Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Shed No Tears for Two Sleazy Leftist Media Publishers

Two flagship leftist publications of the digital-media age recently announced their own demise. (a moment of silents please)  It's notable what’s been missing from media narratives about Vice and BuzzFeed's fall: any recognition that in their pursuit of buzz and clicks, their leaders abandoned some important journalistic principles and contributed a great deal to the declining trust in media.

They raised up a generation of half baked journalists that have helped make media untrustworthy and their information suspect. Vice, once valued at $5.7 billion, did their part by selectively targeting the small community of thirtysomething hipsters with niche identity politics viral rage content. The “young and online” orientation eventually infected all of media and had its own deleterious effects on journalism in general. As more and more “young and online” reporters embraced identity politicking and put pressure on their editors and managers to publish pleasing political narratives rather than often-uncomfortable facts, they help skewed younger readers perceptions of what the rest of the world believe about controversial political and cultural issues. Just read twitter.

As for BuzzFeed, they were responsible for kicking off one of the modern world’s most effective disinformation campaigns when it published the Steele dossier, that steaming pile originally meant to help Hillary Clinton by claiming that Russia had salacious, compromising information about DJT. We all knew it wasn’t true, but when BuzzFeed published the dossier in its entirely in December 2016, it effectively launched the Trump #resistance and spawned Russiagate.

None of the obituaries for BuzzFeed at sites like Slate or NPR mentioned the Steele dossier, and in the Atlantic, former BuzzFeed News editor in chief Ben Smith is still making the case that his decision to publish it was not a craven effort to drive traffic and attention to his site, but, in fact, an act of respect for you. He wrote:
“Don’t you, the reader, think you’re smart enough to see a document like that and understand that it is influential but unverified without losing your mind?” 
No. It was BuzzFeed’s publication of the dossier that made it “influential,” since Smith’s organization broke the dam that had prevented other outlets from writing about it. He and his BuzzFeed minions are in many ways responsible for the orgy of Trump-era rumor-mongering on the left. And yet this still elicits from him a “meh” rather than a mea culpa.

Their staffs also partied like they had the lavish expense accounts that legacy media institutions had long since eliminated. Guess what happens when you give a group of twentysomethings unlimited resources to chase stories?  It might explain why BuzzFeed published more than one story under different bylines about a Navy pilot who drew a giant penis in the sky.

The steep decline in the public’s trust in media occurred at precisely the time that outlets such as Vice and BuzzFeed were patting themselves on the back for breaking all of journalism’s rules. 

Now they’re broken.

~ Thank You MJA@IOTWReport for the Linkage  ~

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