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Why media layoffs keep happening (threadreaderapp.com)
130 points by spzx 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 195 comments



I have failed to find one important reason: all news are fake news now. When I see reports from the country where I live (be it my home country or country where I currently live) I see lots of distortion, omissions of very important news that don't fit the current media paradigm, or even obvious lies.

I don't see a point in spending my money and my time to read fake news. I've just stopped consuming news and felt a lot better.

Social networks and Internet in general are much worse in this respect. There's immense amount of bots/government agents (from every government in the world) spreading all kinds of fake information. Then real people start reposting that. You still can do fact-checking but if you'd fact-check everything, it would require as much time as a full-time job. So I'm planning on stopping reading the social networks also because in most social networks there's no way of blocking reposts or filtering out the politics-related messages.


"all news are fake news now" is such an obviously false statement the whole thing drowns in irony.

I'm not trying to suggest that the industry is not without problems, but the stories broken by NYT, WSJ, Washington Post etc. each day are assuredly not "fake". There are, on occasion, factual errors in a story. When it happens they issue a correction. They also do themselves no favours (IMO) by publishing absurd opinion columns alongside actual news in a way that devalues the overall proposition. And yes, they have biases, because there is no such thing as an entirely unbiased news report - that's why it is in your benefit to maintain a varied news diet from different sources. None of this means they are all "fake news".

I'm not particularly wedded to today's media outlets. If something new is going to come along and blow them out of the water, bring it on. But I'm yet to see an alternative that improves on what they offer. All I see is amateurishness (Reddit crowd sourcing the wrong identity for terrorists multiple times) and all-out propaganda efforts.


It seems this past week we learned that the NYT and WaPo both have pre-existing narratives they want to tell — and they are always on the lookout for facts to back up those narratives. Facts outside of the narrative are simply passed over.

I wouldn’t call this fake news, but it’s also not good journalism.

And yes, Fox News and MSNBC have been doing this for years. But this form of bias now seems to permeate everything, including formerly trusted titans like NPR and the NYT.


This. I used to think "fake news" was far-right baloney, but I've come to lose all faith in the journalistic integrity of the New York Times and WaPo. This recent piece for the NYT was a bizarrely flattering story about an anti-gay, anti-Semitic hate group is a good example. They have a narrative to push and will push it with any available facts and information.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/us/black-hebrew-israelite...


It's not just that, but the media's Russia narrative, despite two years of investigations and coming up dry is looking worse than the far right constantly harping on Clinton's emails. Every week it seems there is a new bombshell that turns out to come up empty because there isn't any evidence.

https://theintercept.com/2019/01/20/beyond-buzzfeed-the-10-w...

If there is collusion with Russia, at least wait until there is proof of it before running with the story as if there were. I just roll my eyes now. Maybe focus on some of the other things Trump is doing, goodness knows, there is enough. All the media is doing by constantly doing this is seem like they're constantly crying wolf and supporting the narrative on Trump's side that the media is simply out to get him because of their bias.


The idea that the investigation is coming up dry, or that there's no evidence, seems like willful ignorance.

34 people have been indicted, including the president's campaign chairman (Paul Manafort), campaign manager (Rick Gates), lawyer (Michael Cohen), and national security advisor (Michael Flynn). Just today Roger Stone was indicted. Many of these people have pled guilty.


Indicted, yes, but for things unrelated to collusion with Russia. They've been going after them for other things, because they can't produce evidence of the Russian collusion, just a lot of unethical stuff.

Roger Stone was indicted because he tried to dig up the "emails" and for witness tampering. That's unethical/illegal but not collusion with Russia.

"They found no Russian collusion or they would have charged him with it," Smith said. Jay Sekulow, an attorney for the President, told CNN in a statement: "The indictment today does not allege Russian collusion by Roger Stone or anyone else. Rather, the indictment focuses on alleged false statements Mr. Stone made to Congress."

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/25/politics/roger-stone-arrested...

The media insinuates it has to do with Russia, and thus you believe it does and there is something to all this talk of Russia, which is disingenuous, because none of the charges have anything to do with that. This is almost like a media backed conspiracy theory. The willful ignorance isn't on my side. I at least read the article.


[flagged]


The Buzzfeed News article was debunked and denied by Mueller himself, its part of the Intercept article I linked and what prompted it. The fact you still believe that proves the point.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/18/politics/mueller-statement-bu...

Again, they run the headlines at the top, then issue the retractions quietly, and nothing happens. Public opinion is changed, but no one goes to jail (for collusion) because they so far, don't actually have anything.

Democrats were running a false flag operation during the last election to make it look like Russian bots were supporting Moore so they can say, "Hey look, the Russians want you to vote for this guy" and the media reported on it.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/us/alabama-senate-roy-jon...

All I'm saying is, the next bombshell you hear about Russians, wait a month and see if anything happens with it, otherwise, you're just being manipulated. Stick to what Trump is actually doing that's bad.


There hasn't been a time when the media haven't been biased and often knowingly dishonest.

See e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinoviev_letter

...Which was 95 years ago.

The difference now that is the rhetoric is often more obviously slanted and more likely to be nakedly inflammatory.

The 50s/60s/70s had more of a tradition of restrained debate. But the politeness was always superficial. Politics was at least as murderous and corrupt as it is now. But the more measured tone, and the superficial respect for critique and analysis, made it appear more civilised.

Now the tone is more likely to be extreme, which creates the illusion that obviously manipulative "fake news" is more the rule than the exception - and that this is historically different, when in fact it isn't at all.


> The difference now that is the rhetoric is often more obviously slanted and more likely to be nakedly inflammatory.

Nah. The difference is that fact-checking and reading multiple sources is way easier these days.


Yup. It was arguably even worse before. Pulitzer himself ran fake news about the Spanish in Cuba as propaganda to support the Spanish-American War:

    By the time [Joseph Pulitzer] actually composed his thoughts for the North American Review, his bed chart included rheumatism, dyspepsia, catarrh and a bad case of shame for the Spanish atrocities in Cuba deliberately invented by his reporters to goose the circulation of his newspapers. - Michael Lewis (1)
It was a part of the news culture of the time, too. It wasn't just restricted to Pulitzer. (2)

[1] Michael Lewis, "J School Confidential", 1993 [2] David R. Spencer, "The Yellow Journalism", 2007


> There hasn't been a time when the media haven't been biased and often knowingly dishonest.

Perhaps, but surely the media used to be less biased, and it’s worth striving to get back to that place.


When?


In my lifetime less the last decade. For instance, during the Iraq war, it wasn't uncommon for NYT or other publications to take a moderate right-wing perspective. Now that's virtually unheard of outside of the opinion section, and even there it's only token "conservatives" (quotes because "conservative" means a lot of different things to different people in the era of Trump).


That was a bizarre article they do mention these people spout out terrible insults and threats and are categorized as a hate group but it turns around and excuses that because it's well, Trump's fault of course, and it's not all that bad because they see it as "preaching".


How do you consider this flattering?

"If their interaction with the Catholic students seemed like an expression of bigotry toward white people, some of their most vile language is reserved for black people in the communities where they preach."

"The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, categorized at least 80 groups nationwide that follow Hebrew Israelite theology as hate groups."

Would you rather that NY Times not report on confrontations like this?


That article describes their hateful rants as 'street sermons.' To describe this activity (https://youtu.be/Eg3OihbIaig?t=167) as 'street sermons' is flattering.

This is a group on par with the Westboro Baptist Church, possibly worse. That NYTs article tries to play it neutral, and that is itself a form of bias when you're talking about a group like this. If the NYTs finished off an article about the WBC with a quote from somebody willing to call the WBC a "harmless part of our community," I think you'd see people accusing the NYTs article of being overly sympathetic in that hypothetical too.

(If you think this group is harmless, just look at the comment section of that video and see what kind of people are praising and adoring the Black Hebrews.)


> How do you consider this flattering?

Because it went on after that to blame Trump for it. "We live in these dangerous times so expect people to do more of this, don't blame them...". Then something to the effect of "let's not judge too much their verbal assaults as it's just their preaching style".

I think that's the kind of spin people complain about and call NYT "Fake News". They narrate a story based on an agenda. Try doing a mental experiment and switch sides. Imagine it was the kids with the red hats yelling things these people were yelling at passers by. Take your pick between homophobic rants, c*unt, the n-word etc, and then imagine NYT covering it and saying. "This is a hate group however these are dangerous times we live in and it's just a way for these groups to express their frustration. They use an unorthodox style, and the community doesn't mind it too much, there are far worse things to worry about".

Would you call that a "flattering" report of red hat wearing teenagers? Yeah, I would too. That's the point I think the OP was making here.


straight up, you don't know how to read.

>But what Mr. Yasharahla might view as great, others call something else: hate. >But Ms. Beirich said that groups like Hebrew Israelites were also anti-gay, anti-white and anti-Semitic.


> and they are always on the lookout for facts to back up those narratives

Confirmation bias is fake news. Because you only pick up the details that fit your narrative, shutting down everything else.

A true neutral viewpoint would share all aspects of the story from the get go.


> Confirmation bias is fake news. Because you only pick up the details that fit your narrative, shutting down everything else.

That's a pretty weak strawman.

As a non-US citizen who never set foot near the US, I found the MAGA story to be a pretty blatant example of fake news that was clearly pushed in spite of any fact check or impartiality.

When I first saw the video pushed by US's media corporations my first reaction was to have a very negative opinion about the kid in particular and the whole political movement in general.

But afterwards I had the opportunity to see the whole video, without being subjected to the blatant manipulation, and the real story is radically different than the narrative that was pushed by the media.

Any journalist and specially editors who had access to the video clearly knew they were blatantly lying to the public and were intentionally misrepresenting the events, but they did so to push their agenda. This has nothing to do with confirmation bias.


I interpreted the OP as agreeing with you. I think you might be misunderstanding each other or I’m misunderstanding someone.


You are talking about one story. I'm talking about news in general. I don't think most journalists are deliberately lying most of the time, but it's much more likely they suffer from confirmation bias - that's something we are all subject to, by the way. But journalists should go the extra mile, it'S their job after all: they are not supposed to be activists.


> You are talking about one story. I'm talking about news in general.

I'm pointing a clear example where there was a general push for a falsified news report to push a narrative. There is no way around this.

Other examples also exist, but they fly under the radar or aren't so eggregious.


They also feed off themselves on Twitter and it becomes the cyclical thing where the only viewpoint they see is their own.


The MAGA story wasn't fake news. The kids were there to stir up controversy about abortion rights and wore MAGA hats because they knew it would be inflammatory. They also told the native American that "stealing land is just how it's done" and were very obviously making comments at him. Yes the Black Israelites were terrible people making terrible comments, but let's not hold the kids or especially the school blameless. This is the same school that used to think dressing in blackface, black painted faces with pink or white lips, was okay (there's no problem dressing in all black without the paint). This school knowingly sent kids into a political arena and this is the fallout. Perhaps the school should avoid using children as political props in the future.


> The MAGA story wasn't fake news. The kids were there to stir up controversy

Are you nuts? The kids were standing there exercising their very american right to peacefully assemble and exercise their free speech. Then the counterprotesters crashed the kids' gathering and started chanting right in the face of those kids trying to draw a reaction specifically for the cameras. The only reaction that the activists managed to draw were grins from a random kid and somehow that's enough for the media to cherry-pick footage to vilify a political movement that is supported by the majority of americans and in the process ruin a kid's life.

In who's mind is this ok?

> about abortion rights and wore MAGA hats because they knew it would be inflammatory.

Whether you like it or not, a large number of americans (if not the majority) do hold those opinions, and if you expect to live in a free and open democracy you don't get to fabricate hit pieces in the form of fake news to vilify those who don't share your opinion.


I don't have a problem with protesting, free speech, or even speech I disagree with. Civil discourse is important, kind of like we're having here. Claiming these kids were innocent victims of media is just as disingenuous as claiming the first story was completely accurate. The fact is the kids did go there to create controversy and didn't like it when it came with media attention, good or bad. It's like showing up to a WWE match and claiming surprise when someone uses a weapon in the ring.I go back to my original stance of don't use kids as political props and they won't be treated like it.


Why do you think the kids were there to create controversy vs supporting a cause they believed in? They were after all just waiting for a bus after attending an entirely different march. It’s not like they put themselves in this position on purpose.


Fuck the school, but those kids are people and the press slandering them was wrong. Don't let partisan tribalism blind you to the individuals. Kids do not deserve to be slandered because of the school they attend, because they disagree with you about abortion, because they wore dumb hats, or for any other reason you could possibly come up with.


This sums it up well. Either news agencies have more strongly pushed an agenda lately or I’ve become more sensitive to it. Either way, it’s impossible to ignore now and it annoys the hell out of me.


There are multiple stories about the mistakes that were made with the story you are alluding to in every major reputable news source, I. e. for The Atlantic:

The Media Botched the Covington Story: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/01/media-must...

I Failed the Coving On Catholic Test: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/01/julie-irwi...

Muddling the Covington Catholic Student Video: https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2019/01/mudd...

That sort of soul-searching does not happen, indeed it wouldn’t fit into even a 24h-channel, at Fox News.


Yet we have scores more journalists deleting their tweets going after the kids because it reinforced their biases: https://www.mediaite.com/online/journalists-and-celebs-rush-...


Has Fox News ever led a national media lynching of a high school student?

(That's a serious question, I don't watch them and I'd like to know if they really are as bad as people say or if people just hate them because they don't agree.)


One person that immediately comes to mind is David Hogg. They certainly never held back criticism of him because he's a minor, and a host made a strange attack on him via social media:

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/mar/31/fox-news-laura...


That fails to convince me for at least three reasons:

1) Fox didn't say it; it was one host's personal Twitter comment.

2) David Hogg made himself a national media figure voluntarily

3) Criticising someone's GPA and college acceptance rate is not comparable to the hateful commentary about the Covington students.

The main thing I wonder about after reading that story is the aftermath. If eleven advertisers dropped Ingraham over that comment, how many have dropped the liberal media over their attacks on the Convington high school students?


Ahh, yes? They regularly denounced the Florida High School students protesting gun violence as “paid actors”, ANTIFA anarchists, etc.

They did so with no evidence, even though the accusation is far more specific and easily testable than it is in the Covington case. And even after being called out on it, they continued to repeat the smear against better knowledge. The difference is as clear as night & day.


Do you have a link? I can't find one with these searches:

https://duck.com/?q=site%3Afoxnews.com+david+hogg+paid+actor

https://duck.com/?q=site%3Afoxnews.com+david+hogg+crisis+act...

https://duck.com/?q=site%3Afoxnews.com+david+hogg+antifa

I know some crazy people said things like that, but I can't find any evidence that Fox News did.


Yeah, this is a thing that's been a problem for a while now, and not just with the NYT and WaPo. Media organisations will basically not fact check anything that fits in with their worldview, which for the 'left wing' versions usually means:

- Supports the idea that racism/nationalism/xenophobia is increasing cause of Trump/Brexit/whatever

And the 'right wing' versions often means something similar about immigration and increased crime or political correctness. If a story fits those beats, then they'll often buy it without question, foregoing the basic background research needed in the process.

That's why the Covington Catholic school kids thing got publicised so much; it fit very nicely (at first glance) with the idea that Trump voters are racist/horrible people, seemingly showed a confrontation between them and a native American tribesperson and helped the narrative many organisations wanted to push.

Same with the case of that guy being 'thrown off a plane for speaking Arabic'. He wasn't, but the story fit the whole 'hate against Muslims increased after Trump election' narrative.

Any fact checking at all would debunk these stories and the 'message' being pushed on social media sites, yet it wasn't done until way later.

Same goes with another story I saw about a trans eSports team supposedly getting banned from a gender specific tournament. Team didn't actually exist and the story was a troll job meant to rile up one side, but media sympathetic to said side bought it hook, line and sinker.

Honestly, a good journalist needs to be more skeptical about stories they agree with than disagree with (or at least equally so), and it's clear that most today aren't like that at all.


> we learned that the NYT and WaPo both have pre-existing narratives they want to tell

Link please?

Sometimes I feel like I must live under a rock.



What's the rent like under there? Asking for a friend.


Easy, just look at reporting on mass shootings. What there is a white person doing a mass shooting (e.g., 3 days ago in Florida) the entire paper is about "senseless violence", "deeply disturbed individuals" and unexplained pain and suffering.

When a brown person is doing a mass shooting, there is almost almost always a narrative about terrorism and how obviously the person must have been a terrorist and we just need to somehow find the link, even if the person has no clear link to anything.

The WaPo is pretty balanced on this front. But dont pretend the NYT is unbaised here. WSJ is certainly biased.


These papers' reporting biases have been well known for years. But the GP makes it sound like a particular story aired last week that focused specifically on an AGENDA the papers are pursuing.

An agenda is much more than a bias. It's a set of goals and a strategy for pursuing them. A systematic bias can be a big part of that strategy. But the goals and their origin are far more interesting.


> It seems this past week we learned that the NYT and WaPo both have pre-existing narratives they want to tell

Is that new?


In my memory they used to try to tell all perspectives in their own terms. That stopped in the last decade, IMO.


Reuters is still pretty decent.


Reuters also rarely reports on local news, which is the crisis outlined in the post.


All news is local news, unless Reuters reports it.


Why are you throwing NPR into that mix? NPR remains one of the few news sources that goes out of its way to try and get unbiased reporting in the US.

People are people of course, so it’s impossible to be completely unbiased.


I'm still baffled how NPR screwed up their story on Trump Jr supposedly lying to Congress so badly, though. If you didn't see it, they took his replies to questions about whether any other negotiations to build in Russia were going on at the same time as Cohen's ones, quoted them without context, pretended he was saying Cohen wasn't negotiating in Russia then in contradiction to Cohen's court testimony, and used this to make it look like Trump Jr had lied to Congress. Any fact checker, editor or reporter who'd bothered to check the quotes the story relied on should've caught this. It's the kind of thing I'd expect from a shady conspiracy theory peddler. (The original version: http://archive.is/ozzmb )


That's used to be true but in the past two years they've gotten quite bad. For instance, during the child separation story they called it "President Trump's child separation policy," when describing it. Only weeks later did they call it "the increase of child separations due to President Trump's zero tolerance policy." It was known the day the story broke that he didn't enact the policy.


That used to be true but in the past two years they've gotten quite bad. For instance, during the child separation story they called it "President Trump's child separation policy," when describing it. Only weeks later did they call it "the increase of child separations due to President Trump's zero tolerance policy." It was known the day the story broke that he didn't enact the policy.


While I think you’re mostly right, worth pointing out that CNN’s “Journalist of the Year” - who worked for Der Spiegel - was recently outed as having completely fabricated the majority of the articles that he’s written over the last several years. Unfortunately it seems that being highly respected doesn’t mean everything published is true...

Feels a bit rich to link to any media as a source now, but here you go: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/all/german-reporter-stripped-cn...


It's worth considering the industry factors that contributed to this. Sub-editors and fact-checkers have been the first to go in the cataclysmic waves of layoffs journalism has been weathering for the past decade.


Der Spiegel was famed for their fact checking... with one problem. Their fact checkers evidently started with the assumption that their journalists weren't being deliberately deceptive. This combined with the journalist making up shit that flattered the preconceived cultural biases of the fact checkers (e.g. urban germans think that rural americans are backwards gun-toting hicks who believe the earth is flat) and it becomes clear that understaffing wasn't the real problem.

Actually there was another problem at Der Spiegel, cultural again; anybody who questioned the rockstars had their career thrown on the rocks. When Juan Moreno questioned the integrity of the fraud Class Relotius, Der Spiegel's editors didn't believe him, and thought he was just jealous of Relotius. So again, not a problem caused by understaffing.


>Their fact checkers evidently started with the assumption that their journalists weren't being deliberately deceptive.

People reviewing pull requests at our company also have to assume that programmers aren't being deliberately deceptive.

So what? Almost all of our working relationship, heck relationships period, are based on trust.


> "So what?"

Do you really need me to answer this for you? Did you miss the part where it failed in spectacular fashion and will haunt Der Spiegel's reputation for years to come? Not to mention god knows how many innocent people were defamed by this fraud over the years he was allowed to run wild by Der Spiegel's fact checkers.

This guy was publishing "too good to be true" articles for years and none of Der Spiegel's famed fact checkers noticed it. He was eventually uncovered by another reporter, not a fact checker, so to suggest that understaffing in the fact checking department is to blame is farcical.


Yeah it's bad. But the fact that we are talking about 'this guy' and not hundreds of people means it's not as widespread as you might think.

It's impossible to defend against, you have to trust your coworkers, or we'd be living in a police state where nothing can get done.

And yes I know of the other high profile cases at the NyTimes NewYorker etc.


The issue of contention was whether or not understaffing of fact checking departments is the cause of diminished trust in the news industry. I think I've refuted that hypothesis; we've got a newspaper famed for their fact checking department that has taken a hit to their credibility more severe than most other publications.


> The issue of contention was whether or not understaffing of fact checking departments is the cause of diminished trust in the news industry.

Sure, but people distrust things for irrational reasons all the time.


> CNN’s “Journalist of the Year” - who worked for Der Spiegel - was recently outed as having completely fabricated the majority of the articles

Of course he's going to win awards.

The rest of the journalists, who have to confine themselves to the much more difficult task of developing sources and researching facts, won't be able to compete with someone who just makes up fantastical stories out of thin air.

He was caught in the end, so what's the problem?


If you read up on how he was caught, it was pretty incredible - another journalist at Der Spiegel had to go on a personal mission, on his own time and at his own cost, to prove the guy was lying, and then nearly lost his job because the management couldn't accept it. The fact checking department had been hoodwinked for years despite some truly dubious and insane things that had appeared in his stories.

Yes, he got caught in the end. But he shouldn't have been able to publish such obvious nonsense for years on end. It's quite clear that Der Spiegel didn't catch him because he was telling them what they wanted to hear.


It's funny how this thread criticizes media for making up details to push a narrative while doing exactly that.

> as having completely fabricated the majority of the articles

This is about as fake news propaganda driven as it gets. Your source says "numerous articles" are having issues, not "the majority". The summary on his DE wiki page[0] so far indicates way less than half (aka "majority"). Also your claim those problematic articles are "completely fabricated" seems quite excessive as well. Feels a bit like you intentionally try to bend facts to fit your narrative...

I know journalism has its problems, but it is the best we have to keep the powerful in check.


It’s actually legislative checks and balances that keep the powerful in check.


When people speak of "fake news" they're generally not talking about news with factual mistakes, but often times where the fact picking mechanism is biased. You can produce a piece that is 100% factual that still omits important facts that are relevant to the story and would paint a completely different picture. Most of the sites you mentioned do that very consistently.


It's ironic to argue the definitions of post-truth, but no. Fake news refers to stories that are fabricated, and usually calibrated to be attention-grabbing, masquerading as news. That is a separate phenomenon from bias, and much worse.

Bias is a problem that can interfere with the output of people who think they are doing good-faith journalism. But anyone with a blog can write what other people will mistake for news, and if they're good, can make it go viral. No relationship with the truth, not even an attempted one, is involved.

Conservative slant headline: Hero CCW Bystander Stops Mass Shooting.

Liberal slant headline: Mass Shooting Underscores the Need for Gun Control Now.

Fake news headline: New Proof That Lizard Men Hired Crisis Actors in Plot to Take Your Guns.


> Fake news refers to...

That might be how you use the term, but that might more correctly called "false news". In common parlance, "fake news" refers to an overall pattern of filtering and narrative-pushing such that consuming lots of these stories (possibly each of them factual) will leave the reader with gross misapprehensions about the world.


This is not a productive argument, but it may be worth nothing that Science [0], Wikipedia [1], and NPR [2] are using it to refer to fabrication, not bias.

[0] http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/majority-americans-we...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_news

[2] https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/23/50...


To be honest I think they're pissing into the wind. (As am I when I tell people to use the word "propaganda" instead of "fake news".)


Wikipedia does not belong on that list.

It's useful for non-controversial stuff. I love to peruse it, I love to quote from it. But it can't possibly be trusted for anything as topical as "Fake News".

I love the Michael Scott comment:

Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.

(For those who aren't familiar with the US version of The Office: Michael Scott is not meant to be taken literally).


The history is that 'fake news" was used to refer to fabricated stories. Following it's surge in.popularity following the 2016 election, Trump realized the term was catchy and claimed falsely to have invented it, but used it instead to refer to "news Trump doesn't like" of various sorts, thus making it a contentious term.


Exactly. The charge is not "false news"; it's "fake news". Filtered, processed, manufactured, spun, all while generally keeping things technically correct -- the best kind of correct.


Well I think slanted news becomes easier as economic models get leaner. Broke? sell to a person wanting to hide behind earned past reputation. Furthermore, outrage is the most addicting emotion (according to post on HN apologizing for creating the internet) so news that draws a person in, tends to outrage.

being reasonable, means some audience will leave to go to the more addicting outrage.

This is my hypothesis only.


Bingo. It comes down to facts and truth being two different things and the news is almost never truthful anymore.


The media do not issue corrections unless they are forced to do so and they publish dishonest hit pieces all the time, like the one on David Reich[1]. They run with their prejudices and then write articles about how awful it is that other people can contradict their prejudices with facts[2]. They decide they’re going to write a hit piece and solicit material for it, publicly, when their lack of good faith is obvious and wonder why trust in the media is at an all time low and dropping[3]. Good journalists exist. Whether good journalistic institutions do or not is an open question, but the idea that the NYT is one of them is a joke.

[1]https://reich.hms.harvard.edu/letter-response-jan-17-article...

[2]https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/23/how-conserva...

[3]https://twitter.com/globaldan/status/1088570101283110915?s=2...


> stories broken by NYT, WSJ, Washington Post etc

These newspapers are useless. I'm interested in increased resolution of reporting on my immediate environment, I want to know about the backstabbing and backroom deals local politicians do, the local murderers and the town rapists, the crimes refugees do or don't, exact breakdowns of economical utility of refugees, exact numbers on town expenditures and big land sales. I want statistics and news on things that matter and change my immediate environment.

All this is missing from national editions. All of this is missing from local newspapers dealing with local trivia only and have the same content anyway because they are owned by the same conglomerate. I have to look up all of it myself if the information is publicly available, if not then the newspapers don't do their job in unlocking it.

Daily newspapers are competing with other outlets and weekly editions and radio and TV in reporting the big, everyday occurrences. They don't have a pitch.


> There are, on occasion, factual errors in a story. When it happens they issue a correction.

That's a very charitable way of seeing things when you know a lot of these organizations are politically oriented.


> "all news are fake news now" is such an obviously false statement the whole thing drowns in irony.

For me it's not important, if the news is a lie or that they just build the distorted model of reality by omission of the facts. Withdrawing the fact is equivalent to lying, although it may have a different name.

I think the problem is that media was always mostly a way to spread government propaganda. "We are the best, other countries are either clueless or evil." Because there was no internet, there were no big issues with it, because it was hard to check if it's true or not.

Now, there's internet, so, for example, people can read media of other countries (still difficult because of different languages, but possible). In order to fight the threat to the mental model "we're great, others are evil", somebody invented the term "fake news". Now, everything that contradicts "official" point of view can be simply called "fake news".


Well, but media also lies in both ways. I've been indirecly object of media pieces and I was surpised of the little connection of what really happenned and what they told the public. I was involved in the issue and I know who they talked to and what they talked about. At least two newspapers and one TV station lied, and the left ones cherry picked the info they liked.

IDK if that is fake news, propaganda or whatever. Its certainly a symptom of something bad that is happening there.


>There are, on occasion, factual errors in a story. When it happens they issue a correction.

They go far deeper than this. Anyone that follows any polarizing issue is well aware that pushing a narrative via omission of key details (or not covering a story at all because it doesn't fit their narrative) is rampant among the established media. Sure the stuff they write about usually actually happened but you have no idea which particular articles are being spun and which way they're being spun (though you can take an educated guess).

It's hard to tell if they're intentionally spinning a narrative of if they're woefully ignorant of their own cognitive bias and go around confirming their bias.

In any case, if the NYY, WaPo or WSJ is publishing half truths and half the story I don't see that as being categorically different from Fake News(TM) because the affect on the population at scale is similar.


"lots of distortion, omissions of very important news that don't fit the current media paradigm" is something done by every single outlet, including NYT, WSJ and the Washington Post (and obviously Fox News and friends), and it's not new. Don't you remember the Iraq war ?


NYT is notoriously bad and often omits and slants things.


I was an NYT subscriber for a long time (years) and during the 2016 primaries and elections I learned how crappy they were. They tried to misinform me! I was paying them and they were lying to me.

First about the Bernie campaign and then about the Trump campaign. I don't pay the news to bullshit me. For a period of six months I read both the NYT and the WSJ. The WSJ editorials are clearly written by morons but otherwise their news had higher predictive value.

I agree entirely with you. It's no wonder people reading the NYT were constantly surprised. My fault entirely after Judith Miller but no longer. Purged them from my rotation.


Well on the WSJ side there was that whole Pewdiepie makes some Nazi jokes therefore is secretly whistle blowing to recruit 9-17 year olds into white supremacy/anti-antisemitism narrative they were running with. Ignoring the context of the jokes and doing nothing that shock comics haven't been doing for years. But the character assassination probably has more to do with the fact that person has a bigger audience than the WSJ, and more influence and that's where advertisers (their source of money) were going, so they started doing hit pieces on YT's biggest personas to scare advertisers out of spending their money there.


Honestly, I haven’t a clue what the deal is here, but I will make a note to remember to discount their coverage on online stars. Thank you.


I feel like WSJ and NPR actually take time and research what their writing about.


Same here - long time, >15 years NYT subscriber, I stuck with them even while they were so obviously biased against my boy Bernie but finally it became too much. They just stopped reporting actual news one day and never looked back. They are publishing things that just aren’t true, and their silence is deafening on stories reported by their rivals. As you say, it’s not something I’m remotely interested in paying for.


I probably mostly agree with your post but I hear this a lot:

> And yes, they have biases, because there is no such thing as an entirely unbiased news report

And it’s not really addressing what people mean when they talk about media bias. The media appears to be more biased than it used to. Specifically it represents fewer viewpoints on certain (typically political) issues. It would be interesting IMHO if we talked about this when we talked about media bias. “Completely avoiding bias is impossible” misses the point and isn’t very interesting.


It may be false, but not that hyperbolic. I had the same experience with media pieces about my country or areas of my expertise.


but the stories broken by NYT, WSJ, Washington Post etc. each day are assuredly not "fake". There are, on occasion, factual errors in a story

Waiting for the retraction of the Covington story based on the full video? To be given the same prominence, not buried in the small print on page 16.

Also waiting for the blue-ticked accounts on Twitter who called for violence or doxxing of those boys to be banned.


I think most news is over exaggerated, not so much fake.


I 100% agree. I was born in Myanmar (Burma) and in the last few years, the news that I've been reading on NYT and BBC (the only two sources that I used to respect) are exaggerated and/or biased and/or inaccurate.

Some of the HN readers will be very skeptical about my comment and this may get removed/buried, but I can only say that only when you have lived in a place and experienced the culture and dynamics between different ethnic/racial/religious groups there, you will understand what I mean. E.g., Some people outside of the US can see the current president and think the country is pretty stupid to have elected him. But we all know that the reality is not that simple.

The gist is to not trust the news outlets with blind faith and get riled up, even if they are 'reputable' that they are reporting unbiased/non-exaggerated/agenda-filled news. There are a lot of interested/invested parties that benefit from conflicts like that, so if the article is quoting just one side of the story (e.g., if the story is only presented by the INGOs, UN and NGOs that receive funding), I usually take it with a big grain of salt.

Just my two cents.


I think there is some kind of illusion that the previous generation of medias were impartial and fair.

But news always had an agenda. People with power always affected news. And even without that, the sheer imperfection of human nature makes any kind of communication a distored version of reality.

It does feel like it's getting worse though, but I think it's just a feeling: we now have so many sources, and points of view, that we can see more clearly how much BS we are being fed with.


A while ago a Ukranian coworker drew my attention to the case of Pulitzer prize winning NYTs journalist Walter Duranty, who during the 1930s wrote numerous fraudulent articles denying the existence of famine in Soviet territories and particularly the deliberate man-made famine in Ukraine (recognized as a genocide by 16 countries including well respected first world countries such as Canada, Germany, France, Belgium, etc: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor_genocide_question#Ot...)

The NYTs didn't admit error until the 1990 when they called his work "some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper." (https://www.nytimes.com/1990/06/24/opinion/the-editorial-not...) By then the damage to public opinion was already done, to the extent that even today I worry somebody will respond to this post telling me that Walter Duranty was in the right for one reason or another. Why did it take them nearly 60 years to fess up?


Indeed, there was a lot of bias in the past which was harder to see, because getting alternative sources was hard. Only a few NYT-size organisations could have a foreign correspondent & foot his telegram bills.

But I think there's something else too: Now that raw facts are a commodity, the value that NYT etc add (for their fan base) is the filtering and the opinions.


Aaron Swartz wrote an interesting piece on why he didn't read the news: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/hatethenews


There was a Canadian sentenced to death in China recently

It took me ALL DAY before it clicked in my head that this wasnt either of the Canadian diplomats recently arrested

I looked around and nobody seemed to notice this

All the outlets and discussions were fixed around an escalation in the trade war, and this convicted drug dealer had nothing to do with that.

It was like how can I point that out while still disagreeing with a Chinese municipal level capital punishment. Damn, people are going to think I’m making excuses for The China. This whole thing is built to ostracize thought.


WaPo, for one example, might not wish to alienate the government of the country which sources much of its owner's economic activity.


Indeed. For me, the traditional newspaper now falls into a kind of uncanny valley. I still follow it, because it's the best thing I can find at being not-shitty, but it's still a weird local maximum.

* If I want hyper-updated "news" (ie: hot-takes), I can follow basically anyone on the scene of anything on Twitter. Of course, this has no filter: the more people "on the ground" I follow, the greater the likelihood I ingest bullshit, personal biases, misreporting, misinformation, and just general hot-takes.

* If I want the bird's eye view, I can subscribe to magazines that have long-form, multi-page articles covering a story or issue over its history and range. However, when I read a "bird's eye view" story on something I know intimately, I tend to tear it to pieces as a "Hollywood" misrepresentation, written chiefly to narrate the story the reader already expects to hear on the subject, not to challenge or inform.

* If I want strictly local affairs, I can follow everyone from City Hall to my state or provincial legislators on social media. This exposes me to fewer hot-takes than following randos on social media, but still means I'm basically hearing whatever a public official wants me to hear.

* Newspapers fall in the middle: a bit local, a bit national, a bit of real reporting, a bit of reprinting press releases and AP stories, usually crappy at international affairs, often still just quoting the mayor and being done with a local story, short-term enough to "refresh" every day and every weekend, long-term enough to sometimes cover events a week at a time or even issue a correction.


> all news are fake news now.

"Fake news" is as old as the newspaper industry itself. Vlad the Impaler got his (in-)famous renown because at some point he dared impose some extra trade taxes on the Transylvania Saxons who were doing business in his native Walachia. As it happens, the print thing had just gotten off the ground so that those Saxons and their business partners further to the West used the newly created medium in order to propagate most of the "fake news" for which Vlad is now known.


My local city's best-selling, and supposedly most prestigious, newspaper is always publishing pretentious opinion pieces about the problem with fake news and how we must trust well-established outlets with professional ethics, etc. like themselves. They have even organized debates on fake news and so on.

Then you open that newspaper, and most of what they publish about the city is inflammatory pieces bashing the current city government, which are based mostly on lies. For example, blaming on it decisions from other administrations where it has no competence at all, or even decisions from the previous, opposing city government (which they praise because that party gives newspapers more subsidies). I have even read news about physical objects (a pedestrian crossing, a streetlight or whatever) that you could just go and see with your own eyes that they were plain false, describing things that just outright hadn't happened, no discussion possible.

In national or international newspapers it's more difficult to calibrate the trustworthiness of a news piece, because they involve stuff that happens far away, but every time I see a media outlet riding the high horse of "the internet is full of fake news, trust us instead", I cannot help thinking about the case of this newspaper and not trusting at all.

I'd rather read opposing opinions from people who at least acknowledge to be biased, and then form my own view, than trust supposedly unbiased news that are probably as fake as whatever bots spew.

Disclaimer: I'm not even much of a supporter of the current major, I didn't even vote for him, although next election I probably will just out of disgust for that paper's shameless manipulation.


> I've just stopped consuming news and felt a lot better.

Your experience is consistent with this article: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-ro...

> So I'm planning on stopping reading the social networks also

Yeah, you and me both. Isn't it interesting, though, how much more addicting the scrolling feeds are?


Ignorance is bliss


I too stay away from mainstream reporting that's always filled with propaganda. Are there any alternative source of genuine news? So far I haven't found any.


There is not much I am afraid. You might for example find a foreign outlet like Al-Jazeera reporting about some country it doesn't have interest building a narrative about, but anything about it's corner of the world or especially Qatar is just not going to be unbiased by any means.

Then maybe BBC or Reuters, but always compare coverage of the same event and you'd see there is always a slant or spin involved.


There are good independent journalists out there [1]. While they are naturally biased individuals, you quickly learn their biases and apply correction. If you subscribe to a few of them, their coverage averages out to about neutral.

IMO a hallmark of honest journalist is ability to openly discuss the journalistic process & toolkit. Call it journalism's equivalent of Kerckhoff's principle.

Another good check mark is ability to criticize errors in the media and issue correction and retractions.

[1] for example Tim Pool, https://twitter.com/Timcast


Democracy Now is good for US news


> I have failed to find one important reason: all news are fake news now.

This 'fake news' thing is just a recent meme that people strengthen through confirmation bias, and then pass around to justify their irrational behaviour.

One example of irrational behaviour: working class conservative voters voting against their interests for generations, and then blaming the country's problems on the 'deep state.'

The thing that is worrisome, is that we seem to be in a post truth era.

We have gone beyond disagreeing about our opinions and our values, and are starting to solipsistically disagree on plain facts now.


Yes, I agree.

My personal technique for dealing with this is try to look at multiple online news sources, not just one. I'll look at one from each side of the political spectrum and try to triangulate what a reasonable person should think.


I built Read Across The Aisle to help people do this. It's totally free, with no tracking or PII monetization — just a side project I decided to launch. It also includes free WSJ access, thanks to a generous partnership they offered us.

http://www.readacrosstheaisle.com


This seems to require a browser plugin. There is no Firefox plugin, so I'm not sure how you're going to get as many users as you hoped.


We're on Chrome and Brave, and iOS. Firefox will happen eventually, but since this is a free side project we can't develop for every platform.


Think about what? A system that doesn't care about you? A reasonable person should think for himself and not on the basis of soulless news columns.


What are you saying, that people should read no news sources at all? That's absurd. You need to know actual information if you're going to make an informed choice.


Are you absolutely sure that making an informed choice is a useful thing? Speaking politically, the correlation between spending more and achieving political office is very high.

Getting your information from friends and family is not going to be worse than sourcing it from talking heads in a studio or newspaper editors. Anyone who, eg, gets their political information from me is going to get information sourced largely from reading parliamentary documents. How is that going to be worse than what they get from the media? There are politically interested people in every community to pick up the slack.

A radical view, but politics would be better off without mass, coordinated outrage. Compromise and thought should be the order of the day.


The reason the correlation between spending and winning is high is because people donate to politicians they think can win. If advertising spend could buy elections Mitt Romney or Michael Bloomberg would be president and politicians would usually be rich before they got elected, not as a consequence of getting elected.

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3042867

> the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11109-012-9193-1

> Because campaign spending correlates strongly with election results, observers of American politics frequently lament that money seems to buy votes. However, the apparent effect of spending on votes is severely inflated by omitted variable bias: The best candidates also happen to be the best fundraisers. Acting strategically, campaign donors direct their funds toward the “best” candidates, who would be more likely to win even in a moneyless world. These donor behaviors spuriously amplify the correlation between spending and votes. As evidence for this argument, I show that (non-strategic) self-financed spending has no statistical effect on election results, whereas (strategic) externally-financed spending does.


  Mitt Romney or Michael Bloomberg 
Bloomberg's net worth is 300X Romney's.

John Kerry's net worth far exceeds Romney, too.


Forgive me for speaking imprecisely. The message I wanted to convey was that you can’t just buy votes with advertising or lobbying.

John Kerry is also an excellent example of how money won’t buy the presidency, thank you.


> Getting your information from friends and family is not going to be worse than sourcing it from talking heads in a studio or newspaper editors

Of course it is. Especially these days, your friend is just as likely to have gotten the news they're giving you from a Facebook meme page than from anything with on the record quotes from officials involved.

> There are politically interested people in every community to pick up the Slack

Yes there are. Journalists! That's what a journalist is. They're interested, they research, they present their findings. If you are reading parliamentary papers and reporting the contents to your friends, you are a journalist.

Just deferring to individuals in the community you know is a nice idea but it doesn't cover it. For instance, who was looking into Theranos other than journalists at WSJ? Best I can tell, no one was. Their reporting on the company was invaluable.


an informed choice about what? the news is full of things you can't have an impact on. focus on things you can impact, like your own life and the people around you.


An informed choice about, oh, I don't know... voting? Whether they support the actions of their local politician? What they should protest? What causes they should support? These are foundational elements of how democracy functions, it would be nice for them to work well.


This is deeply intellectually disingenuous and a bit masturbatory even. News isn't only events you can or cannot effect, it is context setting, value creating and signal driving.

The idea that your local culture is superior to foreign also is problematic, not in a normative way, but in that it almost certainly limits new ideas and general diversity.

The solution is more likely that information is hard to parse and more information is harder. The thing not mentioned in this that I think is the most critical part of the "change" is that historically fringe and minority ideas were kept in check because of basic principals of attention economy. If 10 people believed things, there was most often a limit as to how many those 10 would reach. Now fringe ideas can speak to MANY people, and can be dynamiclly adjusted to catch.

Previously the only real organization that had huge reach was the government and we built a Rube Goldberg machine to insure that one voice didnt dominate. Facebook, Twitter and Google are all bigger than all governments and there is no checks and balances other than one dudes whims in each case. Im all for free market, but this information delivering system is too large, too unregulated and probably for better and worse is going to deliver a deeply different world than we all grew up in. That new world seems more reactive.


That’s just destructive cynicism. If It were true, it’s the end of democracy, because the process of deciding needs information.

That would be a severe thread to your life, and you should be mobilizing everything you have to stop it, by, for example, founding your own “unbiased” news.


"I have failed to find one important reason: all news are fake news now."

Can't tell if Russian troll farm agent or just someone with poor English skills...


The distinguishing factor for 'real' journalists over internet posters was that they could be trusted, but they have single-handedly destroyed their own credibility over the last few years. The glut of online magazines, newspapers etc lead to the rise of click-bait just to make ends meet, which in turn lead to the sensationalism we see played out now.

There is good journalism going on, but it doesn't pay for these huge media companies that they have become.


We thought they could be trusted. Back when it was almost impossible to fact check them or seek alternative sources.

Any given source have always been inaccurate or biased to one degree or another.


Yes, this is true.

But there was also a business model in providing facts, when facts were hard to get. Now that they are a commodity, the business model seems to be in providing opinions.


More "Shouting" and hot takes for sure. But the bias driven inaccuracies were commonplace. As well as plenty of malice driven inaccuracies.


Regardless of the discussion on "fake news" or "not so fake news" or "trustworthy news" I found the ration of signal vs. noise for my personal life to just not justify news consume.

If I was consuming about 30 pieces of news per day (and that is not so much actually) I would consume nearly 11.000 news pieces per year.

I was asking myself: "How many of the news pieces I consumed did actually influence any relevant decision I made?"

The answer in that given year was three, max. four. So of nearly 11.000 data points only 3 or 4 were actionable enough to influence a more or less important decision?

This was the reason I switched from a "just in case" mindset (I need to know this, just in case it might become important - also called "FOMO: Fear of missing out") to a "just in time" mindset. If something is of any particular interest to me - I start to investigate the context. To then be able to come to a valid decision.


I emphasize with not having a good idea on what and how much news to consume. Especially developing news... just reading the summary afterwards seems way less time consuming. A digital counterpart to a weekly newspapers, doing the selecting, would be nice. I haven't found a convenient way to do that, yet. Would love recommendations.

But we cannot just ignore news at all... there must be some minimum time to invest. Democracy can only work if your choice in the voting booth is actually informed. For that, journalism seems to be the best of the bad options we have. Most comments in this thread painting it as worthless or worse is downright scary.


> Democracy can only work if your choice in the voting booth is actually informed.

I am totally with you on that. But I also believe, that I am able to inform me "just in time". When I read about the least years, read the party programs, read the proposals and the essayists discussing them.

I do this in the weeks leading up to an election. And - we are imho lucky to have this in Germany - am able to use an online tool to check all party programs against the things important to me in a kind of "who fits best" tool. This is done by an independent organisation and is nowadays kind of an institution by itself.


Back when I was growing up, we got the newspaper. It was kinda something you just expected to be available. Then my parents one day just told the paper boy to stop delivering. My dad was just getting into Yahoo news and getting his wall street fix online. There was no longer a need for a paper.

The product was not the paper but just this entire morning experience - coffee and newspaper. And the idea that different family members would grab different sections. It was totally incredible.

Would I ever get a newspaper subscription? Nah, but I think there's a lot missing from the good ole days of it.


> Would I ever get a newspaper subscription? Nah, but I think there's a lot missing from the good ole days of it.

I (someone under 40) thought this but then the Seattle Times did a Groupon for something absurd, like $20 for a year of Sunday in print plus online access and the digital "print replica" for the other six days. I figured it'd be worth trying and, if nothing else, I could put the paper delivery on hold and just use online access until it ran out.

Now, over two years later, I've kept the subscription. Part of it is because the Times never went to charging me full price--it's more than the $20 Groupon I bought but it's less than the posted price for Sunday+digital so I dunno how they come up with what they bill me--but another part is that I actually like reading the Sunday paper. I'll plop down with the dog and a huge mug of tea and just lay on the couch and read the mini-magazine, the outdoor section, life/arts, that sort of thing. It's an hour or so where I've nowhere to be, and nothing pressing to do except read the fiddly bits that get passed by during the busy week.

The rest of the week, I'll flip through the print replica iPad app on the bus to work or read articles through the web site, but the Sunday paper is "pulp, ink, and chill" time.


> The product was not the paper but just this entire morning experience - coffee and newspaper. And the idea that different family members would grab different sections. It was totally incredible.

I don't think it's even the experience that mattered. What newspapers never realized was that they're in the distribution business, people were paying them to print out their content and deliver, they were never really paying for the content itself. The internet made the distribution business obsolete and now they have nothing to offer.

We saw the same with the music business, it wasn't the songs we were paying for, it was for them to distribute the music in a format that's convenient.

Now we're seeing the same with online video, everyone keeps trying to make proprietary content to get subscribers but people just want a dumb pipe to deliver everything.


What newspapers never realized was that they're in the distribution business, people were paying them to print out their content and deliver, they were never really paying for the content itself

Traditionally in newspapers advertisers paid for the paper, ink etc and the act of buying the paper paid for the journalism and original content.


I'm under 30 and have been a newspaper subscriber for about 6 years. I plan to be a subscriber as long as they will keep delivering it. My parents subscribe to two papers: the San Francisco Chronicle, and what is now called the East Bay Times. Like you, I've long viewed the paper as an important family experience, where you sit around and trade sections over breakfast.

When I moved out, I didn't expect to become a subscriber, but I got a free trial at some point and decided that I enjoyed the paper and wished to support the establishment.


This is half the reason I still get the Sunday Washington Post. You get a piece of it Saturday (comics, somes ads, travel section!) and the bulk on Sunday. I enjoy sitting down with my eggs, coffee, etc and just picking what to read.

The print edition also seems to be less sensationalist than the online version. At least from my optic.


Same here. You could always try it though. I got a subscription last year. It was good, but ultimately decided to just keep the online subscription, as it meshed with my reading patterns better.


The OP is accurate—but it's missing two more critical reasons why newspapers are dying.

1) Ad fraud. It reduces the value of advertising. https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/328730/advert... "The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) estimates online ad fraud costs advertisers $8.2 billion annually." And I've heard numbers alleged much higher; as much as 30% of revenue for a news site...

2) User tracking. If you have the choice of paying X for an ad for a user on the NYT site, or (1/3)X for the same user on some clickbait site, which do you do? (particularly as an advertising middleman attempting to maximize impressions per $). This type of arbitrage—sometimes unwittingly coming from user data from the higher quality sites—could significantly reduce their revenue making them unprofitable.


There's a lot of shortsightedness here and I'm compelled to react to it (why didn't the article cover the origin and nuances of yellow journalism and draw some parallels?) But I'll pose a question to illustrate all these opinions in hopes of adding something useful to the discussion.

How does a story get written?

- Someone reads a story from a legitimate news source and paraphrases it (very often)

- Someone reads a story from a legitimate news source and opines on it (often)

- Someone reads a press release written by someone else and paraphrases it (often, esp in science)

- Someone documents crowd behavior (trending reddit) and reports on it (very very often since it's an easy kill with assurance of results)

- Citizen or a whistleblower calls a newsroom and provides a tip to be investigated (rare)

- Agency reporter digs through a dataset (provided by a gubmit agency) and derives a story out of it (rare)

- Agency reporter compiles a dataset (scrapes, etc) and derives a story out of it (rarer)

- Gumshoe reporter, on their regular beat, catches a story and reports on it (takes time)

Of all of those methods, only the last two have elements of first-hand fact collecting and checking, and that kind of original reporting costs a boatload of money to sustain. Like to the tune of $20 a story by some meter, which a reasonable reader would never pay for to read a single story.

That mind-blowing cost was traditionally covered by print advertising - online advertising never became a significant fraction before brick and mortar news agencies started crumbling. If you consider what I have said, I think you'll find that tons of popular stories are cheaply produced but not cheaply broken.

In other words, traditional news agencies and new-age ad-infested freelance cabbage leaf sites both regurgitate stories and story ideas from others. Sometimes a regurgitated story has supplemental reporting, but it's never that significant.

When you run into a story ask yourself what the sources are and how they came to be written by those reporters and try to classify it in the crude pantheon I've constructed. I think you'll find that many stories that reach you weren't broken by the place you read them on.


I think we need to seek new models for investigative journalism, not new funding sources for an old model. I think journalism as a profession doesn't make a tonne of sense, and the same function could be pushed out to the wider community, with newspapers functioning similarly to scientific journals, trying to add some amount of quality control. Many are already relying more heavily on Op-Eds/contributed content, but I think they need to cast a wider net, so that it attracts actual experts, and not just the natural self-promoters.


and then there's the shortsighted view on money.

that work was paid by the subscribers. now it's paid by the news. see the fast rise of puff-piece-for-hire type of press, like wired and vice and Bloomberg (the video branch). they do Oscar grade short documentaries by the wazoo lately. and vice specially exclusively on incendiary fake news topics.


One thing that I always find in these discussions is that a lot of people who think that you can trust 'real' news outlets to accurately report anything have never been on the interviewed side of the table.

I have never once been interviewed or had a project or event I've been involved with featured in a media outlet that wasn't grossly distorted to the point of comedy. I've had my age reported incorrectly, my title reported incorrectly, quotes made up that are literally the opposite of what I said to the reporter, reporters taking things out of context. And for this sort of thing to be coming up on fairly minor everyday reporting?

Having experienced this in my life so many times I never saw any news on any topic the same way again. When you imagine this kind of massive distortion on something minor, it is impossible for me to fathom how distorted big stories actually are.


This. Its similar to watching a tv show about something you personally know very well. The errors, generalizations, narrative and even the facts can be so far off you hope no one takes it serious. But people who do not know the subject matter take the presentation of it as fact.

Imagine how many doctors cringe watching E.R. or House.

News is this, but for real life events.


Don't have to imagine, there's a whole YouTube channel based around an actual medical doctor reacting to medical shows like E.R and House:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0QHWhjbe5fGJEPz3sVb6nw

There's also a very similar one showing a lawyer reacting to courtroom procedurals/shows:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpa-Zb0ZcQjTCPP1Dx_1M8Q


On a side note... Twitter seems like an odd choice for long-form writing. The author had to delete and re-post some of the tweets to get them back into the right order. What a nightmare.


Twitter is not just an odd choice, but a horrible one. TheReaderApp makes the experience bad instead of horrible, which in all fairness, is a step up.


'This is a stab to the heart of democratic accountability.' Not convinced about this - the internet is a fabulous source of information. Most 'newspapers' run AP service international 'stories' and local news, most of which you'll find a lot quicker online


The AP is a news organization that is funded by local news orgs licensing fees. And yes, you can find local news online because news orgs have put it online. When those news orgs close down, they won’t be publishing online.


It is also a fabulous source of cheap disinformation. For every well researched journalism piece, there are thousands of image based memes that influence people's opinion on any subject. That's why social media sites and search companies need to be regulated. Until there is no downside to publishing and marketing disinformation, every organization (legal or otherwise) will have the ability to do so.


I disagree with this: free speech is sacrosanct in the free world. 'Well researched journalism pieces' are all too often written by salaried employees of organizations with a mission to push a political slant and/or agenda. The idea that the material published by these businesses is 'fair and balanced' has never been true as the long a sordid history of yellow journalism proves. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_journalism There is no shortage of good investigative writers but a dearth of editors who will publish their work. That material is now largely to be found online rather than under corporate 'news' mastheads.


I think you are mistaking source for distribution channel. The "internet" doesn't produce anything it just distributes it very cheaply.


Technically that's true, but practically it is not.

I can go to a local library and view newspaper articles on microfilm.

But where can I go to find forum discussions and cat videos that were produced before the internet?

Nowhere, because they didn't exist. The internet (and applications built on top of it) encourage and facilitate creation. It's not just about distributing content that would have been created anyway.


It's online because of local news reporters.


I think this article's arguments are extremely weak. It brings out numerous examples of how "things you thought killed newspapers", like the Internet, Craigslist, etc., really weren't the root causes, but instead things like "corporate greed" and "lack of innovation" were.

Yet there are no convincing examples of how the news business would have done any better if these corporations were somehow less greedy or more innovative. There was a fundamental technology shift that made the newspaper product much less unique or defendable, and that would have happened no matter what the newspapers did.


David Simon's "The Audacity of Despair".

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nRt46W3k-qw


When the big mainstream media are pushing fake news to the left and right on an almost daily basis and getting caught doing it, people tend to look elsewhere for their news.


I was having this thought this morning in the gym, they had fox news blaring and I thought, who still believes this nonsense? The US should bring back the FCC fairness doctrine pertaining to TV and radio news channels, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FCC_fairness_doctrine


Meanwhile, a Salt Lake City TV and Radio company, KSL, grudgingly decided to get into online classifieds in 2000, and now dominates their local market, with 100 people working on the product:

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/04/ksl-c...

We saw the same thing at RIM/Blackberry. BBM was a flagship IM product, but kept restricted to their devices. The strategy worked, until it didn't, and the company is still worth less than half of what it could have been: Whatsapp.


This is ridiculous. "Greed" didn't kill newspapers. You think the classified business would be any better today off if newspapers had artificially held ad. and sub. prices down in the 80s and 90s? $0 is $0, and that's what people will pay for classifieds now.

"Hedge Funds", everyone's favorite bogeyman. "Lack of Innovation", as if the Chicago Tribune was going to save itself by opening a geocities page in 1996.

The 'news' business is a zombie because it sells a product that is basically free to produce and free to consume. That's it! You don't really need a newsroom to give you "the news" anymore, and so the market for a product whose main feature is a professional, standing writing staff that simply yesterday's events no longer meaningfully exists. No amount of investment in technology by media companies in the 90s was going to do anything but _hasten_ that shift.

But, there's plenty of great media out there. You can sell good writing if it is actually good; you can monetize your opinions if people will actually pay attention to them; you can sell your access if you actually have it; these are media business models with staying power. They might not be billion-dollar properties and they might not report "the news" per se but they provide value and they will be fine. My household subscribes to The Athletic, Foreign Affairs, Tablet, The New Yorker, and The Information, to name a few. All great.


The real issue is the pervasive attitude in this thread, which you've also exhibited, that news is "basically free to produce." It isn't, and it's absolutely incredible to me how many otherwise intelligent people can't track just how much of what they read online traces back to original reporting. If this cost was passed to the reader, it would be absurd, and so it was historically majorly subsidised by wealthy families and the advertising business. The incentives have since changed; those media owners now see it's more profitable not to report the news but increasingly use these channels disingenuously.

Here's the great joke: if we would hold them to account for this, we could do something about it. But nobody does. Nobody thinks to blame the ownership (unless they're an established boogeyman like Murdoch.) Instead, as you can see everywhere in this thread, the blame is put on journalists, who now have to pick battles against corporate interest to get ANYTHING of value over the line, under ridiculous deadlines, with zero job security. What's being lost here isn't "good writing" or the ability to "monetize opinions" -- it's the institutional protection and resources required to hold power accountable, examine and reflect on trends, and uncover essential facts about our world.

Okay, we can point to examples where institutions have gotten it wrong, and they deserve holding to account for those instances too. But there are just as many and more where journalists have put their health, families, jobs, and lives at risk to ensure people aren't so easily hoodwinked by money and authority. If all someone wants to read is Medium blogs for the rest of their lives, fine, crack a beer and enjoy the end of journalism. But especially for a community that prides itself on values like intellectualism, open communication, and bettering the world, it's incredibly disheartening every time a thread like this appears on HN and the response is "maybe newspapers shouldn't be so bad then!" This is an information crisis that is being celebrated by the people who should be fighting it the hardest.


>[news isn't] free to produce

Software also isn't free to produce, and yet here we are - in a world dominated by freely available software. It runs on every computer, because it's either "good enough", or in some cases, outright better quality and supported for longer, than paid-for software.

And yet Microsoft and friends are alive and thriving in the ecosystem with free competing software. How come? They re-invented themselves into billing for related hardware, services & guarantees.

We are still waiting for the top-heavy media - including the missing link "online newspapers" media like HuffPo and WaPo - to adjust to the current market situation. If they can't, or won't, too bad.

The new-style online media, typically a one-man operation spanning several channels, are already well established and turning profit. By publishing for free news that costed real money to produce.


I don't think the analogy holds. Organization-backed news is not to free/single-publisher news as corporate software is to free software.

Free, single-producer news is, if we want to try to adapt this analogy (perhaps past the breaking point) more like free software that only has a single developer/maintainer. We all know what those projects can be like. There are some diamonds in the rough, but overwhelmingly they're hyper-specific, difficult to modify, hard to question (file issues with), and often of dubious quality.

Edit: The analogy also falls apart: I'm not sure how going from single-maintainer -> multiple contributors has a parallel in the blogging/tweeting world that is doable for many writers. Some blogs have informal editorial boards and groups of publishers who edit each other, but most multi-writer blogs I've seen are just separate threads that happen to appear in the same place.


Microsoft is doing fine because they are protected by copyright. The New is not: th specific words fall under copyright protection, but the work is in the investigation, and that work can be reappropriated by just rewriting the story “in your own words”.


Yes I subscribe to my local newspaper. Most days I don't even read it, but there are a few reporters there that report on the local city politicians. If these reporters don't write, I don't think anyone will be keeping an eye on these yokel city politicians.


> Google and FB have something print newspapers used to have: a reliable, captive audience. That’s what advertisers will pay for, because they know people will be there.

Interesting observation, which raises the question: who will own the eyeballs next?


AR


The media in the 21st century are simply what the textile workers were at some point in the 19th century.

News reporting has an unprecedented level of efficiency now, that a single website can serve hundreds of thousands of global visitors in the span of minutes. Compare this to the traditional methods of distributing news, such as a printed newspaper.

How long would it take to distribute the news via newspaper to, say, a million of readers spread out throughout the whole world, even if you used airplanes and fast trucks? The efficiency improvement here is on the scale of 2 orders of magnitude, at the minimum, perhaps more.

You can have 3 people in the pipeline now report an event to millions of people (e.g. 1 reporter at the physical location of the event, the editor at the news org. HQ, and, let's say a tech person to make sure it all works and gets published correctly). 100 years ago this would be impossible. Hell, even 30 years ago it would be near impossible.


Is anyone in the publishing business reading this? If so, I've got a personal story to share.

I love cars. I'm a gearhead and I just love cars. I subscribe to several car magazines. Except I don't get Car & Driver anymore, and my subscription to Motor Trend is going to go unrenewed. Why?

In both cases, the car mags started running political commentary. If it were balanced, I wouldn't like it but wouldn't quit reading. But it's not balanced-- both mags express support for one side of the political spectrum, disdain for the other.

I can't justify paying for that. So I wrote (not for publication) notes to the editors, telling them I'd quit subscribing if they didn't stick to the proper wheelhouse. Neither editor replied. That's enough for me, I'm not going to pay for that kind of content.

I think ESPN has undergone a similar cycle. I believe their subscriber base is greatly diminished, yet they seem to continue on with a politicized agenda.

I just can't understand why the business owners allow this to continue. It seems counter-productive to me.


Have experienced the same. Canceled subscriptions. Hell I use to ALWAYS watch ESPN. Now I never do. It’s sad because the product use to be so good. Now everyone in sports wants to be a politician and talk about the very stuff im watching espn to escape!


At least men's razors are still non-political /s


I'm surprised Car Magazines are getting involved in politics outside of say... car industry politics.

One thing I hate are the pricey opinion writers media likes to hire these days. In major publications these people can make $250,000/year (and up) to basically write partisan hot-takes that you can get for free on twitter.

You could hire 3-4 investigative journalists for the same price.


People in news have always been aware of their power to influence public opinions, they didn't just start wielding it today. What's happening is due to current political divide, there are now in-fighting among American news outlets, making their politicized agenda more obvious to average Americans.

People from countries vilified by American media have always been aware the politicized agendas.


I wholeheartedly recommend The Drive [1] and Alex Roy [2]. Both are biased. Towards a good driving experience :]

[1] https://twitter.com/thedrive

[2] https://twitter.com/alexroy144


Thanks for sharing those. I'll give them a look!


This is exactly what happened with the gaming media too. More and more political commentary, often biased heavily towards one side of the political spectrum and somewhat disdainful towards their customers.

Then again, I hear it's happened in many specialist fields recently, like entertainment journalism (music, TV, literature), sports journalism, etc. Constant political focus, agenda pushing, a general detachment from their audience.

And in every case, it's caused the publication to lose readers/subscribers because they don't want this political stuff. Suspect it's caused the growth of a fair few online publications too.

Not everything has to be a soapbox for political commentary.


I think the issue is basically this: In modern times, not even a car magazine can write articles without occasionally be forced to at least mention a politically charged issue, say, Trump. Today, with such very charged issues, if all you do is mention them without disavowing them, you are seemingly implicitly supporting them, and will be interpreted that way. And if if that’s how it’s going to be anyway, you might as well pick a side in order to appeal to the remaining side which buys your magazine.


So, advertiser dollars in the "attention economy" have been redirected from newspapers to ad-tech.

I wonder, who is a better steward of this money, and the control it entails? Tech has been getting a bad rep recently; but there was a lot of crap in the print newspapers from the old days, too.


Immediately after writing that, I realized that "tech" is kind of a bad label for our Googles and Facebooks. "Attention companies" is perhaps a more suitable term, because attention is the product they're selling.


"Information technoloy" is largely media. Media are information technology.

Google and Facebook are media companies.


> There is money out there. Google and FB have something print newspapers used to have: a reliable, captive audience. That’s what advertisers will pay for, because they know people will be there

Last paragraph acknowledged demand for the product of local reporting has fallen way off and I’d argue it would have even if newspaper owners operated on supermarket margins. It’s just a consumer trend, consumption of sustenance in media is down because frivolous media is now readily available


Insightful article from Politico in 2017.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/04/25/media-bub...


Those media people laid off are in the incredibly enviable position of being able to literally start a new high-demand news outlet overnight. There's enough across the industry's spectrum who know each other that they could, starting with just their cell phones, launch a business filling an industry void: reporting objective news.


"And who’s moving in right now to pick through the scraps? Hedge funds. They’ve destroyed several papers, and are working their way through some biggies like the Denver Post."

Uh, wat? Am I mistaken, or does that not make sense? Since when are hedge funds involved in corporate plundering? I think he's getting "hedge fund" confused with private equity and venture capital, no?

That being said, is it that the venture capital firms are picking through the scraps or that these web media companies are not grown organically, which is why we're seeing massive layoffs. They operate mostly on venture capital and haven't been making a profit ... at least not directly; who knows what stories have been generated for the sake of some other business dealings elsewhere; a sort of accounting trick where losses are incurred in one area for the sake of profit in another area.

Conspiratorial? Yeah, but not unlikely.

EDIT: To add on to this, lately these brands have been tarnished, so perhaps one could speculate that those wielding the venture capital are downsizing to work on new brands going into the 2020 election season; brands not tainted by a loss of trust.


I am not in the newspaper industry, but close to it you could say.

Do you have any idea how many people have worked on a print story before it got printed?

It's not just the reporter, but fact checkers, copy editors, editors, sometimes lawyers.

You can say what you will about the physical print medium being obsolete now that we have the internet, but can anyone argue that your average online site is going to invest as much manpower in checking over their stories before publishing?


No wonder, we must bring back the FCC fair doctrine act, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FCC_fairness_doctrine


Vice News is considered "journalism". Let that sink in...


Small newsrooms have been replaced by Reddit, blogs, and a nexus of updates from Facebook, mailing lists, and instant messaging.

News isn’t just what gets printed on paper. There’s nothing about printing information on paper that somehow makes it special.


Reddit, blogs, Facebook and the rest have not broken any important stories. Actual news is broken by paid investigative reporters.


This is absolutely not true. Places like reddit break news all the time.

At least in the subjects that I follow, those being gaming and livestreaming, I see news stories break on reddit, because of something that someone posted in the comment section, or as a top level original content post form a user created clip, with extreme frequency!

Reddit is argueable the best place to find developing news for these specific subjects, at least.

And it only hits the "mainstream" media hours and hours after some rando had just made a comment about it, and posted a video link.


“Games and live-streaming” isn’t news.


Here's the thing. If you tell me traditional print newspapers are dying because of falling subscription and display ad numbers, I get it.

But online news portals laying off is, in my opinion, more of a sign of incompetence and less of falling subscriptions.

These companies like HuffPo and BuzzFeed came around when the problems facing traditional newspapers were clear as day.

Indeed, they directly contributed to the problem of falling subscription of newspapers with their chase for eyeballs as probably their sole metric for success.

The onus lied on them to scale their business as their revenue scaled. Don't hire expensive offices and hundreds of people just to churn out listicles and a little bit of journalism a la Buzzfeed.

Grow with the growth in your revenue and metric growth in key areas.

Nothing has fundamentally changed in the news industry establishment of Buzzfeed so they can't cry of falling subscription.

Regardless of amount of VC money you receive, businesses should have profitability and sustainability in mind from day one instead of "let's build they will come".

Of course chasing growth with revenue taking a backseat worked for Google or Facebook but for every Facebook/Google, there are thousands of companies, employee lives and millions of dollars wasted on such an unsustainable model.


I find it odd timing that all of sudden, two paychecks into the government shutdown, suddenly multiple online news sites are being shuttered.

Is it possible these sites were surviving on deep-state money?


No. "deep state" is a conspiracy fantasy used by some voters to blame someone else for the obvious consequences of voting for people and policies which destroy things they were relying on to survive. It's not possible that it's responsible for anything, since it doesn't exist.




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