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.
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.
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.