Are you REALLY getting factual news or just words on paper?
Updated: Sep 24
By Staci-lee Sherwood
The word newspaper implies there is timely news printed on the paper that you buy. Who determines what is newsworthy has always been subjective but never more than today. Part of the problem is massive consolidation of newspapers, and magazines, under one umbrella corporation. Another problem is the internet where anyone can set up a site proclaiming ‘news’. Arguably the amount of fake news might have eclipsed real news. Despite an easier ability to fact check both the news story and the source printing it few people bother. Too much is left to trust when the industry has shown itself to be in great need of oversight.
The newspaper used to be the gold standard place where information was delivered on a regular basis that affected the lives and well being of the public. Whether small and local or big and national they served a higher purpose than just reading material. Over the years the elite newspapers (Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times) have become more competitive, for a share in a shrinking market, with the second tier newspapers (The Daily News, The NY Post, The Boston Globe and The Orlando Sentinel) that mix news and entertainment. Media giants are not immune to pressures from investors and subscribers and have to cater to an ever changing readership. Because of the growing influence of tabloids many ‘real’ news outlets have morphed into a hybrid version of news and entertainment. This does not serve the public and is done primarily to increase revenue, but that isn’t the whole story.
Once considered a privilege to bring the news to the people, government and industry have sought to weaponize the news. By controlling what facts and what issues are available and how they are relayed to the public has the power to change perception, votes and action. Words can take a serious threat and make it sound sublime. We all know government is notorious for cherry picking words to make themselves sound competent and honest when often neither is the case. An informed public makes different choices than one that is not, or worse one that is deliberately MISinformed. Whoever controls the narrative has the power.
There are many issues that should be awarded the front page but rarely even make it into the Opinion section. Water pollution, oil spills, government corruption and security breaches of personal information happen a lot more than ever reported. In fact if you were to look up how often they occur you would be shocked and scared to learn how little important information you’re getting. Now ask yourself why? It’s no longer the excuse of space since everyone is digital ‘space’ is not an issue. Who gains by printing celebrity news when what you really need to know is if you’re drinking water is safe. Despite all the controversy this is still the best place to get news, which isn’t saying much .
The Washington Times is owned by the ‘moonies’ the Korean religious group part of the Unification Movement which owns Operations Holdings. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, Barron’s (sister paper to WSJ), London Times and Fox News station owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The New York Times owned by the Ochs-Sulzberger family. Oddly enough despite the family being jewish the paper was boldly pro Stalin and Hitler (in the beginning at least) who were notoriously horrible to the jewish population. The Washington Post partly owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon. You get the picture. Click here to read more about corporate influence
The elite newspapers as perceived by the public Photo Eric Baradat/Getty Images
Designed to be entertainment and not taken seriously tabloids thrived on salacious tidbits about celebrities and aliens. Not much of their content formula has changed over the years since it’s a money maker. What has changed is their influence on real news. Tabloid news really started to take root in the 1990’s when just reporting the facts in newspapers was not enough to keep high readership. Before the internet tabloids like The National Enquirer or even People magazine were known to be fun and entertaining. Although they are growing in influence and popularity they are not a place for real news.
Once the internet took off tabloids became a home where many conspiracy theories took hold. Flourishing on the information highway they could travel around the world and get lost in the crowd. Now everyone was competing for the billions people spent on magazines and newspapers. As sales went up for tabloids so too did their influence. The introduction of 24/7 cable news stations forever changed news and news cycles. They too had to stay relevant in this competitive and fickle market by catering to the biggest crowds. Tabloid news took root sowing its seeds wherever there were owners more interested in profit than quality. Hedge fund Chatham Asset Management owns The National Enquirer.
The old guard many generations relied on for news just the news as delivered every night by the Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Tim Russert, Tom Brokaw, Edward Murrow and the David Brinkley’s of the world would be no more. Forget in-depth reporting we were now entering the snippet era of news. This would be the era of the 2 minute story which ends before it begins. These flash in the pan news pieces look more like coming attractions but the full feature never shows up and viewers are left with just a tidbit of information.
Known for glossy photos of places you want to live and clothes you want to buy they served a niche mostly for entertainment. A few sought to focus on news and compete with newspapers. Over the years they too have morphed. No longer just filled with newsy articles, many seem to be mostly advertisements with bits of editorial thrown in. Fashion magazines always tried to include one or two serious articles while the news magazines slowly added celebrity or entertainment news. Lines became blurred between what the public needs to know and what is just for fun. The magazine Popular Science is owned by Miami based North Equity, a digital media venture equity firm. The magazine Modern Farmer is owned by a mining billionaire residing in Italy.
Years ago media companies, especially those solely in the news business, prided themselves on serving up valuable information. Many CEO’s felt a responsibility to get it right, have vetted sources and have an informed readership. Many newspapers used to be independently owned. In the 1980s consolidation started to really take hold with about 80+ companies owning the bulk of news outlets. Flash forward to 2012 where about 6 companies own about 90% and that translates to less diverse viewpoints, less oversight and less competition. In the old days competition helped keep people honest. Media ownership is fluid and ever changing click here to see who the biggest players are https://pwestpathfinder.com/2022/05/09/the-big-sixs-big-media-game/
Bait & switch
Writers are often held to a word count, how many words allowed per article. Many articles fall between 800 – 1200 words. This is not enough to give an in-depth analysis of a subject least of all multi layered complex political or economical issues. While there are some places that do features those are shrinking and becoming harder to find. Independent bloggers or reader funded sites have tried to fill the void but it’s daunting.
When you read investigative articles a well written one should follow a certain pattern. They should start with stating what the problem is, who the person responsible is, evidence to show their guilt, vetted sources and then a conclusion on what needs to happen to rectify this. After reading the piece you should feel like you have learned something, understand the problem, how it happened and how it will be resolved. If you are not feeling more informed it’s because you weren’t. You read words on paper without any substance. If the article lacks quotes, named sources, dates, locations, photos and videos question what you’re reading. It’s much harder to lie when you show your sources….
The art of putting words on paper to fill up space and make it appear like news that informs the public has been elevated to an art form.
How much does the public research those that provide news? Few if any readers look into the work or personal background of the owners, investors or staff of a newspaper or magazine. A little research goes a long way and can be very telling. Digging into the New York Times and Washington Post proved fruitful in information not widely known, or reported. They both have their own branding company filled with a who’s who list of the biggest polluters as clients. They boast how their award winning journalists avail themselves for hire to write whatever spin industry wanted. Without this knowledge how would readers know if the words they’re reading aren’t tainted by the clientele of these side companies?
Click here for in-depth expose with screen and links of clients here https://www.realitycheckswithstacilee.com/post/buying-the-media-when-facts-are-traded-to-the-highest-bidder
Sitting down to read up on the day’s news….or is he just being fed words without substance?
Online news sites
Is the information highway really a road to facts and answers? There are apps to create what looks like real newspaper stories and ‘deep fake’ videos are not just seen in spy movies but do exist. Wherein it used to be obvious what was news VS entertainment or an infomercial, that has changed. It’s not just about profit, both industry and government have a vested interest in keeping the public in the dark.
Industry prefers the media hide dark secrets about poisonous, dangerous or ineffective products. Government wants the public as unaware as possible about graft, negligence and corruption. They both encourage media consolidation because 6 companies is easier to leverage influence over that 80 or 1,000. Yahoo News is owned by equity firm Apollo Global Management. Many online sites are hard to check who owns them, who runs them or where they source their news. A few say they are for entertainment purposes and not meant to be news way down at the bottom in tiny print. A general rule is don’t believe what you read online check it out elsewhere.
What to do
In a word – research. Take a few minutes to use Google or Bing and search the name of the paper/magazine/website and add ‘scandal’, ‘lawsuit’ or controversy and see what comes up. Then search the names of publishers and reporters, look at their work history and previous articles. This will help give a fuller picture of who is supplying the information you digest and how trustworthy and believable they are. Read from both conservative and progressive leaning sources.. We as a species do not like to be out of our comfort zone and push back on ideas that challenge our beliefs and traditions. Playing into this is how power players keep real information from the public.
A little lesson in history
From 1931 – 1932 Nobel Prize winner Walter Duranty reported from Moscow for The New York Times. His articles were Russian propaganda praising Stalin. He helped shape this nation’s view of what was a murderous tyrant into a leader of the people he loved. In truth he was starving his people, stealing their food and money. We know this now. Gareth Jones was a young reporter who discovered the lie, and exposed the truth. No one wanted to be challenged as their views were entrenched. Jones finally prevailed in exposing the fraud and the paper had to retract and apologize. Duranty refused to give back his Nobel prize and continued to write for many more decades. Jones was murdered in 1935 by the Russians, he was in China hoping to expose the corruption there at the time
Hitler yes that Hitler was another tyrant the paper sympathized with. Their chief in Berlin, Guido Enderis, praised Hitler’s policies and downplayed the jewish persecution. Post 9/11 in the run up to invading Iraq reporter Judith Miller spread unverified information from unvetted sources which helped sway the country to support the invasion. We know now there was no meeting in Prague or weapons of mass destruction. They also outed a spy, Valerie Plame. Knowing all this read their news with a wiser understanding of their slant.
To be informed you must use a diverse group of sources. Remember that women only got the right to vote by challenging thousands of years of belief they weren’t equal to men. An informed citizenry takes work and patience. The truth is out there but you have to dig it up no one will hand it to you.
There was little chance in checking sources before the 1990’s but there is now so use them.
Click here for extensive media ownership list