winning. “Esteemed.” “Hard-hitting.”
So why did the segment on MBS resemble more of an infomercial for the Saudi regime than a serious or hard-hitting interview?
Because it was an infomercial — or more accurately, an advertorial. It was a fuzzy bunny that added no real and hard facts. 60 Minutes has not been a hard-hitting program for a very long time. It may go after easy targets, but should the newsmaker be media savvy, it is a different ballgame.
But at least The Intercept was perceptive enough to see it, but not all outlets proclaiming to do journalism can. TechGenix was on the other side of the spectrum, with an article getting all huffy because people believe tech news is fake news:
The only way that I can think of to debunk this one is to talk about the way that tech journalism really works. Some of the major tech sites and publications do employ staff writers, but the vast majority of the tech journalists that I have met over the years are freelancers like myself. Although there are exceptions, freelancers are usually given a great deal of autonomy regarding the things that they write about. For example, nobody told me to write an article about fake tech news. I have a certain number of articles that I write each month, and the topics and content are up to me.
This isn’t to say that topics are never assigned. Sometimes they are. For example, I recently had someone ask me to write an article about Azure Active Directory. Once again though, the substance and the tone of the article was left up to me. No one told me to say that Azure Active Directory was the greatest thing ever to come out of Redmond, nor did anyone ask me to write a hit piece. It was up to me to decide what went into the article.
That isn’t quite true. There are junkets. There is graft. You have a form of fake news in most tech stories — but the form it takes is advertorial writing. It has always been too deferential to the industry.
It rarely asks hard questions — usually after a scandal explodes, and one that should have been seen by journalists years ago.
That is the reason more people are now dismissing tech news as fake news — they can sense the sunny spin and the positive coverage isn’t journalism.
And they are right.
But it is easier to take the path of least resistance and be perky and positive than ask hard questions. Confrontation is tough. It is easy to do it on social media where your outrage is buried amid others as there is always safety in numbers. But when it comes to being the lone skeptic who sees it first, it is not the happiest of situations.
It is no excuse, however. It is not a profession to get a pat on the head and a lollipop. It is about finding truths in reality.
And that takes courage, something the profession has lacked to its own destruction.