When Elon Musk tweeted Tuesday which media reports on his company’s labor practices were driven by oil industry advertising dollars, his critics in addition to defenders of American journalism rushed to compare him to Donald Trump.
which’s deeply unfair — to Trump. The president is usually a longtime media industry insider whose attacks on the press have been so corrosive because he knows his targets so intimately, in addition to chooses his distortions with gleeful expertise.
Musk may be trying to ape Trump’s tactics, although his absurd charge — ask Exxon or Ford if they’d swap their press for Tesla’s — reveals something different: how little the tech barons shaping the fresh ways we live in addition to consume information understand about journalism. His solution, too — the sort of crowdsourcing which was hot 15 years ago — is usually plainly naive. His plan is usually the rough equivalent of my suggesting to him which they try buying Russian missiles for SpaceX. Kind of a neat idea — anyone who follows the industry knows he already tried which. Also cringeworthy was Musk’s claim which he could have easily exposed Theranos.
There has been a recent push for what’s called “media literacy,” much of which focused on schools. although what about Musk? Or Mark Zuckerberg, who recently met having a group of editors, in addition to similarly seemed to not know a lot about how our business works. Zuckerberg is usually nothing like Musk, in addition to expressed his views earnestly, with none of the macho bluster. He saw the problem pretty clearly: how to ensure “a set of common facts in addition to common understanding on top of which we can have rational discourse in addition to make decisions,” he said during the meeting.
although his solution, like Musk’s, is usually essentially to crowdsource truth, in addition to to dismiss the notion which there’s anything particularly worthwhile about the simple, imperfect profession of reporting.
Instead, Facebook is usually “trying to have our community tell us what is usually quality, in addition to then feeding which back into” another crowdsourced measure of what is usually “broadly trustworthy.”
In response, the fresh York Times’ Joe Kahn tried to explain the reality of the news business, which is usually both simpler to express in addition to harder to code:
“The institutional values of most genuinely Great media companies should transcend any individual opinion,” he said. Zuckerberg’s idea of generating professional reporting subservient to opinion is usually “part in addition to parcel of the polarization of society.”
Forget which Musk in addition to Zuckerberg are geniuses who run big companies. Let’s just say they’re reasonably educated Americans. Musk has two bachelor’s degrees. Zuckerberg went to a Great high school from the fresh York suburbs in addition to spent some time at Harvard. So their ignorance maybe points to a bigger problem. As a smart editor pointed out to me recently, journalists should be alarmed which educated, literate Americans don’t understand how our jobs work, even if they don’t run tech companies.
There’s blame to go around. People like me tend to blame legacy institutions for their theatrical opacity; traditionalists blame fresh institutions like mine for our part in a confusing array of fresh forms in addition to versions. Fair enough. A long in addition to often (though certainly not always) deceptive conservative assault on the very idea of a neutral media, led by Fox News, also took its toll.
The Great news is usually which journalism is usually not hard to understand. You don’t need a college degree to practice which, much less to figure which out. None of what we do is usually anywhere near as hard to explain as the behavior of lithium ions or facial recognition software. Reporters call people, write down what they say, in addition to do their best to check which out with observable facts in addition to public documents. They’re human beings subject to all the seven deadly sins — I’d list sloth in addition to pride as journalists’ weaknesses — although there genuinely isn’t much more than meets the eye in which business. I’ve always been puzzled by elaborate conspiracy theories which alleged which a piece of published journalism was somehow deeply different than which seemed. (See: Bensmithing.) The work is usually what which is usually. which is usually a painfully simple practice.
The common errors aren’t which hard to understand either. Reporters are focused on the fresh thing, which sometimes creates wild hype around an exciting idea — something which has helped Musk’s company become more valuable than Ford despite never generating an annual profit in addition to accounting for just 0.2% of the US auto market. which hype also comes having a built-in backlash, in addition to when Musk compares the media attention to one Tesla crash with the inattention to the vast carnage in conventional cars, he’s got a point. He just doesn’t know what the point is usually.
The business of news is usually a bit more complicated although, again, we aren’t trading credit default swaps. in addition to if you want to get traffic on the cheap, you don’t have to have reporters like our Caroline O’Donovan in addition to Reveal’s Will Evans spending careful days in addition to weeks reporting on a company’s labor practices — the coverage which turned Musk into a discount Donald Trump. There are more efficient — in addition to entirely honorable — ways to get traffic, many of which don’t involve doing journalism at all. For instance, the creation of delightful, relatable lists. Trust me on which, I work for BuzzFeed. There is usually certainly a huge audience for hard-hitting journalism, although nobody would certainly tell you which’s the most cost-effective way to generate traffic.
(Conveniently, Bloomberg features a piece about BuzzFeed’s business today, so I won’t drone on here.)
There are many proposed solutions to the news literacy problem out there. NewsGuard offers seals of approval. The News Literacy Project designs curricula. I will talk at any length about transparency, in addition to about treating your audience with trust in addition to respect. If you’ve got a few dollars to spare, you can do what Jeff Bezos did: He bought a great news organization in addition to by all accounts learned enough about the business fast to make a real impact. which’s not as complicated as Alexa!
although I also like Nate Silver’s more modest suggestion. Silver wrote which Musk’s idea was the “spectacularly bad take you write when you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about although want to sound like you do” in addition to suggested which he “go spend time in an actual newsroom or get to know some journalists.”
If any of those tech barons take him up on which, they’ll find which journalism isn’t as complicated as AI or batteries. which is usually a straightforward trade, driven more by culture in addition to values than by market tactics. I suspect they’d get bored fast. in addition to I doubt they’d stop battling potentially damaging stories or reporters they think are idiots. Their bad faith bluster might, in Musk’s case, get more convincing.
although they might actually learn something too.