The public needs an education on what is content, and what qualifies as news.
Media bashing is at an all-time high. Rightfully so, as many news outlets have begun catering to the lowest common denominator. The are peddling “infotainment” over unbiased reporting.
For years, newspapers bargained for “advertorial” coverage, producing special publications, like home improvement guides or travel magazines to garner advertising dollars.
These publications are nothing more than a vehicle to get new advertisers to try the medium.
There is an unstated agreement. If you buy an ad and the paper will write an article giving readers more information on the subject. Advertorial inserts were never sold as real news.
No reader thought, “Look, the Transportation Department wants me to change the oil in my car or it’s going to blow up.”
The Subtle Shift
In today’s news world, you’re likely to see a story on Benjamin Netanyahu followed by one on Kylie Jenner, without so much as a hint of an apology. However, there is no clear indication where the media tells us, “Yes, we know this is fluff. Don’t take it seriously.”
Until recently, newspapers sold advertising in order to bring you the news.
About a two decades ago, there was a subtle shift. Major corporations took over, consolidated and gobbled up competitors. The media became about selling advertising and cross-selling their other products . Celebrity gossip rags are more important than journalism. It is all about attention, influence, advertising. Social media drives the process. Content is canned, subscription-based and utter garbage.
The only reason there is any editorial content whatsoever is to garner coveted search engine rankings based on the key words in the text. Media is no longer in the news business. They are in the social media race to the top.
The corporations don’t care if anyone reads their tripe because the focus is on advertising revenue, not readership. Many news organizations rely solely on wire services, press releases and feeds. Others produce no original content.
Small weekly publications, freelancers and questionable alternative sources are writing much of the news. Thank goodness for family-owned publications as someone still has some integrity in the industry.
Case in point would be the erroneous story that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman had filed for bankruptcy which appeared on Boston.com, a sister website of The Boston Globe. When the smoke cleared, readers discovered a content mill had written the story, one of a dozen used by company.
With no byline, it is hard to know where to point the pitchforks.
In a real newsroom, an editor writes a story of this magnitude, or at least a senior reporter. A job would be on the line, someone had likely paid hundreds of dollars in wages for the writing of this article. Somewhere, another human would have reviewed and questioned it, likely picking up the telephone to verify and fact check.
The financial investment and risk would be significant to everyone involved. But such is the cost of an industry that relies on AI news aggregation. An amateur earning $15 for cranking out so many words likely generated this story. The article was collected, repackaged and distributed across the web.
It doesn’t matter if it is true. It only matters that it garners attention.
While many readers cling to the alternative media as the last bastion of real journalism, often it is just as rife with poorly researched topics and little to no fact checking. Few question the validity of the information and even fewer will check the accuracy for themselves. Readers should realize that what they are getting is content, not unbiased news.
Journalism is gasping for air while AI is digging its grave.