Author Topic: The Power of "The Press"  (Read 5936 times)

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Offline ModlrMike

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #50 on: January 13, 2017, 12:10:27 »
As others have pointed out, part of the problem for the press these days is the modern news cycle. The press is constantly trying to stay ahead of not only competitors, but the internet as well. When we were restricted to print news, the press had the luxury of time to develop the stories and to do in depth fact checking. While there certainly was political bias, the need to publish the truth (however coloured) was paramount. I think that the rush to publish now leaves little time for such niceties as accuracy, and we are all worse off for it.

On the topic of fake news, it looks like the BBC may be stepping up to the plate:

BBC sets up team to debunk fake news

« Last Edit: January 13, 2017, 12:39:21 by ModlrMike »
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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #51 on: January 13, 2017, 12:36:12 »
... I think that the rush to public now leaves little time for such niceties as accuracy and nuance/context, and we are all worse off for it ...
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Offline Chris Pook

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #52 on: January 13, 2017, 14:07:58 »
That.  Right.  There.

No the whole, but certainly part.

Another part is bias.

Still another part is "celebrity reporting".

National Enquirer type reporting on dumped boyfriends and the latest in body art.  A lot of celebrities have started pushing back against reporting that has become more and more mainstream.  With some resorting to "publish and be damned" attitudes as notoriety is at least as marketable as fame.  Many fans are equally likely to disregard all negative press in any event.

The Press has done itself no favours by chasing those types of stories.  Each one chips away at its credibility.

Guess what.  We now have a "publish and be damned" President that is both inured and immune.  And very hard to hold accountable.  Especially by a "press" that has a diminishing base of people that hold it in esteem.
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Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

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Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #53 on: January 13, 2017, 14:17:04 »
Precisely.

The media could do better if they actually wanted to, rather than simply engage in partisan sniping because their preferred candidate lost and they're all in a childish snit.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/443823/donald-trump-democrats-why-media-always-loses-trump?utm_source=jolt&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Jolt%201/13/2017&utm_term=Jolt

National Review

Why the Media Lose to Trump

by Rich Lowry January 13, 2017 12:00 AM

When it comes to a media circus, Trump always seems to have the advantage.

The best thing that happened to Donald Trump all week is that BuzzFeed published the raw Russia dossier about him.

It can’t be pleasant for anyone to see his name associated with prostitutes and a bizarre sex act in print — the principle that all publicity is good publicity can be taken too far even for Donald Trump. But in the media’s ongoing fight with Trump, BuzzFeed’s incredible act of journalistic irresponsibility represented the press leading with its chin.

Trump thrives off media hostility, and the more hostile - and the less defensible - the better. It allows him to portray himself as the victim of a stilted establishment. It fires up his supporters. It keeps the debate on terrain that is familiar and favorable to him - whether or not he is being treated “fairly” - and allows him to adopt his preferred posture as a "counterpuncher."

There are legitimate questions raised about how determined Trump has been to ignore evidence of Russia's hacking operations prior to the election. BuzzFeed unintentionally did more to obscure and delegitimize these questions than Trump Tower could ever hope to. By publishing the uncorroborated dossier, BuzzFeed has associated the Russia issue with fantastical rumors and hearsay.

Its decision to post the document has to be considered another chapter in the ongoing saga of the media and Democrats losing their collective minds. If the election had gone the other way, it is hard to see BuzzFeed publishing a 35-page document containing unverified, lurid allegations about President-elect Hillary Clinton that it didn’t consider credible. This was an anti-Trump decision, pure and simple.

It created a media firestorm, even though everyone should realize by now that media firestorms are Trump’s thing. They have been literally since the day he got into the presidential race. They suck the oxygen away from everything except the transfixing melodrama surrounding Donald Trump. The question is always, “How can he possibly escape this?” And at the center of attention, vindicating his own honor and that of his supporters by proxy, he always does.

For all that Trump complains about negative press coverage, he wants to be locked in a relationship of mutual antagonism with the media. The paradox of the Trump phenomenon is that he may be ripping up sundry political norms, yet he benefits when his opponents and adversaries do the same. When Marco Rubio descended to Trump’s level in the primaries and mocked the size of his hands, it hurt Rubio most. The Democrats have done themselves no favors by implicitly refusing to accept the election results after browbeating Trump for months to accept the results in advance. And if the press is going to lower its standards in response to Trump, it will diminish and discredit itself more than the president-elect.

For all that Trump complains about negative press coverage, he wants to be locked in a relationship of mutual antagonism with the media. It behooves those journalists who aren’t partisans and reflexive Trump haters to avoid getting caught up in this dynamic. If they genuinely want to be public-spirited checks on Trump, they shouldn’t be more bitterly adversarial, but more responsible and fair.

This means taking a deep breath and not treating every Trump tweet as a major news story. It means covering Trump more as a “normal” president rather than as a constant clear and present danger to the republic. It means going out of the way to focus on substance rather than the controversy of the hour (while Trump did a fine job shaming reporters at his news conference, he was notably weak on the details on how he wants to replace Obamacare). It means a dose of modesty about how the media have lost the public’s trust, in part because of their bias and self-importance.

None of this is a particularly tall order. Yet it’s unlikely to happen, even if it was encouraging that so many reporters opposed BuzzFeed’s decision. The press and Trump will continue to be at war, although only one party to the hostilities truly knows what he is doing, and it shows.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. © 2017 King Features Syndicate

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #54 on: January 14, 2017, 12:45:01 »
First, I agree 100% with A. J. Liebling who said, circa 1960, that "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

Second, I cannot conceive of an unbiased media ... I think the whole notion is rubbish and I disregard pretty much everything and anything written by any journalist who claims to be unbiased.

I expect bias in reporting. I actually admire the Toronto Star for publishing and, generally sticking to their Atkinson Principles even though it makes them biased. I think I pretty much understand and usually share many of the biases of my favourite newspapers and magazines: the Financial Times, The Economist, Foreign Affairs and the Globe and Mail: all are, broadly, Anglo-American, capitalist, liberal and pro-democracy ... so am I so, I guess, I can be accused of only reading that which is likely to reinforce my own views.

I think the blogosphere is 99% an intellectual wasteland. "Fake news" in out there, that's a fact, but it appears equally on CBC, CNN, Fox News, Global, RT and Xinhua and in thousands of blogs, too. Nonsense knows no borders. Ditto for stupidity and gullibility.

Caveat lector was good advice hundreds of years ago and it is good advice now, too.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
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Offline Chris Pook

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #55 on: January 14, 2017, 14:04:23 »
I have no problem with you, Edward, citing the Economist to bolster your arguments.  I prefer the Spectator myself.

None of which makes either of our positions fake, surely?  :)

I don't take issue with debate, disagreement or even the inability to find common ground.  I take issue with an apparently inability in society at large to manage the consequences of disagreement.  Conformity is not going to happen, despite the best wishes of the corporatists of Davos.

I came across this little gem today:

Quote
In 1991, the Club(ofRome) published The First Global Revolution.[8] It analyses the problems of humanity, calling these collectively or in essence the 'problematique'. It notes (laments) that, historically, social or political unity has commonly been motivated by enemies in common: "The need for enemies seems to be a common historical factor. Some states have striven to overcome domestic failure and internal contradictions by blaming external enemies. The ploy of finding a scapegoat is as old as mankind itself - when things become too difficult at home, divert attention to adventure abroad. Bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one, or else one invented for the purpose. With the disappearance of the traditional enemy, the temptation is to use religious or ethnic minorities as scapegoats, especially those whose differences from the majority are disturbing."[9] "Every state has been so used to classifying its neighbours as friend or foe, that the sudden absence of traditional adversaries has left governments and public opinion with a great void to fill. New enemies have to be identified, new strategies imagined, and new weapons devised."[9] "In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself."[10]

 "Alexander King & Bertrand Schneider - The First Global Revolution (Club of Rome) 1993 Edition". Scribd. 17 March 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
 King & Schneider, p. 115

per Wikipedia.

In today'sTelegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard talks about nationalism versus Davos man.

Two passages in particular stood out:

Quote
...Worker productivity in the US has risen by 243pc since 1973: hourly pay has risen just 109pc – and real wages for both blue-collar workers and the lower middle class have fallen since the turn of the century.

Few still deny that globalisation is a big part of this insidious effect. It allows companies to play off wages in the US and Europe against cheap pay in the emerging world, with the profit going to the owners of capital.

What is unfair is to blame the WEF’s éminence grise, Klaus Schwab, for the moral shortcomings of the mighty who gather each year at his Alpine shrine of globalism. He is their high-minded priest and scold. “We have sinned,” he likes to tell them.

Prof Schwab has been warning for 20 years of the backlash sure to come unless steps are taken to tame transnational capitalism. It is his code of “stakeholder” inclusion, the philosophy that informed his movement since it began in 1971. It has roots in the Rerum novarum of Pope Leo XIII and the ethos of south German Christian democracy.

That passage stood out because, according to Max and Monique Nemni in Young Trudeau, Rerum novarum, written in 1891, was a seminal document for Pierre Trudeau.  It offers a clear call for a Church adjudicated hierarchy to ensure justice for the common man.  It is unashamedly and openly opposed to liberalism.

The other passage that stood out for me was this:

Quote
Davos Man reflexively pigeon-holes Brexit in the box marked “populism/anti-global anger” but the category does not quite fit. Britain has not resiled from its climate commitments or its role in the Nato alliance, and the leaders of the repatriation movement are broadly free-traders.

The Prime Minister (Theresa May of the UK) is a cautious Oxonian at the helm of an old establishment party with a knack for heading off revolution, and ultimately co-opting it. Absolutist Europe has a bad habit of letting matters fester until they spin out of control.

That is in line with my personal antipathy for constitutions and the suborning of the democratic will to panels of experts.

 That prompted me to go looking for the World Economic Forum and Klaus Schwab.  Which inevitably led me to the Club of Rome, Limits of Growth, the UN Environment Programme of Maurice Strong, the IPCC and the Rio Summit  - all by way of the declaration to which I refer above.

I suggest that that represents a cornerstone of the edifice of institutional bias that afflicts most centrist opinion.  And more to the point it is a concerted effort to maintain the edifice.

I get confused over the terms liberal and conservative.  Strangely enough I don't find them at odds.  Conservatives want to retain that which was.  Liberals, once upon a time, wanted freedom. Conservatives now are people that want the time when they felt they had freedom.

In WW2 the "Liberal Democracies", predominantly Anglo-Saxon and protestant defeated the continental powers.   Those powers were broadly underwritten by the Roman church (and I am not accusing Pius XII of supporting Hitler).  The Church had constantly found itself at odds with liberalism because it represented, to them anarchy, chaos, disorder and unpredictability.  Their world view was built on predictability, order, structure, archy.  The liberal view embraced chaos and revelled in freedom.  The alternative view embraced order, with freedom being constrained by justice arbitrated by the Church.

There is not a matter of right and wrong here.  There is a matter of those people that are comfortable with chaos trying to live with those that demand order.  Those that value freedom vs those that expect justice and truth.  The issue is how to get along.

The Church has always championed universality.   That is in keeping with the internationalist instincts of many socialists, and conservatives, and liberals, and communists.  But it is at odds with parish driven protestantism which gave rise to the US - where even top down Lutherans and Anglicans could find a home beside bottom up Presbyterians and Congregationalists by the simple expedient of letting all parties decide, within their own church, how they were going to conduct their religious affairs.  That concept extended to the original union of the 13 colonies.  Each colony, within their own colony, would decide how they were going to conduct their own internal affairs.  As independent entities the churches cooperated within their colonies.  As independent colonies the colonies cooperated within the Union.

Episcopalians did not impose on Presbyterians.  Maryland did not impose on New York.  But this still represented a degree of chaos foreign and intolerable to the continentals of Europe.  It was at odds with thousands of years of failed efforts to impose order, where the highlights of history were those periods of empire represented by autocrats.

My sense is that post WW2 those that treasured order sought to re-establish order by claiming the mantle of liberalism, and imposing a veneer of a society that looked like those societies that liberalism had built.  But fundamentally they could not come to terms with the basis of liberalism and that is the embrace of chaos.  They have been trying to impose that order for the last 70 years but once again find chaos breaking out.

They are uncomfortable with the notion of managing chaos by letting locals have local control and insist on universal solutions.  We hear that language all the time in Canada where the demand is for all laws to be universally applied so as to avoid a patchwork of solutions within our borders. 

Given a choice between an illiberal universality and a patchwork I will opt for the patchwork every time.

(Sorry for the rant - but it is one of my pleasures in associating with this site  :cheers: )

 






« Last Edit: January 14, 2017, 14:14:50 by Chris Pook »
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline ModlrMike

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #56 on: January 14, 2017, 20:01:42 »
But Edward, would you not agree that it's possible to be both biased and fair at the same time? A combination too sadly lacking in the modern era.
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Offline Colin P

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #57 on: February 27, 2017, 12:43:03 »
I call democracy “organized revolution” the elections act as a safety valve for pent up frustration. However for that to work, the parties have to be different enough to be distinguishable, close enough to the centre to be electable. The other key ingredient is tolerance for losing, and that is built on the assumption that your party will win again eventually. As long as people believe there is a difference and a fair chance that their party can win, they will take part and play by the rules of the game. Things go off the rails if they believe these conditions do not exist.

As for chaos and order, they are equal, opposite forces pulling on us. When we are young  chaos is appealing as it represents opportunity, changes and challenges. As we get older, order appeals so we can protect and husband our resources we spent a great deal of time acquiring for the day we are unable to acquire or to help our offspring. The demographic makeup of a countries population will often dictate which force is in ascendancy, a young population yearns for chaos with the people in power trying to hold off any chaos or attempting to find some outlet for it without rupturing the social fabric. So far Canada has ridden a path which was fairly balanced between the two despite many outside forces at work on it. Not only do policy makers must consider the internal dynamics but also the outside influences that that purposely or inadvertently tip the balance one way or another.   
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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #58 on: February 28, 2017, 09:58:52 »
... it's possible to be both biased and fair at the same time? ...
This caught my eye -- do you have a decent example of this?

I ask because to me, part of "bias" involves ignoring or underplaying information/data that contradicts one's position, while "fairness" would include at least a range of resonable viewpoints with a comparable critique of all.  At that level, anyway, the ideas would be mutually exclusive, no?
(Sorry for the rant - but it is one of my pleasures in associating with this site  :cheers: )
Happy to read your rants - helps me learn  :salute:
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Offline Oldgateboatdriver

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #59 on: February 28, 2017, 10:21:20 »
This caught my eye -- do you have a decent example of this?

If I can give it a try milnews: It would be like the old Optimist/Pessimist perspective thing. The glass is 50% filled with water. That's the fair fact. Optimist's article would have the title: "All is Well, Still Half Full", while the Pessimist's title would be "Time to Panic: Glass Half Empty!".

A recent article reported in the papers and referred to in the Yazidi thread in these fora has to do with the assistance of the Conservative in bringing this about. Rona Ambrose is quoted in the article as stating that the government had ignored the problem in the past (which means the Conservatives under PM Harper too), but the title is about collaboration with opposition making Parliament work as intended. But, as has been suggested, with the exact same content to the article (facts), it could have been titled "Conservative admit ignoring plight of Yazidis".

Same facts, bias in presentation.

I think that is what ModlrMike had in mind (MM, feel free to correct me).

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #60 on: February 28, 2017, 11:26:16 »
This caught my eye -- do you have a decent example of this?

I ask because to me, part of "bias" involves ignoring or underplaying information/data that contradicts one's position, while "fairness" would include at least a range of resonable viewpoints with a comparable critique of all.  At that level, anyway, the ideas would be mutually exclusive, no?Happy to read your rants - helps me learn  :salute:

Thank for the encouragement. You know you will regret it.  :nod:

With respect to Mike's comment: Does this go anywhere?  In my childhood, when I was a gay youngster, I was taught the merits of being a discriminating gent. 

Discriminating and judicial were two attributes to be sought in any serious individual.  It was expected that you would observe everything around you then judicially sort your way through the info, discriminating as necessary, to make sense out of chaos.

Of course you were going to be biased.  So was the other chap.  The question was could you both fairly evaluate the information available to both of you, have a civil debate and decide on an accommodation that suited both of you.  Agreeing to disagree should not be the exception.

Edit:  Simultaneous post OGBD - I think we might on a similar wavelength.


Personally I blame the 60's.  I clearly remember classroom debates where civility was derided as hypocrisy.  Your feelings mattered more than the other persons.  ----- You know, as I write that, it occurs to me that Political Correctness - Microaggression - Triggering is the pendulum swinging the other way.  The other persons feelings matter more than yours.

1960s - Be Free! Or I will beat your skull in.
2010s - Be Civil! Or I will beat your skull in.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2017, 11:35:16 by Chris Pook »
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #61 on: March 05, 2017, 14:38:16 »
Thoughts:

Universal agreement is impossible.

The state relies on coercion to manage disagreement.

Liberalism is tolerance of disagreement.

Can any coercive state be liberal?

Or are all states illiberal?
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

Offline Kat Stevens

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #62 on: March 05, 2017, 17:31:06 »
All states are coercive toward the press.  That's what press secretaries, public affairs people, and image consultants are for.
Apparently, a "USUAL SUSPECT"

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #63 on: March 05, 2017, 23:08:58 »
 :whistle: However, The Press has prostituted itself. She's gone from being the high class call girl she was, the one everyone wanted and needed to be with. Her conversation was intelligent, honest and fair to all. Societies darling.

Then she started getting old and irrelevant. Then she caught a STD or two. Started jonesing for the advertising dollars that were no longer coming her way and started to spiral. Back alley encounters for a few quick bucks became too hard to resist. The money got larger, the encounters became more frequent. Doing whatever her clients wanted her to do. Even those acts that most found obcene, are performed.

Our pox ridden ***** now gets enough money to get a facelift and pretend she is interested in us again.

Truth being, she's gaily dancing a non stop waltz for the business/ political people that own her.

They are the architects of their own demise and more people are finding them irrelevant and ignoring them.

People are starting to realize that Pravda Canada is just a welfare ***** and want no association with her.

However, she still has a pretty good business with criminals and perverts.

 :2c:
« Last Edit: March 05, 2017, 23:15:00 by recceguy »
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Offline Jed

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #64 on: March 05, 2017, 23:13:27 »
:whistle: However, The Press has prostituted itself. She's gone from being the high class call girl she was, the one everyone wanted and needed to be with. Her conversation was intelligent, honest and fair to all. Societies darling.

Then she started getting old and irrelevant. Then she caught a STD or two. Started jonesing for the advertising dollars that were no longer coming her way and started to spiral. Back alley encounters for a few quick bucks became too hard to resist. The money got larger, the encounters became more frequent. Doing whatever her clients wanted her to do. Even those acts that most found obcene, are performed.

Our pox ridden ***** now gets enough money to get a facelift and pretend she is interested in us again.

Truth being, she's gayly dancing a non stop waltz for the business/ political people that own her.

They are the architects of their own demise and more people are finding them irrelevant and ignoring them.

 :2c:

You should write some '50 shades of grey' stories.  Good job. [:D
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Offline Colin P

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #65 on: March 06, 2017, 12:29:30 »
CBC North is a different beast and still very relevant to the people up there. The CBC archive is a treasure trove than needs to be preserved as well.

Offline recceguy

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #66 on: March 07, 2017, 01:24:15 »
CBC North is a different beast and still very relevant to the people up there. The CBC archive is a treasure trove than needs to be preserved as well.
Absolutely Colin. They need it, I won't deny. We can even streamline it. Close the giant down but keep the north operating, advertisement free, and I'll even stop griping about the abuse of my tax dollars 😀 I also agree about the archives. There's good stuff there from the last century and we should be making sure that CBC is digitizing everything and among sure the archives are being cared for properly. The archives belong to us. Not them.
At the core of liberalism is the spoiled child – miserable, as all spoiled children are, unsatisfied, demanding, ill-disciplined, despotic and useless. Liberalism is a philosophy of sniveling brats.
-P.J. O’Rouke-


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Offline Thucydides

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Re: The Power of "The Press"
« Reply #67 on: March 13, 2017, 20:18:35 »
Canada, with a smaller and more insular set of "Laurentian Elites" is perhaps more susceptible to this than the US, but the effects of the "bubble" are arguably true across the board and across the pond as well (see Brexit). Instapundit and similar sites may provide a form of relief, Glen Reynolds links to a multitude of sites both ideologically (NYT and Breitbart) as well as geographically (US, Canadian, European and even Israeli sites and blogs have been linked), providing a means of escaping groupthink and bubbles:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/there-really-was-a-liberal-media-bubble/

Quote
There Really Was A Liberal Media Bubble
Groupthink produced a failure of the “wisdom of crowds” and an underestimate of Trump’s chances.
By Nate Silver
Filed under The Real Story Of 2016
Published Mar. 10, 2017


This is the ninth article in a series that reviews news coverage of the 2016 general election, explores how Donald Trump won and why his chances were underrated by most of the American media.

Last summer, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in what bettors, financial markets and the London-based media regarded as a colossal upset. Reporters and pundits were quick to blame the polls for the unexpected result. But the polls had been fine, more or less: In the closing days of the Brexit campaign, they’d shown an almost-even race, and Leave’s narrow victory (by a margin just under 4 percentage points) was about as consistent with them as it was with anything else. The failure was not so much with the polls but with the people who were analyzing them.

The U.S. presidential election, as I’ve argued, was something of a similar case. No, the polls didn’t show a toss-up, as they had in Brexit. But the reporting was much more certain of Clinton’s chances than it should have been based on the polls. Much of The New York Times’s coverage, for instance, implied that Clinton’s odds were close to 100 percent. In an article on Oct. 17 — more than three weeks before Election Day — they portrayed the race as being effectively over, the only question being whether Clinton should seek a landslide or instead assist down-ballot Democrats:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is planning its most ambitious push yet into traditionally right-leaning states, a new offensive aimed at extending her growing advantage over Donald J. Trump while bolstering down-ballot candidates in what party leaders increasingly suggest could be a sweeping victory for Democrats at every level. […]

The maneuvering speaks to the unexpected tension facing Mrs. Clinton as she hurtles toward what aides increasingly believe will be a decisive victory — a pleasant problem, for certain, but one that has nonetheless scrambled the campaign’s strategy weeks before Election Day: Should Mrs. Clinton maximize her own margin, aiming to flip as many red states as possible to run up an electoral landslide, or prioritize the party’s congressional fortunes, redirecting funds and energy down the ballot?

This is not to say the election was a toss-up in mid-October, which was one of the high-water marks of the campaign for Clinton. But while a Trump win was unlikely, it should hardly have been unthinkable. And yet the Times, famous for its “to be sure” equivocations, wasn’t even contemplating the possibility of a Trump victory.3

It’s hard to reread this coverage without recalling Sean Trende’s essay on “unthinkability bias,” which he wrote in the wake of the Brexit vote. Just as was the case in the U.S. presidential election, voting on the referendum had split strongly along class, education and regional lines, with voters outside of London and without advanced degrees being much more likely to vote to leave the EU. The reporters covering the Brexit campaign, on the other hand, were disproportionately well-educated and principally based in London. They tended to read ambiguous signs — anything from polls to the musings of taxi drivers — as portending a Remain win, and many of them never really processed the idea that Britain could vote to leave the EU until it actually happened.

So did journalists in Washington and London make the apocryphal Pauline Kael mistake, refusing to believe that Trump or Brexit could win because nobody they knew was voting for them? That’s not quite what Trende was arguing. Instead, it’s that political experts aren’t a very diverse group and tend to place a lot of faith in the opinions of other experts and other members of the political establishment. Once a consensus view is established, it tends to reinforce itself until and unless there’s very compelling evidence for the contrary position. Social media, especially Twitter, can amplify the groupthink further. It can be an echo chamber.

I recently reread James Surowiecki’s book “The Wisdom of Crowds” which, despite its name, spends as much time contemplating the shortcomings of such wisdom as it does celebrating its successes. Surowiecki argues that crowds usually make good predictions when they satisfy these four conditions:

1.Diversity of opinion. “Each person should have private information, even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.”

2.Independence. “People’s opinions are not determined by the opinions of those around them.”

3.Decentralization. “People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.”

4.Aggregation. “Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.”

Political journalism scores highly on the fourth condition, aggregation. While Surowiecki usually has something like a financial or betting market in mind when he refers to “aggregation,” the broader idea is that there’s some way for individuals to exchange their opinions instead of keeping them to themselves. And my gosh, do political journalists have a lot of ways to share their opinions with one another, whether through their columns, at major events such as the political conventions or, especially, through Twitter.

But those other three conditions? Political journalism fails miserably along those dimensions.

Diversity of opinion? For starters, American newsrooms are not very diverse along racial or gender lines, and it’s not clear the situation is improving much.6

 And in a country where educational attainment is an increasingly important predictor of cultural and political behavior, some 92 percent of journalists have college degrees. A degree didn’t used to be a de facto prerequisite for a reporting job; just 70 percent of journalists had college degrees in 1982 and only 58 percent did in 1971.

The political diversity of journalists is not very strong, either. As of 2013, only 7 percent of them identified as Republicans (although only 28 percent called themselves Democrats with the majority saying they were independents). And although it’s not a perfect approximation — in most newsrooms, the people who issue endorsements are not the same as the ones who do reporting — there’s reason to think that the industry was particularly out of sync with Trump. Of the major newspapers that endorsed either Clinton or Trump, only 3 percent (2 of 59) endorsed Trump. By comparison, 46 percent of newspapers to endorse either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney endorsed Romney in 2012. Furthermore, as the media has become less representative of right-of-center views — and as conservatives have rebelled against the political establishment — there’s been an increasing and perhaps self-reinforcing cleavage between conservative news and opinion outlets such as Breitbart and the rest of the media.

Although it’s harder to measure, I’d also argue that there’s a lack of diversity when it comes to skill sets and methods of thinking in political journalism. Publications such as Buzzfeed or (the now defunct) Gawker.com get a lot of shade from traditional journalists when they do things that challenge conventional journalistic paradigms. But a lot of traditional journalistic practices are done by rote or out of habit, such as routinely granting anonymity to staffers to discuss campaign strategy even when there isn’t much journalistic merit in it. Meanwhile, speaking from personal experience, I’ve found the reception of “data journalists” by traditional journalists to be unfriendly, although there have been exceptions.

Independence? This is just as much of a problem. Crowds can be wise when people do a lot of thinking for themselves before coming together to exchange their views. But since at least the days of “The Boys on the Bus,” political journalism has suffered from a pack mentality. Events such as conventions and debates literally gather thousands of journalists together in the same room; attend one of these events, and you can almost smell the conventional wisdom being manufactured in real time. (Consider how a consensus formed that Romney won the first debate in 2012 when it had barely even started, for instance.) Social media — Twitter in particular — can amplify these information cascades, with a single tweet receiving hundreds of thousands of impressions and shaping the way entire issues are framed. As a result, it can be largely arbitrary which storylines gain traction and which ones don’t. What seems like a multiplicity of perspectives might just be one or two, duplicated many times over.

Decentralization? Surowiecki writes about the benefit of local knowledge, but the political news industry has become increasingly consolidated in Washington and New York as local newspapers have suffered from a decade-long contraction. That doesn’t necessarily mean local reporters in Wisconsin or Michigan or Ohio should have picked up Trumpian vibrations on the ground in contradiction to the polls. But as we’ve argued, national reporters often flew into these states with pre-baked narratives — for instance, that they were “decreasingly representative of contemporary America” — and fit the facts to suit them, neglecting their importance to the Electoral College. A more geographically decentralized reporting pool might have asked more questions about why Clinton wasn’t campaigning in Wisconsin, for instance, or why it wasn’t more of a problem for her that she was struggling in polls of traditional bellwethers such as Ohio and Iowa. If local newspapers had been healthier economically, they might also have commissioned more high-quality state polls; the lack of good polling was a problem in Michigan and Wisconsin especially.

There was once a notion that whatever challenges the internet created for journalism’s business model, it might at least lead readers to a more geographically and philosophically diverse array of perspectives. But it’s not clear that’s happening, either. Instead, based on data from the news aggregation site Memeorandum, the top news sources (such as the Times, The Washington Post and Politico) have earned progressively more influence over the past decade:

The share of total exposure for the top five news sources climbed from roughly 25 percent a decade ago to around 35 percent last year, and has spiked to above 40 percent so far in 2017. While not a perfect measure, this is one sign the digital age hasn’t necessarily democratized the news media. Instead, the most notable difference in Memeorandum sources between 2007 and 2017 is the decline of independent blogs; many of the most popular ones from the late ’aughts either folded or (like FiveThirtyEight) were bought by larger news organizations. Thus, blogs and local newspapers — two of the better checks on Northeast Corridor conventional wisdom run amok — have both had less of a say in the conversation.

All things considered, then, the conditions of political journalism are poor for crowd wisdom and ripe for groupthink. So … what to do about it, then?

Initiatives to increase decentralization would help, although they won’t necessarily be easy. Increased subscription revenues at newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post is an encouraging sign for journalism, but a revival of local and regional newspapers — or a more sustainable business model for independent blogs — would do more to reduce groupthink in the industry.

Likewise, improving diversity is liable to be a challenge, especially because the sort of diversity that Surowiecki is concerned with will require making improvements on multiple fronts (demographic diversity, political diversity, diversity of skill sets). Still, the research Surowiecki cites is emphatic that there are diminishing returns to having too many of the same types of people in small groups or organizations. Teams that consist entirely of high-IQ people may underperform groups that contain a mix of high-IQ and medium-IQ participants, for example, because the high-IQ people are likely to have redundant strengths and similar blind spots.

That leaves independence. In some ways the best hope for a short-term fix might come from an attitudinal adjustment: Journalists should recalibrate themselves to be more skeptical of the consensus of their peers. That’s because a position that seems to have deep backing from the evidence may really just be a reflection from the echo chamber. You should be looking toward how much evidence there is for a particular position as opposed to how many people hold that position: Having 20 independent pieces of evidence that mostly point in the same direction might indeed reflect a powerful consensus, while having 20 like-minded people citing the same warmed-over evidence is much less powerful. Obviously this can be taken too far and in most fields, it’s foolish (and annoying) to constantly doubt the market or consensus view. But in a case like politics where the conventional wisdom can congeal so quickly — and yet has so often been wrong — a certain amount of contrarianism can go a long way.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.