Let's roast the snot out of political "journalists"


#1

The hubbub over Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondence Dinner set, and particularly this Deadspin tongue-lashing delivered to snivelling worm Chris Cilliza, reminded me of a story from a few years ago. I think it illustrates both that this faux-outrage has always been around, but also that it’s gotten significantly worse.

After Stephen Colbert’s (in)famous WHCD speech in 200-whatever (I still love “He believes on Wednesday what he believed on Monday, no matter what happened on Tuesday. Eek barba durkel.” I might be misremembering that last part), I was taking a grad class where the professor was a correspondent for CNN.

Somebody in the class asked what he thought of the speech, and he said something along the lines of “The problem isn’t that it was mean or uncalled for, it’s that it just wasn’t funny.” Of course most of the class is nodding and “yes, yes”-ing, oh tell us, wise sage. Like this pompous blowhard knew the first thing about being funny. There were a few of us who looked at each other like we recognized it for the cop-out it was.

And it was a cop-out. But at least he recognized that it wasn’t OK to straight out tell people that comedians can’t be mean to politicians, so he had to couch it in “it wasn’t funny.” Cilizza and his ilk- Kurtz, Habermann, every snot-faced weasel at CNN - have gotten comfortable now just going straight for the “it’s inappropriate” fluff job.

So, Waypoint, how bad is political journalism these days? What can be done to fix it? For the international readers, what’s it like in your neck of the woods?


#2

It’s funny after being exposed to “the ethics in gamez journoz” crowd for several years that they remain silent on the awfully cozy relationship that political journalists have with politicians. The WHCA is a useless organization, and White House reporting is a useless endeavor, regardless of the House’s occupant. Really, what is to be gained from all the reporting outlets assigning reporters to cover each day’s propaganda? Any important information can just as easily be disseminated via press releases, and reporters can do the actual footwork of chasing leads and sources to get the news that is actually important. This whole mess around Michelle Wolf is merely political reporters feigning outrage that their free ride is being called out.

And man was the Deadspin article cathartic. I really don’t want to hear it when the most powerful people in the world claim to be “bullied”.

Also, for an international perspective, at least here in Canada we also have a reporting class that exists merely to bask in the reflected limelight of the political class. The lengths our news goes to create a both-sides atmosphere just highlights their uselessness. Thankfully, there are a few outlets like Canadaland and The Walrus that for the most part do a good job of calling out the mainstream press.


#3

In the UK, almost every political journalist went to Oxbridge and gives a standing applause to any Tory who is only pretty racist instead of extremely racist. Calling them out on their shit is “abuse” and they all have completely independent opinions, which coincidentally happen to be exactly the same. Any suggestions nepotism is at play will invoke an extremely aggrieved chorus of people insisting that journalism is totally meritocratic. Even “progressive” outlets seem to be dominated by a strand of feminism which is extremely hostile to trans people and sex workers.

They have more interest in politics as a spectator sport than holding anyone to account and there are teenagers online called sloppytrotbinch69 with better understanding of structural issues. Twitter has been a fascinating and horrible place to be because the last decade has seen a class which has spent generations printing absolute fucking dogshit (hateful, incorrect or both) and getting away with it, and now they’re finally forced to share a space with smarter, kinder people who know they’re wrong and will tell them as much. There are a couple journalists who aren’t awful but overall it is extremely grim. The culture is so awful that it is virtually impossible for anyone who has arguably good intentions to not get covered in shit.

And of course, there was this, after which Piers Morgan somehow still has a career:

This is a lot of Post and not a lot of Roast, just me getting super mad, sorry. Anyway I can’t wait for the entire Murdoch family to die and for every printing press in the UK to irreparably malfunction. Peace.


#4


#5

I gotta hand it to Chris Cillizza, because I thought Wolf Blitzer was the dumbest man on the planet until I saw Cillizza and now I’m not sure

edit: I would like to revise this post, you do not, under any circumstances, “gotta hand it to them”


#6

I’m not sure the problem is limited to political journalism–if you were to get down to the root of the problems in political journalism, I think you would find that they affect most other types of journalism as well. The main difference is that the maladies affecting journalism manifest more immediately in political journalism.

What are some problems in the fourth estate? Let’s speculate:

  • Most journalism is funded by advertisers or granted money by wealthy patrons, not by individual viewers. Ideally these advertisers or patrons have some sort of editorial firewall, but such firewalls aren’t much defense in the event of an advertiser boycott.
  • A lot of journalism is fueled by interns and other kinds of non-paid labor. It’s great that people with a lot of passion get opportunities to train in a real work environment, but not a lot of people can afford to live in cities while they work for free, effectively creating an economic filter for who ends up working in journalism.
  • Journalism interacts with media, particularly televised media, in pernicious ways. The people who read the news are selected mostly according to their appearance and presentation that often reinforces gender norms. Men can be trusted on account of their dispassionate delivery, etc.

#7

This isn’t really related to anything but I think it’s really funny that the vast majority of the staff of The Economist are under like 30 or 35 but they have this hilariously stuffy old house style

it’s like the inverse of the take model and also I feel like when people learn that they start to look at that rag with a more skeptical eye which is good


#8

Yep (on top of OP & the discussion of the UK press’s criminal operations), I think it’s interesting that we see so much of the commentariat jump to become the leaders of #TheResistance while loudly demanding their establishment organisations act as alternatives to actual lobbyist/activism orgs (ACLU etc) in terms of how they frame fund-raising drives. I think it’s absolutely fair to consider their operations under that comparison.

Meanwhile, the president himself is primarily informed and driven by Fox News, which also is an extremely central power player in the wider GOP. Cambridge Analytica is a story about exactly the sort of privacy invasion that not only makes up core journalism (again, see Leveson) but also primarily funds it (the Facebook data they fused with will have often come from all these ads that run on online newspaper pages).

The fourth estate being primarily owned by billionaires and dependent on privacy invasion for profitability makes it extremely likely to be on the wrong side of history when it comes to so many of the crucial issues. No sliver of good intentions can overcome that level of establishment culture. So in the UK we see that across the political spectrum, mainstream journalism is typically the most reactionary and regressive strand of the politics they claim to represent.

The mainstream UK press is currently claiming to have led the charge that resulted in the Home Secretary resigning but actually they have spent years avoiding covering the activists shouting about this issue (and even the politicians who have been talking about this before anyone in the press thought their majority-White audience cared about deportation). The main contribution of the press is to act as propaganda, enabling and normalising the “hostile environment” that fascist politicians have built on top of thousands of headlines demonising migrants (and British people of colour). Even right up until the announcement, senior political commentators were busy being extremely wrong in public and showing the sort of lack of insight that should force you [King’s College, Cambridge] to step down (but they don’t because being wrong about things is the trade of the political commentator here, making it harder to split incompetence from malice).

Final edit: Actually, I really can’t leave it there. This roasting needs to descend to purely factual reporting that sounds like outlandish satire.

Even if you were to actually get fired for obviously and knowingly lying as a journalist, things are probably going to be ok for you [Balliol College, Oxford] as you get immediately hired elsewhere (to make up lies about bendy bananas being banned by the EU) and then eventually go on to become Mayor of London and then Foreign Secretary. (Again: this is not a satirical exaggeration). Or how about being caught as a career plagiarist but after spending a few years away from the column inches (getting paid to write books), you [King’s College, Cambridge] can come back with a dangerously misleading book praised by all your journalism chums and with a cover quote from no one less than Hillary Clinton!


#9

Yeah, I definitely agree that at a systemic level, money is the primary factor. But on an individual level, there seems to be an overabundance of people desperate for the approval of the people they’re supposed to be holding to account.


#10

Oh man, I forgot how vicious Deadspin can get when they want to. This is up there with the Jason Whitlock takedowns they did back in the day.


#11

Sarah Huckabee Sanders? More like Sarah Yuckabee Sanders, am I right folks?

And what’s the deal with Fox News? I mean, excuse me Tucker Carlson, shouldn’t we be calling you Yucker Carlson?

Don’t even get me started on Ann Coulter, or as I like to call her, Yuck Coulter!

[slap bass]

Sufficiently roasted, I’d say.