The Great Media Failure and the 5th estate’s revolution

By Seth J. Frantzman

Two percent of the reason for Hillary Clinton’s defeat by Donald Trump was due to “fake news, 2% the death of real journalism in favor of reality TV,”  wrote one person on Facebook. US President Barack Obama, in Germany meeting with Angela Merkel, derided the “spread of fake news.”

Not everyone agrees fake news is the problem. “The American media -the dominant liberal media with all its great and reporters and commentators – failed completely to predict the result of the US presidential election,” wrote Kobi Niv. He argued that media prefers politicians who are “one of us” and that “the media predicted what it hoped would happen, which is malfeasance; after all, its role is to report and analyze what’s happening in reality.”

Paul Farhi thinks that people shouldn’t even refer to “the media” as the media. “Fact is, there really is no such thing as ‘the media.’ It’s an invention, a tool, an all-purpose smear by people who can’t be bothered to make distinctions.” There’s no media because its too large a universe to generalize about. “There are hundreds of broadcast and cable TV networks, a thousand or so local TV stations, a few thousand magazines and newspapers, several thousand radio stations and roughly a gazillion websites, blogs, newsletters and podcasts. There’s also Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and who knows what new digital thing.” His conclusion; “With so many sources, one-size-fits-all reporting is impossible…There is no media in the sense of a conspiracy to tilt perception.”

But of course there is a media and its large narratives have impact. Compare the number of times the word “chaos” was used in a headline by major media on October 17-18 relating to the Trump transition.  “Trump transition chaos (Vanity Fair),” “transition chaos continues (The Guardian),” “chaos reigns on the top floor (The Independent).” The story about “fake news” is a large narrative.  Few people talked about “fake news” until after November 10. Journalists spread narratives because they don’t want to ask too many questions, they receive orders from their editors to write about them and they often borrow their framework from other reporters.  That’s why the same story will appear in slightly altered form at numerous major media outlets. Ironically the larger the media the organization, the less likely it is to have an original take on a subject. That’s a great media failure.


Life in Aleppo is “vibrant,” or is it?

Why the media gets it wrong

On November 10 the New York Times International edition ran a story by Anne Barnard about the “functional, vibrant society” in Aleppo. The same Aleppo that CNN said was being hit by bombs which “fell like rain” on November 17. A children’s hospital was hit by an airstrike. Part of the city has been reduced to rubble, a million of its inhabitants, from the city and its environs, have fled and become refugees, many of them in Europe or Turkey. So how was it also a “functional” and “vibrant” society.

It was both a city under airstrikes, and one where someone might want to spend a vacation, because the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad was working to burnish his image after five years of brutal civil war that had resulted in more than 500,000 deaths and 11 million displaced people in Syria. What Lee Smith called the “grotesque PR coup,” was pulled off “by corralling a number of prominent American journalists from outlets like The New York Times, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker to participate in a conference designed to legitimize the rule of Syria’s genocidal head of state.”

The journalists enjoyed the junket and a conference where regime heavies and intelligence officials spoke. “Pictures of journalists being fed lavishly in the middle of Damascus—perhaps courtesy of the Syrian regime—as Assad and his allies starved Syrian civilians close by might damage the reputations of those depicted in the photos,” noted Smith. Hashtagged “good times” and “journalism”, Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker, Nabih Bulos and others were smiling and enjoying the luxury. It’s not the first time of course that a regime like Assad’s wined and dined journalists. It’s not the first junket to a place like Saudi Arabia or Iran. It’s not the first time journalists pretended they were doing “reporting” while minders stood next to them, making sure they only see the good parts of a country and don’t meet with any dissidents. In so doing these media who are granted access help launder the narrative of the worst regimes. One writer, not on the junket, even highlighted a gay bar in Damascus, as if one bar somehow counterbalances the rest of what’s happening in the country.  In the Assad junket the only journalist to pay a price for involvement was Rania Khalek who was pushed out of Electronic Intifada for attending after a campaign against her participation. The least well known of the journalists, writing for the least important venue was the one who paid the price for attending an Assad image laundry, while major media helped manufacture a more positive image of the regime.

That’s a classic failure of journalism. Democratic countries are subjected to withering criticism, media reveals the open sores of the open society, while the same exact journalist working in a closed environment will refuse to present criticism, and will trade access for beautified accounts.


A lot of “chaos” in these headlines

At the heart of the reason for consistent media failure is the nature of the work. There are a limited number of media venues and they can all be classified by type. There is a tendency to think that the number of outlets is sort of endless, a whole universe that is unapproachable, a “mystery” because it is so big. But every country has it’s top national print newspapers, and top magazines (news related). Among the largest in the world is Yomiuri Shimbun and Bild.  The Sun in the UK has a circulation of 1.8 million and The Wall Street Journal tops 2 million. Some countries have an extraordinary number of newspapers and readers, for instance the 62,000 Indian newspapers have more than 300 million in circulation, while China tops 90 million.

Print edition newspapers often maintain robust websites that are tethered to what appears in print.  When one looks at where people get their information though, websites such as Yahoo, Google News, Huffington Post, CNN and the New York Times, FoxNews, NBC, the Mail Online, Washington Post and the Guardian round out the top 10 (in English) with between 42 and 172 million unique monthly visitors. Cable and TV news such As FoxNews, MSNBC, CNN, receive around  1 to 2 million viewers in their primetime slots. Around 2.5 million people watch Al-Jazeera on Youtube every month but it supposedly has up to 35 million people watching its nightly programming (Arabic). Russia’s RT, which is in English, claims to have reached up to 700 million and receive 8 million viewers a week.

That’s the playing field: Print media, TV, online media, and of course radio where millions tune in to listen to talk show hosts, some of whom focus on news and politics. There is a lot of synergy and multi-level aspects to these media operations.  So a show host like Bill O’Reilly might have its cable TV element, an online element and a radio show.

But once we understand that the media empires are actually quite limited in total numbers, we need to see failure in media as a product not so much of concentration but the nature of the work.  A classic print publication for instance has a limited staff of beat reporters. Some of them are in the field, some of them are stationed in one place and cover a huge region. They don’t have enough travel expenses, and their ability to work slowly and methodically on stories is curtailed by the need to produce breaking news. The world of media is therefore much smaller than it appears. If there is a major media event takes place, such as the battle for Mosul, journalists will attempt to get there. Because some journalists are already there, there is a snowball affect, where editors wonder why their beat reporters aren’t rushing to the scene. “I’m working on a story about Yemen at the moment.”  Well, sorry, the story today is Mosul, go there. There is always the ease of access question as well.  Mosul offensive is relatively easy to cover. You can fly into Erbil in Kurdistan, and be at the front in a few hours. Kurdistan is a liberal, open, society, so you can report what you want and bed down in a nice hotel and go drinking with your colleagues. There is wi-fi. To get to Raqqa to cover the offensive there is logistically different.

A classic example of where media fails in this respect is covering the war between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which re-ignited in 2015. When journalists are arrested for trying to cover the conflict, and when getting to the area is difficult or impossible without government supervision, it presents such a headache and roadblock that it isn’t worth it for news organizations. Even when there were reports out of Cizre, one could tell the journalists relied on the government narrative, lest their return trip be jeopardized. Stories like these should come with a disclosure on them, that the journalist could not travel where they wanted, but that would preclude the journalist’s desire to pretend their reports are unfettered and unfiltered. The fact that major media, such as BBC and CNN also maintain a local branch in Turkey means they have vested economic interests in not rocking the boat(CNN Türk andBBC Türkçe, BBC Türkçe has 2.5 million Twitter followers whereas BBC Breaking has 26 million). To pretend that this does’t color coverage would be naive.

It’s not a conspiracy that more reporters want to cover Mosul or want to cover events in Ramallah, then they want to cover the war on Boko Haram or the conflict in Somalia or Burma. Logistics and ease of access tell the whole story. And there are questions of audience. Does the audience care about killings in a town whose name they can’t pronounce in the Congo, or in Italy? So there is a reason that when BBC or France24 report on Africa there reports don’t look the same as those on Europe. The don’t have the same serious approach to the subjects.  Rarely do they report about politics, preferring instead reports about novel, “exotic”, local endeavors. A person might spend their whole life reading some of these major media and never learn anything about politics in Laos or Senegal.

And then there is language. If a country is a more open society, with an established group of local fixers, more journalists are likely to go there. Who can penetrate northern Nigeria? Who can even begin to write about Tajikistan? There is no local infrastructure for journalists in some countries, it is incredibly unsafe, there is no access, there is a hostile local government. No one is going to cover it.

There are also diminishing returns for covering conflicts that no one is interested in. Why assign a journalist to a place where the interest in that area is in question, when there is a known quantity at the doorstep.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in this regard. Place that are popular will remain popular.  Why are they famous?  Because they are famous. So they are famous for being famous. Therefore they must be covered. If no one has ever covered a place like Oman before, then who can someone rely on to begin covering it.  It’s like poking around in the dark and for editors and writers, there is no point.

This is why we end up with a mountain of reports on the same places by the same people. Many of these journalists know eachother and some of them even come from the same monochrome socio-economic, social and ethnic background. They went to the same schools, they worked together in other organizations.  They are part of a fraternity.  And these fraternities can be brutal to those who either critique them, or are seen as betraying them.  That doesn’t mean there are not two schools of thought on issues, like Syria, with a coterie of journalists who are basically spokespeople for the Syrian rebels, groupies as some call them, and those who are groupies for the regime. But they all see themselves as independent of course. Each group has its narratives.

Media often fails because of its tendency to lazily quote the same spokespeople and experts again and again. Several years ago when the issue of the Negev bedouin in Israel was the issue to write about, numerous articles all appeared with the same man from the same village as a symbol of the entire struggle between 50,000 bedouin in unrecognized villages and the state. Labad Abu-Afash and Wadi al-Na’am, was quoted again and again by NGOs and media. Many reports also liked to remark on the ironic view of “high-voltage power lines also cut above the village from a nearby power station,” while the village itself was not being served by them. A great motif. The same, everyone has to report on this, story surrounded a bedouin school built out of tires near Jerusalem. To understand why every report focuses on the same person and same place, one only has to look to the ease of getting there. The village has an amicable spokesperson, he works with a local NGO, such as Rabbis for Human Rights, when media want to report about the issue, they all turn to the same NGO and to the same person and the same place and give the same narrative motif.  When their editor asks them to get the “other side,” they also get the same quote from the same Israel government spokesperson or the same “right wing NGO.”  For freelancers, able to try to find an original angle, even they are curtailed by travel expenses and other issues.  Why not do basically the same report but sell it to a place that hasn’t “discovered” this story yet. Editors in media rarely dismiss a story because every other organization already quoted the same NGO, instead their view is “why don’t we have this story, go get it.” 

NGOs have a cozy relationship with media that perpetuates the failure. Often an NGO spokesperson will personally know writers who cover the beat that the NGO is involved in. When the NGO wants media coverage it sends a press release to the journalist.  For many journalists, pressed for time and resources, it is easiest to simply re-package the press release into a “news story” and launder the NGOs agenda.  Google “Amnesty Kurdish bulldoze” and you’ll find two rounds of stories based on Amnesty International Reports.  The more recent one relates to Kirkuk. There is no semblance of checking the facts or going to the sites that the NGO has claimed were bulldozed. There is rarely a media insider who will realize the pattern at Amnesty, which seems to have ignored the scale and extent of crimes by ISIS, but notices every home that Kurdish forces are accused of bulldozing. Part of this has to do with the playing field and lack of competition. For instance the civil rights group Memorial in Russia was often referenced in the early 2000s along with journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s work. In much the same way Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research is the go to for discussions of public opinion. That doesn’t mean these individuals or groups are wrong, but it means relying on only one source for creating a narrative about an issue or society is just a form of repackaging their work and allows one voice to dominate that narrative.

NGOs basically go fishing for media and then reel in the reporters. Very rarely do journalists wonder if they are being taken in by PR. For instance, is the NGO simply trying to raise awareness of itself and in so doing use media for free advertising so as to raise its profile and funding? Why is this a news story?  Didn’t this “unique event” that is being advertised take place before?  But NGOs provide maps, documents and information, they basically do the journalists’ jobs for them, and by doing so create a conflict of interest in their mutually beneficial embrace of reporters. This explains why so many news stories are based on a “report” that the journalist rarely verifies themselves, simply re-packaging an NGO’s documents.

When reporters or media need “experts” and “analysts” they also tend to dip from the same well again and again. The same think tank trots out its experts every week. Sometimes these experts are true experts with years of experience, producing excellent reports, such as Michael Knights.  There are many others who are hacks, who produce the same dog-eared analysis again and again and haven’t been in the field or talked to the new players in years or decades.  Their view of the situation in a place such as Iran might be based on expertise gained twenty years ago. Yet they still appear on programs discussing what is happening in Iran today. Their sources long-ago dried up and they stopped doing original research, but filtered through them we “understand” Iran.

The plethora of security experts and analysts that predominate in media cater to the requirement of reports to have “expert” quotes. When media cannot send reporters to the field, it relies on these armies of experts and their frequently simplistic narratives of events. They also tend to be consistently wrong.  Many of them are trained in departments of international relations or political science or have been through the same sausage-making factory that creates encapsulated paradigms. In the old days they might have told us that violence in Nigeria was economically based, and then later it might have been “tribal” and today it is religious-sectarian. Remember in 2012 when Jean Herskovits, a professor at SUNY, claimed there was “no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today.” Except it did exist. There was proof. Relying on “experts” leads to media often getting the story wrong. By laundering experts into stories and taking their agenda and views, their views can become “face” rather than what they are, the personal opinion of someone who may have only limited and very biased knowledge of a subject. Even when not relying on NGOs and “experts,” journalists can concoct complex narratives relying on local security sources that bare no connection to reality. A case in point was the “Iran land corridor” case, a fantastic theory about Iran’s “road to the sea” via Iraq and Syria.  The writer never even wondered why Iran needs a path to the sea in an era of air travel.


What drives media today?


What if we only relied on old media?

There is a romance associated with old media, a reverence for its willingness to “speak truth to power.” Films such as Spotlight or Good Night (2015), Good Luck (2005) provided an idealized model of old media. In this depiction the media is dogged at defending civil liberties and speaking up to large and powerful interests, such as politicians or the church. In these stories the reporter has access to endless resources and despite facing some pushback, pushes forward with support of editors and comes out on top. In a second narrative is the lonely reporter out for the truth as shown in Kill the Messenger (2014) which depicted the story of Gary Webb and his work at the San Jose Mercury News.

The gist is that professional media in the old days stood up to special interests and worked for the public good. But the reality of old media was that despite its devotion to being critical or speaking truth to power, it primarily spoke truth with a narrow consensus-driven model. It was uncritically critical.  It critiqued big government and corruption and stood with the “little guy” when that was the consensus.  Most of the time it was closely intwined with presenting a moderate, centrist, often center-left, agenda.  There are many things that curtail the old media’s ability to navigate to much.  There are corporate interests and communal interests. On the positive side large media giants have the wherewithal to withstand lawsuits. But they have a tendency towards absolute groupthink, a kind of regression toward the mean. During the recent election in the US in which almost all major media got the story wrong, a senior editor at the Huffington Post claimed that pollster Nate Silver was “unskewing the polls – all of them – in Trump’s direction.” He claimed that Silver was giving Trump “a heart-stopping 35 percent chance of winning as of this weekend.” Don’t worry, Ryan Grim assured his readers who he assumed were all Hillary Clinton supporters, “HuffPost Pollster is giving Clinton a 98 percent chance of winning.”

In 1988 Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky described mass media as Manufacturing Consent. In part they concluded that media “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion.”  This statement is largely correct but Chomsky is seen as aligned with a more left-wing critique.  The reality is that this model also works as a critique against the center-left consensus.  Consider the vast consensus among media professionals that Trump would lose. Trump received only a half dozen endorsements from newspapers in the US. Even before the election only seven percent of journalists identified as Republicans. However that doesn’t mean the other 93% are democrats, only around 30% say they are democrats.  Obviously most want to claim to be independent.  But the reality in most newsrooms is that open or quiet identification with the left, whether it is in France, the UK, Israel or the US, is normal.  The left is liberal, progressive and good, the right is nationalist, racist and bad. The kind of socio-economic classes that many journalists come from, more urban, liberal areas, find anything right wing objectionable. That doesn’t mean journalists never understand their political foes, or never attempt to understand poorer people or members of minority groups (most media in the West are not people of color). A New Yorker article in October went deep into “Trump country” in West Virginia. Had more people paid attention they might have seen the groundswell of forgotten man “silent majority” support that would help him win the election.

So yes, the media does manufacture consent, in a quiet, centrist, kind of way, it does so to the advantage of urban and more elite populations and is relatively close to the political consensus, or at least close to the more center-left consensus.  It doesn’t stray too far, because after all it wants readers.  More left wing media cater to their ideologues and the more right-leaning press cater to theirs.  No one consciously alienates.  To truly speak truth to power and be critical, one would have to alienate their readers from time to time by challenging sacred cows.

We are told that one of the “problems” today is that there are fake and misleading news, that “anyone” can write anything. Media complains that it can’t filter such things as Wikileaks to “explain” to readers what to make of them.  News flows on social media, on Facebook or Twitter.

This leaves us with the question: If we only followed old media, what would we know? We wouldn’t have the kind of crowd-sources reports that exist due to social media and videos posted by locals online.  We wouldn’t have have kind of excellent “citizen journalism” that Bellingcat has produced, documenting what may seem like marginal or case study-stories, that are of great importance for understanding the Syrian war. “We spend most of our time stumbling in the dark,” explains Marty Baron in Spotlight. In The Wire the computer used by Augustus Haynes has a quote on it saying “Many are trapped for hours in darkness and confusion.”

The reality is that without the 5th estate or new media and social media we would spend more of our time in the dark, focused only on the things that a small group of journalists have decided it is in the public interest to reveal. Part of the exasperation directed at Facebook. “Tiny handful of neo-feudalists is reaping profits on a scale that’s hard to imagine, while everyone else’s income is diminishing…The reason why this is happening right now is the invasive characteristics of the internet and technology giants, which have multidisciplinary levers of control that suck up wealth at a frenzied pace.” In this view “Social media has no connection at all to democracy; it’s business.”

But with only old media would we have had the Arab Spring, would we know what we do about destruction and curfews in eastern Turkey?  The fact is that in most cases major media don’t do due diligence in providing the public information, they often whitewash the regimes of dictators, and allow themselves do go on the kinds of junkets and PR tours that Assad offered the big players and which they leapt at the way fish leap at bait. You basically never hear a story of a journalist who refuses to report from a dictatorial system.  You never hear a story of major media being granted access and then having a huge disclosure above the subsequent stories about the minders that accompanied those like George Bernard Shaw in the Soviet Union in 1931.  In 1993 Robert Fisk told us that Osama Bin Laden was putting his “army on the road to peace.” He was probably planning attacks in Africa on the US at that very moment.

Major media fails the reader at all moments in predicting or creating the fertile soil for change. It repeats canards and almost never challenges it’s own entrenched views.  Writers, like Fisk, dominate newspapers for decades, being the voice on areas such as the Middle East.  The clientitis they have, often gleaned from years of work with locals who have their own agendas, become dyed-in-the-wool. Like those journalists who anchored their views of Iraq around Ahmed Chalabi, they focus their lens with their own problematic knowledge, filtered their their problematic sources. And readers see that as the way to understand massively complex countries undergoing great change. This doesn’t mean that whatever the prevailing narrative is that it is automatically wrong, as some extremists would say, that it’s all “enslaved to corporate interests (a simplistic nonsensical paradigm as well),” it means that one must recognize the limitations under which old media worked and not lionize the liberalizing of the marketplace as some sort of “loss.”  The old media is angry at its declining influence.  It wonders why bloggers, pundits and others are able to foist their views on massive audiences at places like Twitter, without being filtered by “professionals.” Politicians can also talk to audiences via social media, without the filter of what the media wants to shoehorn their views into. “Quality journalism matters now more than ever,” an advertisement at Tablet says. That’s true. Just don’t confuse “quality” with being a member of the old guard.


The road to peace for Bin Laden?

Barrier to entry

Even within a wider world of media, with so much online content and online-only publications, there are many barriers to entry. Some platforms have offered a model of blogging “free for alls”, such as places like Medium, and slightly more limited platforms where people can pitch their blogging ideas, such as The Huffington Post. There are a dozen major sites to create blogs on, such as WordPress.

This deluge of content loosely interfaces with professional media. The larger media still have relatively high barriers to entry. Freelancers have to work their endless pitches to even get editors to deign their ideas worth looking at.  Even then they face numerous barriers to getting anything published.  It doesn’t come down to them being great writers, or the content of their ideas or the access they have.  They might have all those things, they might be far better at them than the existing beat reporters at a website, but their ability to penetrate the world of journalism is still difficult. Original content doesn’t dictate access.  Great ideas don’t dictate access.

The mysteries of the gatekeepers to access are more subtle. Connections play a major role. In a complex, globalized world the necessity to have connections is more important than it might have been 100 or 200 years ago. Getting published at a legitimate platform is arguably more difficult. There is simply too much competition.  Universities are churning out more degrees than ever in history. 50,000 people a year are receiving a degree in journalism. There are 190,000 students enrolled. Ironically the people studying journalism are not always well suited to be journalists. Outside expertise would be better depending on what they intend to cover, and familiarity with history as a methodology would serve them better.

The reality is that for minorities, the poor, people living outside the West, those lacking connections, access to the world of journalism is more limited. There is limited space in the field. This results in the kind of group think that exists in much of the media, a bias towards the nature of the story, and a bias towards the kind of things that get written, in news departments and at oped desks.


The Fifth Estate

A concept of “fifth estate” journalism has emerged to contrast online media, bloggers and pundits, and those outside the mainstream with old media. The film about Wikileaks was titled The Fifth Estate. In 2011 online readership, and advertising that goes along with it, overtook print newspapers. Only 40% of people were getting news from print, while 46% were getting it online at least three times a week.  By 2015 the numbers of print readers had fallen an additional 25%. People were consuming online the way Americans consume fast food, with internet readership doubling.

With smart phone access to websites is not only easy but it is the natural go-to when there is downtown. At a stoplight, on the bus, over the dinner table. People in some countries, such as the UK, we spending up to 5 hours a day online, some or much of it looking at various types of media. They were on their phone for up to 3 hours. And that is increasing every year. Television addicts are becoming phone addicts. Since TVs were too hard to carry to work and in the car, it means basically entire days spent plugged into the net, and with it the online media.

Information spread through social media and coming from a more open-source style marketplace lends itself to the kind of clickbait and “fake news” that people have been complaining about. The BBC even has a quiz about “fake news.”  But one person’s fake news, might be another’s propaganda.  Is it the job of Facebook or Google to decide what is “truth.”  For years tabloids fed people fake news about freaks and mutants.  So the sudden zeal to regulate it is a bit far-fetched and disingenuous.  Major media, by quote Assad’s intelligence officials, are feeding us fake news.

The reality is that even today with so much information, there still are not enough websites to generate original content.  People are still shoehorned easily into narratives that are deeply influenced by the mainstream media. Almost all media fail to provide readers with a truly deep viewing experience that combines the potential for multi-media online. Where are the infographics, the video, the photos, the long-form stories and think-pieces.  Why is online media still tethered to the 500-900 word article, when it has an endless depth online to provide more. Why aren’t stories interactive.  Why are we still basically reading a broadsheet online.  Some of this relates to the issue of “the medium is the message,” popularized by Marshall McLuhan.

Our new medium, despite the explosion of online readership and the amount of time spent online, is still stuck in an almost 1990s format, which means it is stuck basically in print. Resources are not invested in re-designing platforms or creating inventive uses for embedding multi-media or interactive displays. Platforms are stuck in click-through page after page. There is still self-censorship online and also a lack of resources to create the kinds of platforms and experimentations in content that should have come with the last decade. News gathering is still not doing enough to make use of locals and local journalists. It is tethered to a primarily “professional” staff with use of freelancers often from the West.

There should be a breakthrough in content.  But we have not figured out how to use the synergies that are possible, to combine the existing content from local bloggers with mass media, and culling the biased experts who feed us paradigms from a decade ago.  We have not broken through into the next stage of new media, using open sources the way they should be. For instance few journalists ever even look at Wikileaks when researching US policy in places like Iraq, they only look at it to write a story “about” Wikileaks.  They don’t understand that the information there is background for news stories. They don’t make use enough of local writers and photographers.  The blog Mosul Eye received coverage, but rather than rewarding a local journalist it became the story, an lazy way to repeat the mistakes of the past.

When we talk about media failure in things such as the US election, we look for the wrong scapegoats.  The scapegoat is not fake news, it isn’t even the failure to understand “rural people,” it’s far deeper than that. Getting to the bottom of the series of media failures at the heart of today is essential for the next generation.





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