Media malpractice like this didn’t trigger the collapse of traditional revenue models, but it’s hastening the job. Everyone wants everything for free now—news, music, movies, etc.—which means the companies don’t have any money to pay people to produce original work. None of this is anything you haven’t heard before, but it bears repeating. In order to make a living, those of us who had the bad sense to shackle ourselves to a career in media before that world ended have to churn out more content faster than ever to make up for the drastically reduced pay scale.
The majority of this epic whine-fest, which I found via Balloon Juice, is a lament over the lack of fact-checking that is apparently destroying all that is good in America. To which end, 2012 media company revenues:
Tribune Company: $3.145 billion
Condé Nast: £117.8m
NYT Company: $575.8 million
If they’re not paying their writers, it’s not because they’re broke. Stop listening to them when they bitch that they can’t afford you. They have no incentive to tell you the truth any more than any other entrenched power structure does. They have plenty of money. They’re just not spending it on you and you, Mr. Noble Skeptic, are buying their argument without looking at the numbers.
Christ, journalism was using the horseshit noble-poverty-of-the-artist “if you want to make money, do something else” dodge for decades before the Internet came along and made the argument even dumber.
This conflation of newsiness with news, share-worthiness with importance, has wreaked havoc on the media’s skepticism immune systems. It didn’t happen out of nowhere, it’s a process that’s been midwifed by the willful blurring of the lines between fact and fiction on the part of a key group of influential sites, that have, unfortunately, established a viable financial model amid the wreckage of traditional media. It’s why companies are so eager to shuffle native ads—content produced to appear as if it were a site’s regular content—into the regular mix. They’re hoping we won’t know the difference. They’re right, we often don’t. That’s part of the reason native advertising revenues are up 77 percent this year, according to a new study by BIA/Kelsey. There are practically no consequences anymore.
What the fuck is a “skepticism immune system?” And how did it atrophy all by itself? Way to let people off the goddamn hook. It’s not that a number of human beings took a look at their bullshit detectors and decided there were no profit centers there, and then made the choice to be irresponsible assholes, no.
It’s that some kind of gullibility virus tore through America’s newsrooms and there was no vaccine. It was a spontaneous event. Nobody could have stopped it, so nobody is to blame. Except the Interwebs.
Yes, newspapers have long printed lifestyle puff pieces next to hard news, but the analogy between that practice and the current model doesn’t hold. As someone who’s written hundreds of newspaper entertainment pieces in my day, I can tell you they still, thankfully, do not take inaccuracies lightly, even minor ones.
HAVE YOU NEVER GOTTEN SOMETHING WRONG ONLINE? God Almighty, a hundred people will e-mail you if you make a typo, just for the pleasure of pointing out how bad you are at this. Instead of one fact-checking copy editor who has a thousand stories to do that night and isn’t getting paid a fraction of what she deserves, you have a thousand of them, they’re pissed off all the time, and they LIVE to tell people how they fucked up.
Having been on the internet since the olden days of the early 2000s, one of the great values of political blogging was its ability to point out inaccuracy and lack of accountability in traditional media, when appeals to this apparently long-gone sense of noble truth went absolutely bugfucking nowhere. But I guess because 20 people shared something bogus on Twitter, that value’s gone up in smoke.
Look. Nobody died because people — like me, I admit — really thought that guy’s Twitter fight with Pace Salsa was real. Thousands did die, however, because the Old Media New York Times Kingdom of Miraculously Well Researched Stories that Stand For All We Have Lost gleefully republished every single bit of bullshit churned out by the Bush Administration. People’s privacy rights have been gutted by reporters’ willingness to swallow whole the justifications of the Obama Administration for every shady trick the NSA pulls, and people have been blown up at wedding parties because far too many of us think that’s just the price you have to pay to keep terrorists from our shores.
Get back to me when a fake viral video does worse than point out to your entire family that your one cousin is a total moron.