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Monday, July 10, 2017

Big Bird tells all about clickbait news.

Over at Talking About Politics, longtime NC GOP operative Carter Wrenn makes an interesting case:

Most times the roots of blindness – whether it’s blindness due to pride or meanness or fear – run down into the clay-footed soil of human nature but the other day Peggy Noonan spotted an odd phenomenon.

Noonan wrote: “News bias now is in part a financial decision.”

Back in the old days the New York Times, Washington Post and News and Observer made money by selling ads in the newspaper that landed on your doorstep every morning: Want ads. Classified ads. Car dealership ads. Grocery store ads. Then the Internet came along and print ads all but vanished and suddenly ‘clicks’ were what made money.

The other morning I clicked on the News and Observer’s website and there were eleven ads. I clicked on an article and there were seven more ads. Every time I clicked on an article I saw more ads. And that’s how newspapers make money today: Clicks equal ads. And more clicks equal more money.

Which leads to a second phenomenon: Who does the most clicking? In politics it’s the most fired-up Democrats and the most fired-up Trump supporters. The extremes.

So today newspapers and media websites are choosing sides, aligning with one white-hot group or the other, to get more clicks. Noonan put it this way: “You play to those who love (or hate I might add) Trump… and reap the profits.”

Click bait – headlines like ‘Does Everything Donald Trump Touches Die?’ (by Vanity Fair) – pours gas on a kind of craziness but also reap tons of clicks from Trump haters. While headlines like – Fake Media Witch Hunt – reap mountains of clicks from the other side of the spectrum.

Media bias today isn’t clay-footed misjudgment. It’s a grab for the money. How that works out for our country, well, we’ll see.

Wrenn is right, of course, as all of us with tetchy, intellectual couch potato Facebook friends know.

Every day is a new torrent of rubbish shared by people reacting to headlines. The posts can be fake, or ten years old, or canceled out by subsequent events.

No matter how many times you remind them that Betty White is not dead, but Bob Denver- star of "Gilligan's Island"- is, and has been for twelve years, they will send it to you after someone sends it to them- again.

Last year, my liberal friends despised and rejected fake news.

This year, they happily peddle it. They are in opposition now, and anti-Trump memes give them all the feelz.

Clickbait junkies in gutters on both sides of the street like banging on about "the media"- which, like porn, they cannot define but know it when they like see it- to demand fair and balanced news.

Before cable TV, we had it. It was called The Fairness Doctrine, an FCC rule governing radio and TV news. There was only so much broadcast spectrum in the air, which limited the number of media outlets. That, in turn, meant there was a real chance for media concentrations to shut out opposing points of view.

The Fairness Doctrine made broadcasters give time to opposing views. Republicans repealed it in the 1980s, arguing cable meant a news POV for every crank in America. There was no need for mandated fairness. You could make your own.

Newspapers knew this. The pre-broadcast medium, they were all founded as partisan organs with a point of view. That's why as late as the mid-1960s New York City had eleven daily papers.

In these new days of self-curated news, "fair and balanced" just means you are pissed off, more and more, seeing anything that challenges the view from your bubble.

Carter Wren knows this. He spent a quarter century managing NC Senator Jesse Helms' campaigns- where you always knew his October surprise would be a racist TV ad- and his PAC, the Congressional Club. In 1985 he and some other Helms aides formed a venture called Fairness in Media for an attempt to buy control of CBS and recast its news reporting more to their hard-right tastes.

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