Modern Journalism And Its Discontents


What if what we want the most—what we crave—is not the content of the news itself, with its inevitable biases towards or against one’s personal point of view? What if, instead, we merely want to know that new content has arrived, shortly followed by the Pavlovian ecstasy of clicking? Something that lights up in our brains: “just in,” “breaking news,” “exclusive,” “shocking.”

And then: the automatic reaction, the raw reaction. We might not have read most of the story. We might not have even clicked through the story, choosing instead to glance at the headline and perhaps an image on our feed.

How many times has the headline been enough—and yet we were to learn, in the hours and minutes that follow, that we misinterpreted said story, or merely that the entire thing was invented from whole cloth?

Would propagandists not get hip to the fact that today’s humans more often than not like to consume their media in exactly this fashion?

The news is more often than not consumed as entertainment. And it is more often than that prepared as entertainment. And the journalist who deigns to present upon a plate of spartan honesty The Actual News, divested of entertainment, is more often than not resented. And more often than that such a journalist finds it hard to pay his or her rent, and more often than even that he or she becomes so under threat by this or that unamused entity that inevitably the journalist must seek some sort of covert patron.

In this type of environment, those who wear their biases on their sleeves, who admit the necessity of the entertainment factor (perhaps with a sardonic twinkle in their eye and a resigned shrug of their shoulders), who publicly recognize their feudal lords with all the transparency of an old-time radio announcer hawking a pack of cigarettes…with them, at least I know what I’m getting.

With the rest…with the seeming selfless journalistic martyr, with the possible reporter-slash-saint…it risks tripping off my True Believer feels. And that cannot happen again.