Why this site is called “Pornewsgraphy”

This piece was originally posted October 1, 2020 and updated slightly in May 2022; it is permanently affixed to the top of this blog for the benefit of newcomers.

Given the provocative title on the site, a note of explanation is warranted.

Media bashing has been trendy for a very long time. While it has certainly gone to new heights in the age of Trump, it would be historically ignorant to suggest that this trend began in 2015 when Donald Trump came down the escalator in Trump Tower. Media criticism – and more specifically, criticism of news media and journalism – have existed for as long as journalism itself. In my lifetime, it became very trendy (and for some, very profitable) in the early 1990s with the rise of conservative talk radio. In the current environment, it would be understandable if somebody saw a website with a name like “pornewsgraphy” (or the closely related term that I also use – “pornolism”) and assumed that this is some right wing, Trump-supporting, “fake news”-invoking website.

PC: UNESCO Series on Journalism Education

But that is not the case. In the interest of full disclosure: I am a registered independent whose ideology could roughly be described as conservatarian (mix of right- and left-wing views). I don’t like Donald Trump, and I’ve been saying so since the 1990s. (I grew up in New York and was exposed to him much earlier than most people.) Moreover, I don’t have any love for the leading politicians of the day on either side of the political aisle. In my view, ~90 percent of our political elites are disappointing, to put it kindly. As for journalism: If you’re talking about journalism as a profession or a calling, I hold that endeavor in the highest esteem, even higher than my own profession. Yes, I am a frequent and vocal (and at times, harsh) critic of individual journalists and journalism products. But I would analogize this to the way one views their family. You can love your family; you can hold your family in cherished regard; but neither of those mean you should not speak up forcefully if you see members of your family doing things that are harmful to them and others. Substitute “your family” with “journalism” in the sentence above, and you’ll have a fair approximation of how I look at the field of news reporting.

So no, this site is not designed to bash media petulantly or in order to push a political POV. In my view, the problem with journalism in modern day America transcends politics…or at least, it should.

Like any human endeavor, journalism is not perfect. But these days, far too much of it doesn’t even try to be. This is especially if we are talking about political news media, arguably the most visible sector in that field. It is saturated in infotainment, sensationalism, naked partisanship, agenda seeking, and brazen distortion. As I argued in an earlier post, news media content continues to devolve to a point that it can be described as “pornewsgraphy” in far too many cases. And here’s the real problem with that – a democracy that does not have a reliable source of information that is reasonably objective and unslanted cannot survive as a democracy. So, while this site has and will detail incidents of journalistic malpractice, please do not misread the intention. My goal is not to bash journalism as a profession. When practiced reasonably well, journalism is one of the most important professions that exists in a democracy. The point of this website is to offer something that I don’t see in many other places – a non-partisan POV on how many who call themselves “journalists” are destroying the profession and hurting the nation in the process. Posts on this site have and will look at:

— How many journalists and news media figures, while not the “enemy of the people” that Trump often labels them as, are the enemy of good journalism.

— Examples of good journalism, as highlighting these are also important if the goal is to promote better journalism.

— What we as individual citizens can do to be smarter consumers of news media content.

On that last note: One of the areas of the site that I hope to evolve in the coming months and years involves potential solutions to this problem. To be perfectly candid, I do not have much hope for the problem being solved by the people in the news media themselves. There are simply too many factors pressuring them to practice journalism badly. Many of those factors are beyond their control, but one that is not is the profound level of denial among many journalists about how bad this problem. So, as this site continues to grow, one topic that I hope to write more on is news media literacy (NML). I will spare you a lengthy definition of NML here, but suffice to say that people with high levels of news media literacy are better able to seek, identify and use the good journalism that is out there. Consequently, they can better keep themselves informed despite the deluge of pseudojournalism that currently permeates the media.

One last point: I am in the late-ish stages of my dissertation on news media literacy. For that reason, it’s likely that I won’t be posting too much between now and early 2021. Sorry about that. However, once I am done, it is my hope that I will be able to provide useful content on a regular basis.

Comments, suggestions and other input are always welcome here via the comment function below as well as through the contact button at the top of this page.

Michael Powell shines again, this time on the trans sports issue

Michael Powell continues to be one of the best NYT reporters on sensitive sociopolitical issues.

If only the rest of the Times’ domestic coverage was as good as his.

Some hopeful signs on the NY Times’ editorial pages

As often as I lambaste the NY Times editorial section, two recent pieces suggest there is cause for guarded optimism.

The first – an op-ed by college student Emma Camp – decried the illiberal culture on her campus whereby dissenting opinions are discouraged and free inquiry is suppressed. The second piece – from the editorial board itself – offered a thorough analysis and commentary on cancel culture and free speech.

While the many negative reactions to the pieces – including more than a few from prominent news media figures – are troubling to First Amendment aficionados, they underscore the legitimacy of the concerns expressed in both commentaries. The Times deserves for kudos for publishing them in light of the predictable blowback.

Let’s hope this is the start of a trend.

Media bias hurting dems (really)

Excellent article by Charles Cooke of National Review that echoes something I have noticed in recent years.

When the press largely becomes becomes subservient to one side of the political aisle, the intended beneficiary of their support becomes intellectually lazy and sloppy in their messaging.

CNN’s Clarissa Ward distinguishes herself among her CNN colleagues

As often as I and others rightfully lambaste CNN, it should be noted that CNN’s Clarissa Ward deserves everyone’s respect and praise for her reporting from Afghanistan right now.

Despite the risks to everyone there – particularly women – she is reporting every day on developments on the ground including some information that is less than favorable to the Taliban or the Biden administration.

Some of Clarissa Ward’s CNN colleagues cosplay as journalists who put themselves at risk with their reporting – looking at you, Jim Acosta. Based on what we are seeing right now, Clarissa is the real deal.

The NY Times has officially lost its way

One of the more disgraceful actors in last year’s NY Times Cotton op-ed debacle – Jeannie Choi (see first image) – has been put in charge of NY Times Magazine (second image).

If ever you needed proof that The Old Gray Lady has utterly lost its way, this is it. The Times is lost for at least a generation.


Another great piece by Michael Powell

Michael Powell scores again with some thorough reporting about the ongoing identity crisis at the ACLU. As with the Smith College article, writing this article in a narrative-driven newsroom like the NY Times is especially commendable.

Kudos to Michael Powell of the NYT for his piece on Smith College

This is an incredibly powerful piece by Michael Powell of the New York Times involving Smith College and the employees there who had their lives turned upside down by baseless charges of racism. The article unsparingly notes how Smith President Kathleen McCartney tolerated and even enabled the mistreatment of said employees.

In the current environment of the New York Times newsroom, where woke Millennials have increasing sway in promoting their illiberal points of view, it took courage for Powell to write this article. It’s quality journalism.

PRINCIPLES AND SELECTIVE MEDIA OUTRAGE

NOTE: THIS BLOG POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MAY 2019 ON A DIFFERENT SITE. IT IS REPUBLISHED HERE FOR ARCHIVING PURPOSES.

On May 10, San Francisco police raided the home of a freelance journalist who had provided information to several local TV stations regarding the death of an area public defender. The journalist, Brian Carmody, apparently had obtained and distributed a copy of the police report on the public defender’s death. Citing the need to identify the source of the leak within the police department, police officers raided Carmody’s home. Although they had a warrant, the raid still caused outrage among many (myself included) who saw this as an egregious violation of First Amendment protections vis a vis freedom of the press, to say nothing of a reporter’s right to protect his or her sources. 

Since then, the San Francisco Chronicle has done an outstanding job of covering this troubling incident. Anyone interested in reading their coverage can follow this link. That said, looking at this matter from my perspective outside the Bay Area, what struck me was the near dearth of coverage at the national level. Shamefully (and self-defeatingly), far too many of the national media dragged their heels noticeably on this story before begrudgingly (and minimally) acknowledging that this travesty even happened. Among the more flagrant examples were CNN, which has made a business model out of criticizing President Trump 24/7 for, among other things, his verbal abuse of the news media. Mind you, a great many of those criticisms of the president’s rhetoric concerning journalists are well founded. But where was the outrage from Brian Stelter, Chris Cuomo et al in this case where actual government force was misapplied to a journalist?

This incident provides legitimate fodder to those who argue that press outrage over government abuse is selective. Consider the media coverage and trends at the national level on this subject. 

  • Obama abuses of the press: Covered, but mostly “Meh. Oooh, btw, did you see him slow jam the news with Fallon?!?”
  • Police in Democrat-run San Francisco raid a reporters home and seize files: “New phone, who dis?”
  • Trump says mean things re press: “THE REPUBLIC IS FALLING!!!”

To be sure, the above analysis is exaggerated for effect…but not THAT exaggerated. If a local unit of ICE – a federal agency under the Trump administration – led the exact same raid on on the exact same journalist on the exact same day – does anyone want to suggest that the reaction from the national media would have been anywhere as muted as it was in this case?

If we want news media to be more trusted and held in higher esteem by the public – and we DO if we care about democracy – then journalists and media figures at the highest and most-visible levels (i.e., the national media, particularly broadcasters) need to stop being selectively outraged and cherry picking coverage like this. This is especially true regarding the way they report on government…and themselves. 

Ultimately, principles like freedom of the press are NOT principles if they are only applied when it’s convenient or supportive of one’s sociopolitical narrative.

My latest for NOQ Report

My latest commentary piece for NOQ Report: On the embarrassment that is the recent Stacey Abrams profile in the Washington Post and how it exemplifies the national news media’s devolution into partisan public relations work. (NOTE: The image below is not part of the NOQ Report article.)

https://noqreport.com/…/05/18/a-tale-of-two-veep-candidates/

Abrams Palin

🎼 One of these things is not like the other…