The sheltered relics of 60 Minutes: Fear-mongering, free PR for the Ivy League, and general non-newsiness.

60 Minutes really is a shadow of its once towering self. Watching tonight’s offerings reminded me just how away from news that newsmagazine has gotten.

The first segment “The Data Miner” was just cheap no-brainer pot shots at Facebook, with the standard journalistic fear-mongering. Lesley Stahl came off as some helmet-haired church lady in it, practically putting words in interviewee’s mouths with all sorts of admonishments usually reserved for your grandparents finding out your new squeeze came to the family picnic with alcohol on his breath.

The worst of the segment was pretending that the lack of privacy was unknown: if you use any app on Facebook, it usually asks permission to access your friends’ list, for instance. If developers and advertisers know it going in, and the app’s connecting splash page asks, I am not sure where the secret part comes in.

And as one of those people who does scan the terms of service, this isn’t shocking.

Someone should have given Stahl the memo that the term “Big Data” comes from the mining of mass information and then selling it to various third parties. No babes in the woods, folks.

But apparently journalists were too busy drooling over Kardashians and coming up with cutesy portmanteau’s for celebrity couples to know what was happening in reality.

In any case, the propaganda here was kind of rickety.

The second piece from Scott Pelley is pure advertorial for MIT’s “media lab”, that is really out of touch. First, the awing over the touchscreen computer screens in the 1980s isn’t really all that impressive — Disney World had them back in the day and I should know considering I used to use them to make dinner reservations at the Magic Kingdom.

But the true hilarity is the drooling over computer uses in academia, while completely forgetting that Facebook began at an Ivy League university. If you are going to make a case for people to be impressed with the goings on in Ivory Towers, then don’t bring up Facebook, and if you are going to make the case that Facebook is sinister, then don’t go cheerleading at the same kind of environment that fostered it in the first place. Make up your mind.

In any case, 60 Minutes proves that journalists truly do not understand this whole Internet thing.

The Pelley segment was truly obnoxious — absolutely no critical questions or wondering about the ethics of any of it: it was just a bunch of goll-ee! remarks while giving a free platform to MIT. Science and technology reporting is notoriously just a giant ad for the industry, and 60 Minutes may very well be the worst offenders.

The third segment was the only one with any value, and that it was done by a doctor who has an understanding of empirical methods explains it. Watching the decade-long decline of a woman with Alzheimer’s Disease was truly a heart-wrenching, but informative human interest piece of the consequences of a husband who eventually could no longer look after his wife. The traumas are real and permanent.

The only segment that had worth was the one that neither tried to put a sunny spin on things, nor tried to fear-monger, but one out of three is a very poor average…

 

Puritanical titillations: Why the press can’t keep it up.

Stormy Daniels does 60 Minutes, and 22 million people watched, hoping for some sexy stuff from a porn drudge. She failed to deliver the kind of gossip the puritanicals drool over. 60 Minutes got the best ratings they had in a decade, which was very sad, not just because of the collapse of journalism, there was no pointers for bored couples looking to spice up their dreary sex lives. (Although there wasn’t much to the interview, the National Post felt compelled to tell the little people who to process it as it whipped it up to more than it actually was.)

James Comey fared even worse than he should have, with less than half of those ratings. 9.7 million people, which in a nation of over 300 million, means bad news for journalists hitching their ride on Trump’s alleged frolics. 

Comey tried to plant seeds with the narrative of those loosy goosey Russian hookers and their golden showers. He appealed to the puritanicals, trying to strike back at Trump. 

Note that Comey never confirmed the rumours. He just rehashed old gossip, making the value of the interview nonexistent, and those bored and unimaginative middle class people in loveless marriages couldn’t make use of the old dirt.

No 50 Shades of Grey, kids!

But the drop spells disaster for the press. The ratings should have been stronger. Bill Clinton’s antics brought strong ratings and had staying power. The Comey interview came right on the heels of the Daniels interview — the drop means the hook is a dud.

Super stories have been a trusty staple for the press, but while this one has all the elements of a tent pole movie, it’s not saving the press from an apathetic audience who isn’t game for the freak show as they once were…

More on 60 Minutes and their advertorial-style reportage…

The third piece is not what journalism should ever be — the love letter to the Harvard Lampoon is all fuzzy bunny and Harvard should use it for their promos.

It is hard to imagine this is 60 Minutes. Aren’t rich, white people hilarious is an odd choice to go after the one segment that had value.

The Oprah Winfrey segment on the memorial of victims of lynching was interesting. The US has a history of turning people into monsters who absolutely must be destroyed. African-Americans were lynched mainly in the South. Women were labelled witches and burned alive in New England. The national narrative is one where there always has to be a villainous group to defeat.

It is not a trait that is unique to the US. Much of Europe had their own dalliance with fascism, but their attempts with their own memorials did not always get new generations to understand the deeper message.

But I do agree that the consequences of slavery and lynching is still prevalent in modern culture — and not just the fact the African-Americans are over-represented in the prison system. You have an unchallenged structure of thought that still permeates in a collective discourse.

Journalists back in the day never challenged the morality of those lynchings, just as they don’t seem to challenge any authoritative-sounding narrative that tells them to demonize a group of Them.

It is either shameless fawning — or a hateful smear job with no in-between…

I remember when 60 Minutes wasn’t a government lapdog…

The Russia-scare continues, but the narrative has more than one very childish logical inconsistency going for it — the narrative has now told the American people that they have the absolute most bumbling, incompetent, and oblivious government that ever existed.

The excuse that this cyberattack wasn’t noticed was that journalists were too obsessed with Trump’s infamous sexist recording. Bravo, media!

The story makes it clear that the US has a loser press, and a loser government — this is an extreme hard sell, all in the hopes to get people to give up their Internet freedoms, but really, if you have sleepwalking news media and a sleepwalking government, then you are safer taking your chances with the Internet than either group.

Why pay taxes? Why use journalism?

What have Russians proved? That they could have destroyed the US with a single click — but then didn’t? Why go through all that trouble when it is far more effective to empty bank accounts and shut down utilities? A high school prank doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when they would have the means to make far greater damage — they could top it off by leaking classified information and nuclear codes.

The story is pure propaganda, but very messy propaganda — it is unfocussed and sounds like a rumour high school kids spread.

Once upon a time, 60 Minutes was a real newsmagazine — it stood up to politicians, not run after them, being their faithful lapdogs. But in an Age of Propaganda, we can expect nothing less…

 

Are the eyes the mirror of one’s soul? 60 Minutes’ narrative gets co-opted.

The Drudge Report has prominent play that 60 Minutes had the highest ratings in a decade for last night’s Freak of the Week interview — as well as Right-wing Gateway Pundit’s piece about the pupil dilation of Stormy Daniels.

It was the Twitter chatter, of course. All the make-up and lighting couldn’t keep the eyes from scrutiny. The call was “drug use”, and that’s the kind of gossip that alters a narrative  that gets away from those are trying to compose a story of a Bad Guy and a Victim. While the news media is trying to play up the “goon factor”, the “doped up vixen” narrative is overshadowing it — and of course, it implies a stoned accuser may be having hallucinations about the whole thing.

Her attorney is trying to play games, of course, ominously hinting they have more “evidence.” It is a gambit and a dodgy one. Monica Lewinsky kept that infamous blue dress and in the end, it meant nothing. Her character was torn to shreds and her past was nothing like Daniels’s.

Most people who enter the wasp’s nest have no idea what is in store for him. Daniels may think her past will prepare her, but it won’t. She seems put together and direct, but it was ignored and her eyes — the one thing she couldn’t hide, ended up being the focus of viewers’ minds immediately.

You cannot be Batman-prepared for these things, when you have people who are Sherlock Holmes-ready to take your narrative apart.

The interview did nothing to illuminate the subject or change anyone’s mind one way or another — it did give some quick Monday-morning gossip as it made people feel like they discovered something 60 Minutes seemed oblivious to in their interview…

When a sex scandal bores: 60 Minutes interviews Stormy Daniels, but why don’t they ask who is footing the bills?

This is by-the-numbers. Porn drudge has a fling with a rich white guy. A non-disclosure agreement is signed as is usual for all the hired help. Enemies of rich white guy hope to see an opening, and jump on it. Porn drudge will get used by both sides of the war, and then discarded because women are disposable.

Stormy Daniels admitted to being dishonest during the critical timeline, making her lawyer’s assertion that she is credible very questionable. Who is footing her bills is also left out.

Once upon a time, a politician who had an affair would have been devastating. 60 Minutes mentions John Edwards, but Gary Hart is a better example.

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Trump’s philandering is nothing new. Wife #2 Marla Maples was once his mistress. No one actually cares. People are going to be angry at Daniels in this entire mess. This interview will not sink Trump, but it will not go well for Daniels, even though it shouldn’t.

Who is footing her legal bills? It would be interesting to know the logistics behind this story. This won’t touch Trump or make supporters turn on a man they knew going in was self-indulgent, and even his foot soldiers have little to fret about.

In Canada, we had a comparable, if sex-free scandal with the Stephen Harper government: Nigel Wright has been embroiled in a scandal involving Senator Mike Duffy, and all three men got off without too much fuss. It is naive to think that scandals have the same currency these days as they did in the past.

Here is a story that is supposed to, in theory, have it all: a made-up blonde who knows her way around a bedroom, a rich white married guy in power who falls madly in lust with her, some sketchy deals are made, soon goons menace somebody, and then it all comes out to take him down.

Well, this is 2018, and this is a re-run, and it gets harder to take a puritanical view in the world of Ashley Madison television ads.

This is war going on right now, and the outrage is contrived: the end game is to grab power away from someone else as you hoard your own. It is one thing to be wronged, and quite another exploiting those who were wronged, and we are living in a landscape where victims make the perfect pigeons who those in power to manipulate their suffering for personal gain.

It is the reason so much is ringing hollow these days: we have bad acting and faux anger littering the information stream. 60 Minutes was not earth-shattering by any stretch. It was filled with conjecture, gossip, and that worldly blonde whose claim to fame is denying, then admitting to a meaningless fling with a married man who would go on to be president.

BBC has just put on a “breaking news” alert on it, playing up the goon aspect, and despite all of the hype, this is a sex scandal that bores to the point it would be a rejected reality show…

Journalism as advertorial: From tech news to hard news, it has all become advertising.

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.

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It rarely asks hard questions — usually after a scandal explodes, and one that should have been seen by journalists years ago.

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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.

A bad interview, and a worse column. Journalism’s melodramatic leaps of logic can get really stupid most of the time.

I watched Sunday night’s 60 Minutes program with Lesley Stahl verbally pounding away at Betsy DeVos, the fabulously wealthy woman who became Education Secretary, and then really, really, really did not do well being interviewed.

It really was not a good interview. DeVos clearly is not someone who interviews well at all, and I have known many bad interviewees that aren’t incompetent in their jobs. It is the same reason I put zero stock in campaign debates — at most, it shows who is the best debater, not the most qualified candidate.

When I used to teach public speaking to college students, I trained them how to handle crisis-level questions in front of an audience as asked by me who was a professional journalist when they had no time to prepare ahead. Most of them learned how to handle it. Many learned because they watched their classmates, took notes, and then discussed strategies with each other between classes and breaks, which was the actual, if covert, point of the exercise.

I also had many of those students for my Communications course — and that required a different skill set, in this case, writing reports, letters, memos, and other forms of business communications. I can tell you right now some students were better written communicators, while others could do impromptu speeches without blinking.

Some could do both with ease, and others struggled with both forms of communications.

So that a seasoned national journalist such as Lesley Stahl could make mince meat of DeVos is not actually impressive. She could have just as easily lobbed less hostile questions instead of taking an unnecessary aggressive stance, and gotten a better result. If she were a truly adept journalist, she could have revealed much more about DeVos without the theatrics.

DeVos could easily get crisis media training, and learn how to keep calm under brutal interview conditions. It’s a dirty little secret: people who handle hostile interviews well do so because they paid former journalists and PR firms to show them what to expect, and how to react.

A person who doesn’t buckle during an intense interview could merely have been trained to do it — and your impressions are not actually accurate.

My j-school graduate thesis was on how to use crisis communications to control the message. I wanted to know precisely how PR could take a bad situation, and then regain control of the narrative to bring their clients’ a decisive victory. I interviewed veteran PR specialists for it. I read their manuals, and my advisor owned her own PR firm. By the time I was through, I had created a map of how people in the field eke out victories within devastating defeats.

So DeVos had an abnormally hostile interview. She was unprepared — but it doesn’t mean she didn’t know the answers of questions asked during the interview. Some people freeze, have poor memories under abnormal circumstances (and getting interview for a national television show is a highly unnatural experience, in both the style of communications, and the reasons for submitting to such an unnatural style). What it means is she had a bad interview, and as a journalist, that’s not what you actually want to make a point: you want a fair interview where people can come to their own conclusions because you gave enough space for someone to reveal themselves on their own free will.

You would need to find other confirming or refuting evidence to see if she is that uncertain of information, and it is here that Stahl’s report completely crumbles itself.

You cannot rely on a single hack of being the bogeyman interviewer and then strutting around intimidating a newsmaker — you need to have your researchers find proof that this person has a lack of knowledge in a very specific area, and then show it during the segment.

So, for example, if I were to interview someone who was accused of a crime he denies committing, and I ask him to tell me what he did that entire day, and he had a gap or two during the interview, I could go on that information alone, showing how the intrepid and aggressive journalist “uncovered” the truth with the interview alone.

But that would be very dishonest. I would also have to go back, and interview people who could tell me whether this person has a bad memory, is a private person, actually has an alibi, but may have kept quiet to protect a person, or was ashamed of something and clammed up.

If during the course of my research, I found out the person did have an alibi, but just froze out of fear, the interview becomes a lie.

But if I find out that the person doesn’t have an alibi because he committed the crime — I can now easily run the interview clip — and then enhance that part by showing what else I found to confirm the significance of that segment of the conversation.

This was one of those showy interviews that had a far less going for it than meets the eye.

This is not to say that’s what happened to DeVos in that interview — but interviews with hard anchors at critical points make for news.

As a journalist, I can tell you that I have come across seemingly gotcha parts. Each time, I had to see how much I actually “got”. Sometimes, there was something significant, but other times, the person just didn’t have media training and fumbled.

There is even a term for it: L’esprit de l’escalier. It simply means of thinking of the right comeback or answer after it is too late. As a journalist, I always had to factor in that possibility when working on a story because if someone came back and provided evidence that they were in the right, then my credibility was in question. Sometimes that is exactly what you are dealing with, and other times, it isn’t. You cannot tell until you have confirmed or refuted that contentious segment.

Why is that important?

Because journalism is about facts. An interview is just one source of information, even if the story is about that newsmaker. People not schooled in the profession don’t always see what’s the big deal, but it is a crucial factor. I have interviewed people for potential stories, and then when I tried to verify information from more than one source, things didn’t add up. There was no story; just someone who wanted media attention and gave a stunningly perfect interview.

Which is another problem: often, the people who give the best interviews that are smooth, charismatic, and seemingly logical are, in fact, rubbish. It’s a bunch of lies strung together and then packaged to be media friendly. Bon mots can be like that: they are the witty rent-a-quotes who know exactly what to say, how to say it, and when, but their timing and confidence masks the fact the interview is a hoax.

Or, some of the interview holds up — the parts meant to reassure me that the person is on the level — but the important stuff — the reason for the interview — is just hogwash.

The DeVos interview was a classic Bambi-versus-Godzilla interview, and the problem is that they are pure entertainment. It plays to the partisan, but when you look at it empirically, it is just as flawed as the interview itself. It was like being impressed that a heavyweight boxer punched the lights out of a five year old who is already scared of him.

So I wasn’t not exactly impressed with the quality of the actual story because all the feints and ruses could not deflect my attention away from the problematic omissions of the story; in this case, the succinct and elegant facts that could have made a better case then verbally slapping around someone who honestly doesn’t have to be working for a government when she has that much money and purpose. DeVos is a generous philanthropist. She doesn’t have to do any of it, and I am sure, on some level, she cannot understand the vitriol hurled at her.

There is far more to the story than the fact that lefties hate everyone who doesn’t walk lockstep with their demands, just as righties hate everyone who doesn’t walk lockstep with theirs. That is not news. That’s life.

What is news is more textured: who is Betsy DeVos and why is she pushing through all that abuse when she doesn’t have to do any of it? What’s the motive? What drives her?

That is the first and most important part of the story: setting the framework of this highly unusual woman. You do not have to like her or hate her, but you do need to understand what drives her. Is it the paper crown? Is it her part of her core beliefs? If so, what are those beliefs?

What brings this person to this spot?

You then have multiple ways you can take the facts: what has she done? How is it working out so far? How does her machine operate? Some people are factualists and can recite every piece of data off the top of their heads. Other people are fuzzy thinkers, and they are broad in their approach.

The problem with the Stahl interview is we don’t actually know if DeVos is a fuzzy thinker, a person who doesn’t interview well, or not fit for the job. People who hate her will go to option #3 without bothering with hard evidence.

But an outsider will wonder more about evidence. If you are a true journalist, you have to bring facts that refute alternative explanations.

If you are a partisan hatchet queen, you just attack. Stahl just attacked. This will not sway DeVos’ defenders. It will not push outsiders to draw the same conclusion. Do not preach to a converted flock. Show, don’t tell.

So what viewers were left with is a hot mess: a person who obviously doesn’t interview well up against someone who is all show, and a lot less substance than what she ought to be.

Stahl discussed how certain test scores for students were going up, and not down, and I found that argument interesting, but not exactly damning.

If you have test scores going up — or down, then you have to account for the quality of the test — is it reliable, valid, useful? Are the questions relevant to gaining mastery for eventually employment? Is there cheating? How are these tests administered? Is it across the board? Have the tests been diluted?

Very often, tests are dumbed down to reach certain quotas. If you are making the case that test scores prove that schools are functioning fine the way they are, then you have to prove it. You do not appeal to authority, and tests are a form of authority.

If the point of the story is to say that unequivocally, that this person is making horrific damage and there is empirical proof, you have to make an iron-clad argument. The haters will be satisfied with just a meme poster.

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The problem with 60 Minutes is that they do an awful lot of authority deferring, and tests aren’t always as definitive as they first appear. There are many tests to detect psychological disorders, but some of those tests count everyone has having a form of a disorder, regardless if they score zero or the maximum, and many of those tests cannot differentiate one disorder from another.

Math tests may not have those issues, but they can have other issues. Are students training to pass that test at the expense of learning more than what’s on a test?

So, if you are going to make the hypothesis that DeVos is going to make things worse, you then have to spend the bulk of your research establishing the current educational landscape first. You can’t just take one set of tests score then think that’s all there is to it. It’s a confirmation bias.

Even for the brevity of a television news segment, you can still do this kind of research. You build a structure as a reference point, and then find several facts that decisively confirm your hypothesis — but should you find any that refute it, you still have to give it credence to give an accurate account of reality. So someone may be mediocre at one part of the job, but their strength is somewhere else, and then the news consumer can balance it out for themselves.

If that were the only faults, I doubt I would have even mentioned the report at all because almost all 60 Minutes’ follow the same formula, but then the Washington Post stuck its nose in it, and then got all stupid about it in this silly opinion piece.

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To say the piece is a ridiculously unwarranted leap in logic would be an understatement. Betsy DeVos gave one really bad interview where it was an uneven bar fight, and now the commentator decrees that is the reason rich people should never meddle in civic affairs.

That is prejudicial thinking to say the least. What if a raging sexist decided that no woman should be in positions of power based on that one interview as well? It is the same primitive thinking.

The sophistry spewed in the piece is melodramatic, but doesn’t actually make her case. You have people who try to contribute something more, and then they don’t do it right because they don’t have the same experience in navigating through it. That doesn’t speak poorly of those willing to try, sometimes with hundreds of millions of their own dollars — it speaks very poorly that we have a system that is rigged against novel ideas from atypical people who are willing to get pummelled on a national news program because they truly believe in what they are doing when they could be doing things that are not stressful or potentially humiliating to them.

Western thinking is highly bigoted in that regard. It is xenophobia that keeps alternative ideas from being added to systems, making fairly logical theories turn out to be disastrous because we have people sabotaging the person at every turn, distracting them so that they do fail. We have come to the point that we want those people to fail just for the selfish purpose that they may be right, and then we cannot get the glory from it. It’s the selfie mindset.

We don’t have ways to experiment and test new methods, making it hard for us to take advantage of changing landscapes because our rote models of doing things try to ignore reality. You cannot shut out the wealthy from civic life just because you are a petty little soul who is jealous of their money.

Just as I believe you have to look after the whole of the society. We don’t have the terminally ill in charge of a healthcare portfolio. We don’t recruit the poor when it comes to elevating their financial precariousness.

We have lost nuances of thinking and have become binary machines.

So both 60 Minutes and the Post offered nothing of value to the public discourse. The worst of it was that there were several more sensible and useful ways to make a stronger case, but when people are too in love with themselves and pay no mind to the reality swirling around them, it becomes an empty theatre where nothing is truly learned, and we are no better off before the show than after.

And just in case you thought perhaps US journalists ask the obvious questions…

60 Minutes dispels that theory with a report on the Club Fed-style prisons in Germany.

In all the questions asked about the doting on offenders, the journalist never asked the one question…How much money is the German government spending on the victims of those crimes?

There is PTSD. There are medical bills. There is loss of income and a slew of other problems, from legal bills to having your career derailed.

What about those people? Are you paying for their yoga?

And if not, why not?

The State of Journalism, 2017

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I

It is has been journalism’s ugliest year because a rotting corpse is not a pleasant thing to look at or smell.

2016 marked the death of journalism.

It fell one by one like dominoes, but the falling down is not over in the communications industries.

2017 proved it was not in a mere slumber or coma, and it was a global problem. The patient was really, seriously, dead.

The self-assessments of what happened are useless.

And are as arrogant, ignorant, lazy, and cowardly as one can get.

What’s going to save journalism? Really Nation?

Nothing. It is dead, you fashionably late sleep-walkers.

No, New York Post, the media aren’t killing themselves.

They already killed themselves. Past tense. It happened, and no one bothered to spring for a coffin. Even the Pope should be informed he may have to preside over its funeral, rather than lecture them.

This 2006 journal article is a real knee-slapper of the worst sort.

No, Journalism Studies, j-schools cannot teach journalists how to save themselves because they are as clueless as the people they send out into the world to get slaughtered because your educational system did not expand their thinking, but seriously constricted it.

Just as educators think they are the smartest people in the room, journalists thought the same way, too — and still do.

Yep, the patient has been dead for a long time. You can check back tomorrow, deniers, it’s still dead.

The rotten corpse being held with some puppeteer’s wire is not turning false hope into reality, kids!

The limousine liberals, champagne socialists, and the alt-right knuckle-draggers do not have the mindset or ability to save a dead corpse. What you need are radical centrists, not partisan propagandists who stoop to wearing the decaying mask of a once noble profession.

II

As I have no hard numbers as none were ever kept, I am fairly certain I am probably just about the only person in the history of the world who ever went into journalism for the express purpose of studying it. (If you went into that profession for the same reason, by all means, let me know, and keep track of this exclusive and eccentric little club. The more, the merrier, I always say.)

So I have no ego riding on its condition one way or another.

And I can tell you, it’s dead.

I won’t tell you all about my iconoclastic odyssey, just one part of the last quarter century to put something in perspective.

It was a decade ago when my Method Research took its next logical turn, I had to compare traditional journalism with a control group; otherwise, my findings would have no context, and would be useless.

So I decided to create a model of news gathering online with no one’s meddling.

The number of experiments I conducted at this time were fast and furious as I had far more control over my environment than I did as a traditional journalist.

As I had experience in traditional media, I knew what I was looking for and how to find it.

Because the Internet is, essentially, just one giant vanity press, where any uninformed individual can pretend to know more than anyone else, it has always been a con man’s game, and these experiments would tell me whether or not genuine journalism could work on this medium.

I had not only my own work, I could compare to other online news vehicles as well.

But I could not forget to use traditional media as a comparison, along with one other group.

At the time, Don Hewitt had just retired from 60 Minutes (more like unceremoniously dumped by his masters whom he served perfectly, but let’s not upset the publicists). He was a shrewd man, and his methods were legendary. To get to a crash scene, he thought to charter a lone boat that was nearby — which had been the only means to reach it — and prevented other journalists from getting exclusive footage.

He wanted one anchor to learn to read braille so he wouldn’t need a teleprompter, but the anchor in question refused. It was still a stroke of brilliance.

I was at the time actively experimenting with a transparent news vehicle — a real-time behind the scenes sort of venture: I would pursue a story, explaining the steps and logic behind it. I would describe how I was pursuing a story, any missteps or strikes outs coming my way, my remedies, and so on.

People could watch the story unfold as they learned how difficult it could be to cover a story. It was like being in the newsroom and watching things unfold, and it was done long before other outlets tried similar tactics.

Hewitt had decided to start a media venture on his own that appealed to younger audiences. I simply offered to contribute in some mutually beneficial arrangement. I had included everything from a treatment to a business plan in my tome of a proposal. To my surprise, he called me back and asked for a demo tape, and we had a lengthy discussion over other things, from me underestimating the costs of my business plan to how to present news differently in an Internet Age.

I sent him one, and he then called me back in August 2007, being quite dismissive and insulting as he gave me no specifics as to why I would “never make a good broadcaster,” and we got into a heated verbal altercation where I called him a coward – and, yes he was, though I was not happy about the revelation at the time. I felt as if he insulted my intelligence, and he did. If he didn’t like how I saw things, he could have just said it. If he didn’t like my style, just spit it out.

If his venture wasn’t working out in the way he hoped, he could have said it. Even if he thought his reasons were none of my business, he could have said so or not gotten back to me at all. I wasn’t hounding him or pestering him in any way.

The rejection, if it were warranted, merely required a yay or nay. The peculiar rudeness — and a rudeness he by no means expressed in our initial conversation — was out of line. I did not act as if I was above him in a pecking order, believe me. He was a master of the craft, and there was no question about it.

None of that would have bothered me in the slightest – I knew going in that it was a long shot and hinged no hopes on it; after all, I got that far with no one to open a single door for me and it’s better to end things before they get a lot more complicated and messy.  (His own venture never took off and he passed away a couple of years later, confirming to me on some level that my initial suspicions about that entire episode were most likely correct.)

It was his blatant dishonesty that unnerved me – and at this point of his career and life, he really should not have cared one whit about anyone’s opinion, mine included.

He said something else to me that upset me as much as it got me into one of my philosophical jaunts: he told me he worked with the likes of Diane Sawyer, Leslie Stahl, etc., and I said to him, so what? Was the Great Man telling me he wasn’t so great and scraped his success by hitching his ride on other people’s stars rather than the other way around?

Why the pathetic name-dropping when he was the one who propelled people like that to the top by making them look smarter than they were?

And that’s when it hit me how wrong I was in my initial assumptions and what I had failed to see before – the profession was built on a very specific flawed mind-set – it preferred the tried and true and everything that avoided risks, while hiding from the very things it needed to face to evolve and grow – just like the people who avoided watching the news for the very same reasons.

News producers could face certain dangers, but not the ones closest to their homes and that was the very reason they were going to have trouble surviving in this new world where even a mediocre competitor could wipe the floor with the old media’s collective faces.

That also meant the apparent age gap of the news wasn’t as important as I first thought because it was a symptom of a deeper systemic problem. It’s not as if there aren’t young people who are news producers – but they get paid minimum wage as they have no chance to truly ever move up the ladder with a respectable paycheck, and many have to leave broken and disillusioned as younger and more desperate versions of themselves are willing to work for free just to get noticed.

When everyone is hiding from the same elephant in the room, their age suddenly becomes irrelevant. A desperate twenty year old is as useless as a desperate eighty year old because both will make the same underlying assumptions that lead them to make the same mistakes.

I realized he was angry because he couldn’t transfer his methods to a new medium, and it was a crushing realization. He was not yelling at me — but himself, and the name-dropping was to reassure himself, not make me feel small.

And that was the day I told off a titan in the profession as I began to seriously wonder just how horrible the Internet would be to the very concept of journalism.

At the time, I just didn’t realize why that was the case, and what secret rig stood in the way that neither journalistic legend Don Hewitt could figure out — nor eccentric maverick Alexandra Kitty could riddle out herself.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have told him exactly what it was. Even if that was the end of that road, at least I could have given him something to ponder.

III

If someone as cunning as Hewitt couldn’t handle the Internet when he could handle every other facet of the profession, then no one could, especially not in the long-term.

He was a legitimate news producer better than any of his peers before or after. His was not about attitude or image as he was in the background, and generals don’t fight on the front lines.

While Roger Ailes was a master of carny and propaganda, Hewitt knew how to get the scoop like a soldier.

There was a reason why Hewitt couldn’t make a legitimate success from the Internet: because he understood reality, and the Internet is not about reality.

It is about self-deception and fostering delusions.

It is about destroying critical thinking, and dismantling attention spans so people can no longer think and reflect, but react like spoiled children who are innately ripe for conning.

Hewitt’s work hinged on reflection, and seeing a big picture, but the Internet has completely decimated that part of people’s thinking.

He was not some relic: he was someone who could navigate in the universal arena of war strategy.

But when people learn to click and react to whatever new stimuli they see on a screen, they are perpetually ripe for fleecing.

Journalism fell for the con game. They dismissed the hucksters, and then tried to become them, which made them into hypocrites.

There were ways to take on the Internet in such a manner as to remove the rigs, and ensure that there was a genuine connect between news producer and news consumer.

And journalism lost because they got on a battlefield they did not understand, and their enemies understood it, lured them on the field, and not just defeated them, but enslaved them, taking their spoils for themselves.

But the death of journalism did not mark a victory for the Internet.

In fact, when the Internet and social media’s fortunes tumble in 2018, it will be precisely because it killed off journalism.

How so?

There is an old Serbian proverb:

Ко другоме јаму копа сам у њу пада.

Simply put, people who make traps for other people, fall into them instead. The Internet has not educated people. They have, most charitably, miseducated them with rote behaviour, turning people into reactionary animals, who do not see what has happened to them.

The problem becomes when people realize that their fortunes will not improve, and that their Twitter tantrums will have no long-term effects as the outrage brings back diminished returns, there will be a void.

#MeToo may very well be the vehicle that hastens social media’s effectiveness as a weapon because expectations are high, but the ones who preyed upon their employees still have the funds, means, experience, and connections to form a counter-attack, and people do not have the patience for a protracted battle played out in public.

They want a contrived resolution, and then just forget about it.

And for people who were brave enough to speak out, the feelings will be painful, and then wonder what is the recourse now?

If you can’t get what you want on the Internet, what’s left?

And you can’t get what you need or want on the Internet aside from a few trinkets you can order.

IV

The Internet is a medium that is destroying livelihoods, and attention spans. It wastes time on life-sinks, but for whatever time and resources it pretends to save us, it squanders it on things that are even more wasteful.

When the super-rich become the ultra-rich, and you are sleeping in your car with your doctorate in the trunk, you think it’s just you.

But you can rant about Net Neutrality on your smart phone as you follow Jeff Bezos on Twitter.

Journalism has done not a thing to counter this sanctioned insanity, keeping too many delusions in place.

So why is #MeToo in danger of backfiring?

Because journalism’s old narrative techniques have been used to tell this story, but the Internet is not equipped to handle it.

With too many splinter groups and micro-special interests who all expect to be taken as seriously as anyone else, everything spirals out of control at a much faster pace.

If everyone is a special interest, the Majority does not exist.

And then you are raging at no one in particular.

When a void meets an echo chamber, you have essentially place where you have given it your best and strongest hit, and lost every erg of your energy with zero to show for it.

And the Internet promised the opposite. It is typical bait and switch.

When people realize they are addicted to a nothing, the disillusionment turns into a different kind of rage because no one wants to be played for a fool.

Trump used Twitter to own the White House, and Twitter was supposed to be reserved for the little people to make themselves important and standout.

But then another billionaire got what he wanted, and they never will.

Even that dream is gone.

Just as journalists are throwing temper tantrums, so to are those social media addicts who shake in their boots that the end of Net Neutrality will mean their delusions will be proved to be just that.

The problem will be a complicated one: people will want to hold on to their illusions of being their own broadcaster, but they will not have the tools or know-how to actually be informed.

They allowed local information venues to be decimated, thinking that in order to look important and learned, you must solely concentrate on the “big” issues on a federal level, when they are being repeatedly abused at lower levels of government.

But we do not have journalists who are equipped or trained to gather information properly.

When national outlets keep botching up national stories, the writing is on the wall.

V

Regular citizens are now uninformed.

As in, reading so-called information, and not realizing they know absolutely nothing about everything.

They spew opinions that are meaningless because they have absolutely no idea of what is happening. They do not know their city’s own by-laws. They do not know what laws their governments are enacting. They do not know how their town’s wealthiest citizens are really making their fortunes.

It is catching up to North America fast, but if something strikes North American fortunes, other countries will not benefit from it, either, even if they believe that they will.

News gathering is an essential service, but not in its current rancid form. Something far more sensible needs to replace all those impossible temper tantrums that sound just as ignorant as someone’s Facebook feed.

For a new form of news-gathering requires to counter the rigs set by social media, that benefits no one but those who run it.

The Internet robber barons destroyed journalism in order to be top dog, but the Internet itself is a grifter’s medium: it took the deceptive parts of television news (such as the illusion that an anchor or reporter is in your home looking you in the eye) — and used it to create an even more deceptive world.

When the very rigs of social media are challenged effectively, only then can a new form of information-gathering take root and grow.

There is also an old Japanese proverb:

虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず

You have to go into the heart of darkness and danger to get that sacred cub — an uncorrupted opportunity to begin again. The tiger will try to maul you — but you cannot get to the cub any other way.

But in this case, society needs to do this twice over: to find the cub that will provide the proper medium to disseminate information, and the one that provides the method to do this properly.

Journalism is dead, and social media’s fortunes are on shakier ground than people realize. It is only an illusion that is in an inevitable force that cannot be defeated or made to bow.

Hillary Clinton tried that invincible gambit in 2016. It didn’t work for her, either.

And just as Clinton believed she had power to reach out to people, those who use the same platforms to spew their vitriol think they are reaching out and will cling on to that delusion until that delusion bites them in the face with contempt.

VI

People are going to keep turning up their noses at any new form of journalism or medium so long as their illusion of power remains unchallenged, but when a high-profile movement such as #MeToo begins to splutter or peter out, and workplaces become unchanged or worse than before, the memories of the short-term highs will be replaced with long-term reality.

And with actresses threatening to make a mockery of the movement by voguing in black at the Golden Globes, the critical changing of laws and regulations get pushed back.

And ultimately be left untouched until predators see what happened to their predecessors, and then lobby governments to give them more control; so that another #MeToo doesn’t make trouble for them.

As you are fuming at me, you may be wondering why I am writing this on the Internet.

You obviously haven’t been paying attention or actually read a word I wrote. You missed the subtext entirely as you were too busy stewing at the reality and truths you fear the most.

That is your problem, not mine.

Journalism also threw fits when people like me told it to their faces that if they didn’t face problems head on, that they were going to implode.

Denial saves no one.

And that’s why 2017 marked the first anniversary of the death of journalism.

And 2018 will spread the fatal disease to the Internet.

And I won’t be sitting around doing nothing about it.

My experimental odyssey has just about wrapped up this phase. It’s time to tackle social media — and by extension — Internet rigs so that people hold no illusions, to make a better kind of news production thrive.

We don’t just need better information. We need better factual literacy that makes people recoil at littering their Facebook walls with propaganda posters with pretend facts that they just posted without verifying. People on the Left do as do people on the Right.

Those two factions have a lot in common.

And both are factually malnourished.

The Internet did nothing to inform or educate a populace.

And neither did journalism.

But while journalism always made it clear that citizens did not know everything, were not perfect or all-powerful, and had to actually be informed and responsible, social media flat-out deceived them by telling them all of the knowledge they needed was magically there in front of them by a mere passive click, and they could know everything, and hence, needed nothing else.

Never in the history of mankind have we had so much reading, and so much output, and less reliable and valid information than we do now.

Someone can spew some sophistry about how perhaps I want people to think the way I do, but not at all.

I know there are a lot of things almost no one on the planet knows about — me included, and I really would like to be informed about it — I cannot have an opinion one way or another on things hidden from view because people are too busy clogging social media with their opinions on Star Wars and Fuller House — and starting flame wars because someone thinks it’s stupid to clog social media with that garbage — to notice or demand the voids be filled.

And we have nothing but voids.

That is the state of affairs for 2017.

While this is supposed to be the last written entry for me in a while (one more podcast to go, and a couple of surprises), I am off to my laboratory we call planet Earth to test not another theory, but a prototype.

Because it gets boring watching dominoes fall, and there are things to be built without the games or misdirections that covertly bring passive actions to us. The next wave to fall will be no different; and so, off to other places for a much-needed change of view.