Author Topic: Journalist Kai Nagata has quit his job -- and he wants you to know why  (Read 3126 times)

Telarus

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http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/media-watch/2011/07/journalist-kai-nagata-has-quit-his-job-and-he-wants-you-know-why


Great article picking apart modern TV journalism.
Quote
...
Human beings don't always like good nourishment. We seem to love white sugar, and unless we understand why we feel nauseated and disoriented after binging on sweets, we'll just keep going. People like low-nutrition TV, too. And that shapes the internal, self-regulated editorial culture of news.

Take newsroom aesthetics as an example. I admit felt a profound discomfort working in an industry that so casually sexualizes its workforce. Every hiring decision is scrutinized using a skewed, unspoken ratio of talent to attractiveness, where attractiveness often compensates for a glaring lack of other qualifications. The insecurity, self doubt, and body-image issues endured by otherwise confident, intelligent journalists would break your heart. And clearly there's a double standard, a split along gender lines. But in an environment where a lot of top executives are women, what I'm talking about applies to men as well. The idea has taken root that if the people reporting the news look like your family and neighbours, instead of Barbie and Ken, the station will lose viewers.

The problem with the CBC:

Aside from feeling sexually attracted to the people on screen, the target viewer, according to consultants, is also supposed to like easy stories that reinforce beliefs they already hold. This is where the public broadcaster is caught in a tough spot. CBC Television, post-Stursberg, is failing in two ways. Despite modest gains in certain markets, (and bigger gains for reality shows like Dragon's Den and Battle of the Blades) it's still largely failing to broadcast to the public. More damnably, the resulting strategy is now to compete with for-profit networks for the lowest hanging fruit. In this race to the bottom, the less time and money the CBC devotes to enterprise journalism, the less motivation there is for the private networks to maintain credibility by funding their own investigative teams. Even then, "consumer protection" content has largely replaced political accountability.

It's a vicious cycle, and it creates things like the Kate and Will show. Wall-to-wall, breaking-news coverage of a stage-managed, spoon-fed celebrity visit, justified by the couple's symbolic relationship to a former colony, codified in a document most Canadians have never read (and one province has never signed). On a weekend where there was real news happening in Bangkok, Misrata, Athens, Washington, and around the world, what we saw instead was a breathless gaggle of normally credible journalists, gushing in live hit after live hit about how the prince is young and his wife is pretty. And the public broadcaster led the charge.

Aside from being overrun by "Action News" prophets from Iowa, the CBC has another problem: the perception that it's somehow a haven for left-wing subversives. True or not, the CBC was worried enough about its pinko problem to commission an independent audit of its coverage, in which more consultants tried to quantify "left-wing bias" and, presumably using stopwatches, demonstrate that the CBC gives the Conservative government airtime commensurate with the proportion of seats it holds in the House of Commons. Or something like that.

Jon Stewart talks about a "right-wing narrative of victimization," and what it has accomplished in Canada is the near-paralysis of progressive voices in broadcasting. In the States, even Fox News anchor Chris Wallace admitted there is an adversarial struggle afoot -- that, in his view, networks like NBC have a "liberal" bias and Fox is there to tell "the other side of the story." Well, Canada now has its Fox News. Krista Erickson, Brian Lilley, and Ezra Levant each do a wonderful send-up of the TV anchor character. The stodgy, neutral, unbiased broadcaster trope is played for jokes before the Sun News team gleefully rips into its targets. But Canada has no Jon Stewart to unravel their ideology and act as a counterweight. Our satirists are toothless and boring, with the notable exception of Jean-René Dufort. And on the more serious side, we have no Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow. So I don't see any true debate within the media world itself, in the sense of a national, public clash of ideas. The Canadian right wing, if you want to call it that, has had five years to get the gloves off. With a majority Conservative government in power, they're putting on brass knuckles. Meanwhile the left is grasping about in a pair of potholders. The only explanation I can think of is they're too polite, or too scared. If it's the latter, I think it's clear enough why.
...
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Another reason why I hate television.

Cain

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This is the cancer at the heart of news reporting.  Not "libertard/conservatard media bias" (barring FOX), not "the manufacturing of consent" and not even evil reptilian shapeshifters from the 4th dimension trying to keep Teh People down.

Nick Davies, who is currently ripping Rupert Murdoch and News International a new asshole over the phone-hacking scandal, lays this all out quite clearly in his book Flat Earth News, published way back in 2007.

The problem comes down to this: news is a business.  In the past, making a profit was an acceptable, nay, good business practice.  Nowadays, you have to bring back increasing profits every financial quarter.

What this means is, is that you have to do more work than ever, relying on less people than ever, shifting more stories than ever.  You're instantly reacting, instantly passing along the key information, writing it up and getting it on the screen and on the website.  And you gotta do it, in many cases, in 10 minutes or less.  No time for introspection.  No time for fact-checking - just trust the newswire and whoever their source is, even though newswires openly state they do not undertake fact-checking of any kind.  Don't follow-up, or do an in depth report - you've got another 15000 stories pilling up in your inbox!

So you gotta grab market share.  That means you have to make the news stories dumb.  You've gotta pander to this view of the "stereotypical, average viewer", which is often an offensive atrocity in and of itself.  You gotta slot the story into neat little worldviews.

You end up telling people what they want to hear, rather than what people actually need to know, because, as Kai says, people love white sugar, not nutritionally balanced diets.

And all this allows the news to be manipulated by people who are politically motivated, who are passing disinformation down the line, who are looking to make a buck off your ignorance.  Newswire gets a story from an "anonymous White House source".  They write it up.  They pass it along the line.  The newspapers pick it up uncritically and published it.  Did anyone check the source's information, whether or not this source has a history of passing along good, solid information, whether they're a political appointee with an axe to grind?  Fuck no.  And that's how you end up slipping in bullshit about WMDs and fictitious terrorists into the mainstream media and thus nationa consciousness.

Throw into the mix a politically motivated station who uses controversy and inflammatory tactics to drive up their viewer numbers, and you have the Perfect Storm of Media Dumbassery.  They're chasing numbers, that's all.  Newspaper sales and viewers.  They'll do whatever it takes to get them because that's what brings in that quarterly growth.  And if they have to ape the tactics of a station that is patently a political disinfo outlet to do it, they will.

CREAM, baby, is what explains the media.  Understand the business model, understand the game.

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Well said, Cain.

CREAM? Is that an acronym? I wiki'd it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CREAM
CREAM (Cognitive Reliability Error Analysis Method) is a human reliability analysis technique developed by Erik Hollnagel. It is a bi-directional analysis method, meant to be used for both performance prediction and accident analysis. Unlike first generation error analysis methods like THERP, CREAM represents a second generation tool allowing for better analysis by abandoning the hierarchical structure of previous methods and providing better separation between objective and subjective error.


It seems related, but reading the rest of the wikipedia article, I can't quite figure out how (since it seems to be oriented at industrial processes), which party applies it, or is supposed to apply it?


(aside, I like how the previous generation analysis is called THERP, it's probably based on instances of HERP and DERP :) )
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INFORMATION SO POWERFUL, YOU ACTUALLY NEED LESS.

Cain

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I was thinking more Wu-tang "Cash Rules Everything Around Me", but I suppose that might work as well.

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Well said.
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This is the cancer at the heart of news reporting.  Not "libertard/conservatard media bias" (barring FOX), not "the manufacturing of consent" and not even evil reptilian shapeshifters from the 4th dimension trying to keep Teh People down.

Nick Davies, who is currently ripping Rupert Murdoch and News International a new asshole over the phone-hacking scandal, lays this all out quite clearly in his book Flat Earth News, published way back in 2007.

The problem comes down to this: news is a business.  In the past, making a profit was an acceptable, nay, good business practice.  Nowadays, you have to bring back increasing profits every financial quarter.

What this means is, is that you have to do more work than ever, relying on less people than ever, shifting more stories than ever.  You're instantly reacting, instantly passing along the key information, writing it up and getting it on the screen and on the website.  And you gotta do it, in many cases, in 10 minutes or less.  No time for introspection.  No time for fact-checking - just trust the newswire and whoever their source is, even though newswires openly state they do not undertake fact-checking of any kind.  Don't follow-up, or do an in depth report - you've got another 15000 stories pilling up in your inbox!

So you gotta grab market share.  That means you have to make the news stories dumb.  You've gotta pander to this view of the "stereotypical, average viewer", which is often an offensive atrocity in and of itself.  You gotta slot the story into neat little worldviews.

You end up telling people what they want to hear, rather than what people actually need to know, because, as Kai says, people love white sugar, not nutritionally balanced diets.

And all this allows the news to be manipulated by people who are politically motivated, who are passing disinformation down the line, who are looking to make a buck off your ignorance.  Newswire gets a story from an "anonymous White House source".  They write it up.  They pass it along the line.  The newspapers pick it up uncritically and published it.  Did anyone check the source's information, whether or not this source has a history of passing along good, solid information, whether they're a political appointee with an axe to grind?  Fuck no.  And that's how you end up slipping in bullshit about WMDs and fictitious terrorists into the mainstream media and thus nationa consciousness.

Throw into the mix a politically motivated station who uses controversy and inflammatory tactics to drive up their viewer numbers, and you have the Perfect Storm of Media Dumbassery.  They're chasing numbers, that's all.  Newspaper sales and viewers.  They'll do whatever it takes to get them because that's what brings in that quarterly growth.  And if they have to ape the tactics of a station that is patently a political disinfo outlet to do it, they will.

CREAM, baby, is what explains the media.  Understand the business model, understand the game.

:potd:
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I have often though "free enterprise" and "market share" are the root of all evil for any public good--education, health care and yes, even the news, are all RUINED FOR GOOD when you add capitalism to the mix.  People in the service sector become so much more involved in the bottom line than they do in producing a quality service that is unbiased, meets the needs of most without screwing over the least...etc. etc.

Very good post, Cain.

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I'm not sure, but I think even Adam Smith said that some things were better off NOT being market driven.

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Capitalism per se isn't the problem - it's the relentless drive for increasing profits, a perculiar aspect and pre-occupation with neoliberal capitalism as it exists in the Anglophone world.  It's no good earning 3% profit this year, if you earnt 3.1% profits last year.  It's perfectly possible to make money and provide accurate, incisive reporting....the problem is, is that it is so far now it tends to be the preserve of political forecasting sites which you cannot afford.  Precisely because accurate, incisive reporting is so rare (and there is a fair share of misreporting in that world as well, though nowhere near the level of petty, all pervasive corruption, nonsense and lies in the mainstream media), it commands a hefty market price.  You wont get The Truth for 50 pence, or paid for by General Electric and Betchel adverts.

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Nothing with an "ism" in the name is practical. Communism, capitalism, socialism, fuck, even good old fashioned fascism - all perfectly fine on paper but you can't run these systems without a certain amount of human beings added into the mix. Soon as you do that your system becomes utterly un-workable. Human beings will find a way to game any system. That's why the best ones function more with the emphasis on practical damage limitation - forget about how it's going to work (little or no relevance) and instead concentrate on ironing out as many loopholes and obvious exploits as you can and hope you can stave off the inevitable - blindly following an egregore - for a couple of hours or so (in my opinion the best you could ever hope for)
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I'm not sure, but I think even Adam Smith said that some things were better off NOT being market driven.
dunno who adam smith is but he sounds like a socialist
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I'm up to my arse in Brexit Numpties, but I want more.  Target-rich environments are the new sexy.
Not actually a meat product.
Ass-Kicking & Foot-Stomping Ancient Master of SHIT FUCK FUCK FUCK
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Octomom Auxillary Heat Exchanger Repairman
walking the fine line line between genius and batshit fucking crazy

"computation is a pattern in the spacetime arrangement of particles, and it’s not the particles but the pattern that really matters! Matter doesn’t matter." -- Max Tegmark