The Decline of Journalism

I watched a video yesterday from the channel All Gas No Brakes depicting the protests in Portland, and something struck me.

The military firearms held by the police, the fires and fireworks produced by the protesters, all of it is shocking to see, especially within a major American city. But what stood out the most to me was the reporting. While the feds and police avoided saying much, Andrew Callaghan of All Gas No Brakes does a refreshing job in getting interviews and footage depicting a nuanced story. Rather than asking loaded questions to frame a biased narrative, Andrew simply sticks a mic and camera in front of the people involved and gives them the chance to share their perspectives. As such, he gives the viewer the chance to take in the information and form an opinion on their own.

In this video on the Portland protests, Andrew cleverly juxtaposes the nuanced reality with the coverage from left-leaning and right-leaning news media. Tucker Carlson on a Fox News broadcast reported, "armed mobs of Joe Biden voters torched buildings, smashed cars, [and] attacked police officers."

On the other side, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! describes the protests as such, "militarized federal officers continue their nightly attacks on anti-racist protesters Monday, waging a campaign of violence against largely peaceful protesters in Oregon."

Tucker Carlson continues, "they were surrounded and apparently assaulted by 150 Joe Biden voters dressed in black paramilitary gear. They hurt people, a lot of people."

They say the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and All Gas No Brakes serves to support this rule-of-thumb. I recommend you watch the video to decide for yourself.

There's obviously much to say on the protests and the social climate that fueled them. But here I'll be focusing my attention on the reporting itself, and what it says about journalism at large.

Honest and nuanced journalism is hard to find in mainstream media. News is widely prescribed in bite-sized, anger and fear-inducing chunks to satisfy the appetites of a polarized populace that doesn't have the attention-span for disconfirming evidence. The abundance of entertaining options at our fingertips is limitless, and as David Perell makes the case in a great essay on the topic, TV news, online publications, and social media are forced to play for attention-grabbing headlines and soundbites, regardless of their substance.

More and more I find myself ignoring major media outlets and viral articles on Facebook and Twitter. Instead I opt for curating my intake of what's important in the world by following and reading the work of a few citizen journalists and thought leaders.

And frankly, most of what seems really important today won't make the history books in fifty years. I'd rather read a timeless book on human nature or philosophy than overwhelm myself with the sensationalized 24/7 news cycle. If it's actually important, the select group of smart people I follow will make noise about it. And from there, I can decide for myself whether to pay attention to it or not.

And sometimes, I don't bother. The news has become a never-ending stream of negativity. Sometimes I just want to focus on my own shit, and getting caught in the dark hole of despair that permeates media puts me in a bad space. Am I being selfish by not "staying informed"? Maybe. But how much of this information actually makes a difference in my life? If a piece of information doesn't directly produce a useful change in my behavior and decision making, is it really valuable? And for the information that does make some genuine impact on my life, I'd prefer knowing that it's being imparted from an unbiased source that focuses on facts and reasons instead of headlines and entertainment.

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