To the average observer it seems as though the news media along with the rest of the country is unraveling. This week NBC News worked with Google in an attempt to remove monetization for two of the largest conservative news sites on the web. Earlier this month an investigative reporter was forced to apologize for sharing a clip from his interview. Then The New York Times went into a major freak-out over the publishing of an op-ed from a standing Arkansas senator.
Stories of this kind of disconnect continue to multiply as newsrooms appear to change their mission from factual reporting to promoting leftist ideologies. Something rotten is wafting repulsively from inside western journalism. The Great Awokening is taking over our newsrooms, and it threatens to drag journalism into the dark.
A recent example of this can be found with NBC News and Google. Journalist Adele-Momoko Fraser of NBC News appears to have worked together with British Centre for Countering Digital Hate in order to present a case to Google that they should demonetize both The Federalist and ZeroHedge.
The claim was that these publications are racist, although the story later unravelled when it turned out that the offending material was in the comments section of these sites. NBC had to walk back the claim that Google demonetized the sites, and Google had to issue a clarification.
It’s hard not to view this as anything other than one news and editorial outlet attempting to use the tools of big tech to squash opposing perspectives and competition.
The story of Lee Fang isn’t any better. Fang is an investigative reporter for The Intercept whose claim to fame was proving how a Jeb Bush Super PAC received illegal donations from China. He also happens to be a progressive Sanders supporter.
Yet none of that mattered to his Intercept colleague Akela Lacy. She accused Fang of bigotry when Fang had the audacity to tweet a video featuring one of his interview subjects.
His subject expressed concern that people only seemed to care about black Americans' deaths when cops were involved. Lee added no commentary and was only doing his job.
For that, the mob demanded blood.
Stories like Lee’s are becoming increasingly common: Variety, Bon Appétite, Refinery 29, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the LA Times, and other news organizations are in midst of a cultural revolution. Editors, media company founders, and creators fired, asked to resign, or mobbed out for microaggressions or insufficient wokeness.
None best illustrates this better than the old gray lady herself, The New York Times.
On June 4th, the day after the Cotton piece premiered, Columnist Michelle Goldberg published a column calling the op-ed a work of fascism. From there, pandemonium. Blue checkmarks claimed the article threatened black lives.
The New York News Guild agreed, as did many in the left-leaning mainstream media. Some 1000+ staffers signed a petition threatening a walk-out. James Bennet, the head of the opinion section was forced to resign.
The New York Times old guard was flabbergasted. Journalists like Bari Weiss, still believing in classic liberalism, pushed back.
Meanwhile, a Daily Beast editor-at-large asked why she still had her teeth.
On Sunday, June 7th, the New York Times released its official take on this episode: Inside the Revolts Erupting in America’s Big Newsrooms. In it, the Times frames the Senator Tom Cotton episode not as caving to a mob but as journalism reformed. Times staffers were angry not so much about Cotton's opinion, but that it had been given oxygen at the outlet.
With them, a new code of ethics for journalism emerged, and an ethic that demands alternative sides to a story be disregarded in favor of a more pure narrative.
This is an attitude best represented by Atlantic journalist Wesley Lowery:
“American view-from-nowhere, "objectivity"-obsessed, both-sides journalism is a failed experiment. We need to fundamentally reset the norms of our field. The old way must go. We need to rebuild our industry as one that operates from a place of moral clarity.”
This new ethic is a perversion.
One of the first things you learn in journalism school is that you must seek out many contradictory perspectives to put against the one you prefer. Aim to be fair when reporting news and try to be as objective as you can manage. Pure objectivity is an impossibility as we journalists are made from human clay. But that does not mean we should abandon the pursuit of objectivity altogether.
What the Times is advocating is the opposite of journalism. Yet it is becoming the dominant ethic in many newsrooms today.
This ethics-be-damned view of journalism is espoused by the most influential schools and institutes in journalism today: Poynter, Columbia Journalism Review, NYU, etc. Last year the Harvard Crimson student newspaper got in trouble on a piece about ICE protests at the school. Not because they aired ICE’s side of the story: but that they tried to reach them for comment.
This idea's current creator is Jay Rosen, the New York University professor who re-established the idea in "view from nowhere." But Jay is only the latest to advocate removing the safeguards. History is riddled with actors that think they can drive best without the seatbelt. It’s human nature.
What makes modern journalism different is that we learned to put the safeguards on. Ethical journalism is such a recent invention that it is younger than the lightbulb. It came in with the reformation of yellow journalism and the establishment of formal training and guilds. It took journalism in the US over 200 years to create an objectivity ethic, and it is taking the mainstream media less than a month to destroy it.
Publicly we know about dozens of news organizations shredding objectivity and reason. This is happening to hundreds of news organizations throughout the west. Journalism is dying.
It’s anyone's guess what losing ethical journalism will do to us as a culture and society. The mainstream media will continue to push big tech to censor and destroy heterodox outlets, and its likely tech will oblige. Keeping Benjamin Franklin's dream alive will then be that much more difficult. Journalists and editors must take a stand and declare that no matter how angry the mob gets: we will not go gently into that dark night.