Establishment Media Can’t Figure Out Internet
Here’s an article that tries to explain the media bubble by explaining it away with geography. Which would be a good argument if the bias didn’t go back decades.
Politico: The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think
What went so wrong? What’s still wrong? To some conservatives, Trump’s surprise win on November 8 simply bore out what they had suspected, that the Democrat-infested press was knowingly in the tank for Clinton all along. The media, in this view, was guilty not just of confirmation bias but of complicity. But the knowing-bias charge never added up: No news organization ignored the Clinton emails story, and everybody feasted on the damaging John Podesta email cache that WikiLeaks served up buffet-style. Practically speaking, you’re not pushing Clinton to victory if you’re pantsing her and her party to voters almost daily.
There are two types of bias. One is explicit bias: you have two roughly equal stories about Clinton and Trump in terms of their positive or negative, but you pick which one to emphasize because you prefer one candidate over the other. The deeper bias is that you don’t know which story is more important because you are ignorant of reality and live in a bubble created by narrative. An example of the former bias was Fox News in 2015. Fox did not talk much about immigration prior to Donald Trump running for President. There was an editorial decision to push ISIS atrocities over illegal immigration. An example of the deeper bias is the almost year long attention to the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO. It was a local crime story inflated (by the media) into race riots and violence against police because it fit a narrative about racist cops. The establishment media doesn’t think their belief in racist cops is biased, even if evidence shows the opposite. Cops are more likely to shoot a white suspect and when cops were forced to wear body cameras, cop shootings of civilians went up. This makes perfect sense if there’s media-fueled outrage at cop shootings of black suspects and police try to avoid shooting a black suspect in borderline situations because they fear becoming a year-long object of hate for the NYTimes. When body cams are mandatory and cops have video evidence, they are more willing to use deadly force when justified. In reality, the media is an engine of racial hatred, not fanning but actually creating the fires of racial conflict in the United States, because they believe it to be true. They know not what they do.
The results read like a revelation. The national media really does work in a bubble, something that wasn’t true as recently as 2008. And the bubble is growing more extreme. Concentrated heavily along the coasts, the bubble is both geographic and political. If you’re a working journalist, odds aren’t just that you work in a pro-Clinton county—odds are that you reside in one of the nation’s most pro-Clinton counties. And you’ve got company: If you’re a typical reader of Politico, chances are you’re a citizen of bubbleville, too.
The “media bubble” trope might feel overused by critics of journalism who want to sneer at reporters who live in Brooklyn or California and don’t get the “real America” of southern Ohio or rural Kansas. But these numbers suggest it’s no exaggeration: Not only is the bubble real, but it’s more extreme than you might realize. And it’s driven by deep industry trends.
It’s not driven by industry trends. It’s driven by the Internet and social mood. For the first time in history, people can form communities that cross oceans. An individual living apart from the community has no need to assimilate with local culture, they can maintain a permanent connection through the Internet. People also no longer need to rely on a few sources for information as they did even 30 years ago. There is alternative media for different racial and ethnic groups, in different languages, and for different political persuasions. There is nothing wrong with the establishment media’s bias and bubble (if truth isn’t a standard), except for the fact that it thinks it is the most important, the agenda setting media. This business model will eventually collapse because it is targeting an audience that no longer exists.
The online media, liberated from printing presses and local ad bases, has been free to form clusters, piggyback-style, on the industries and government that it covers. New York is home to most business coverage because of the size of the business and banking community there. Likewise, national political reporting has concentrated in Washington and grown apace with the federal government. Entertainment and cultural reporting has bunched in New York and Los Angeles, where those businesses are strong.
The result? If you look at the maps on the next page, you don’t need to be a Republican campaign strategist to grasp just how far the “media bubble” has drifted from the average American experience. Newspaper jobs are far more evenly scattered across the country, including the deep red parts. But as those vanish, it’s internet jobs that are driving whatever growth there is in media—and those fall almost entirely in places that are dense, blue and right in the bubble.
…Resist—if you can—the conservative reflex to absorb this data and conclude that the media deliberately twists the news in favor of Democrats. Instead, take it the way a social scientist would take it: The people who report, edit, produce and publish news can’t help being affected—deeply affected—by the environment around them. Former New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent got at this when he analyzed the decidedly liberal bent of his newspaper’s staff in a 2004 column that rewards rereading today. The “heart, mind, and habits” of the Times, he wrote, cannot be divorced from the ethos of the cosmopolitan city where it is produced. On such subjects as abortion, gay rights, gun control and environmental regulation, the Times’ news reporting is a pretty good reflection of its region’s dominant predisposition. And yes, a Times-ian ethos flourishes in all of internet publishing’s major cities—Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington. The Times thinks of itself as a centrist national newspaper, but it’s more accurate to say its politics are perfectly centered on the slices of America that look and think the most like Manhattan.
The charge was always that the media is biased because it lives and breathes deep inside a bubble. The establishment media is as biased in favor of progressivism as Univision is biased in favor of Spanish, as the NRA is biased in favor of gun rights and the NAACP is biased in favor of African-Americans.
Can media myopia be cured? Unlike other industries, the national media has a directive beyond just staying in business: Many newsrooms really do feel a commitment to reflecting America fairly. Sometimes, correcting for liberal bias can be smart business as well. For instance, by rightly guessing that there was a big national broadcast audience that didn’t see their worldviews represented in the mainstream networks, the Fox News Channel came to dominate cable TV ratings. Adopting Fox’s anti-mainstream media message to his political needs, Trump ended up running on a Foxesque platform, making a vote for him into a vote against the elite media—his trash talk was always directed at the national press, not the local. Similarly, Breitbart has seen huge success sticking it to liberals, implicitly taking the side of the “real America” against the coastal bubbles. Breitbart now attracts more than 15 million visitors a month, according to comScore, which isn’t far behind more established outlets like the Hill’s 24 million and Politico’s 25 million.
“Didn’t see their worldviews represented” as in the news would create strawman arguments based on left-wing talking points. If you watch Fox News’ news programming, they’ll show a Republican and a Democrat making their point on an issue and essentially let both sides present their case in their own words. When NBC and other mainstream outlets do the same thing, they push more narrative into the news. They will show a Republican and a Democrat, but instead of going back to a Republican rebuttal, the reporter will describe their position in Democrat terms, and then hand it over for the Democrat to put in the kill shot. It’s subtle and its good propaganda, but it’s why Fox News news programming has been found to be more fair and balanced. Fox News programming, such as the first 30 minutes of the 6PM Fox Report, is probably the most objective reporting among major media outlets. It is viewed as biased because Fox allows both sides to speak. One of the big complains these days from the far-left is that some ideas should be “deplatformed,” some ideas are so “dangerous” that they should not be heard. Sometimes even violent riots are necessary to stop people from speaking. To be neutral and objective is to have a right-wing bias in the mind of the modern left.
And speaking of Fox, it appears that the network might become a mainstream media outlet as Rupert Murdoch’s left-leaning son takes over the business. In what world does a successful media outlet that built itself as an alternative to biased media decide to abandon its raison d’etre and become the same thing as the competition? Not a profits driven one. It can only be explained by looking at the business through a political lens.
Hollywood Reporter: Michael Wolff: It’s James Murdoch’s Fox News Now
But, likewise, it would be hard to imagine how James could have been regarded with more contempt by many of the people at Fox News. James was rather exhibit No. 1 of the liberal elite entitlement that Fox had so profitably programmed against. “Fox [News] is an important brand, but it needs to develop, and, to some extent, be reformed,” James said when I interviewed him 10 years ago in his office as the chief executive of the Murdoch-controlled Sky TV in Britain, whose significantly less-partisan news operation he extolled as a ratings and journalistic model.
He seized his first opportunity for reform in July when, over his father Rupert’s protests and his brother and co-executive Lachlan’s ambivalence, he pushed for the ouster of Ailes, the network’s founder and almost all-powerful executive. When the O’Reilly story hit the Times, he overrode his father and brother again — and, by the same method he had used with Ailes, hiring a Democratic-associated law firm, Paul Weiss, to perform a rubber-stamp investigation. (In neither the Ailes nor O’Reilly investigations were the targets of the investigation interviewed.)
It was, he proudly told friends, a right decision rather than a business decision. The billionaire scion was aligning himself, profits be damned, with a new generation of corporate responsibility. That put him quite directly at odds with his father. It would be quite inconceivable to imagine Rupert sacrificing sure profits for greater good or a better image; indeed, his company had always been a pirate company.
Corporate responsibility is code for progressivism.
The conclusion of the Politico piece:
Journalism tends toward the autobiographical unless reporters and editors make a determined effort to separate themselves from the frame of their own experiences. The best medicine for journalistic myopia isn’t reeducation camps or a splurge of diversity hiring, though tiny doses of those two remedies wouldn’t hurt. Journalists respond to their failings best when their vanity is punctured with proof that they blew a story that was right in front of them. If the burning humiliation of missing the biggest political story in a generation won’t change newsrooms, nothing will. More than anything, journalists hate getting beat.
The media will be completely destroyed by the Internet because there’s no way to win with this model. I do not believe a market for objective journalism exists anymore, and really it never did. There was a brief moment when media consolidated into a handful of major voices during the peak of the Industrial Age, when NBC, ABC and CBS dominated television news. Before and after, there was a fractured media environment. Many newspapers retain the name “Democrat” or “Republican” in their name because in another time, they were literally mouthpieces for the local party. This is the way of the future: serving a niche market of like-minded consumers. Objective media outlets might survive as suppliers, such as AP or AFP. The news outlet will then spin the story for its audience, frame the story in the audience’s desired narrative.
Trying to please a general audience will end up turning off more viewers, as even core supporters will opt for more explicitly biased media. Trying to please everyone is a no-win situation when there are lots of biased alternatives and negative social mood accelerates the fracturing of the market. The mass media market is dying and there’s no saving it.