Attention reporters: Give the basic facts before commentary

Take a look at the opening paragraphs of this news article.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has already helped block one of former President Donald Trump’s allies from winning the Republican nomination for governor in a crucial battleground state. Now he’s hoping for a repeat in his own backyard.

Ducey is part of a burgeoning effort among establishment Republicans to lift up little-known housing developer Karrin Taylor Robson against former television news anchor Kari Lake, who is backed by Trump. Other prominent Republicans, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have also lined up behind Robson in recent days.

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On escaping from the world of Alex Jones

It is tempting to think that once people drink the Kool Aid of right wing lunacy, they remain poisoned forever, never to escape. But there are a few who do realize at some point that the whole thing is a sham and leave that world. Josh Owens is one such person. He was very close to Jones, initially drawn to him in 2008 as a young man of 19 by the fact that Jones gave simple answers to the complex problems of how society works, since Jones’s basic idea that there is a vast conspiracy of elites who are tying to keep you down can be repeatedly repurposed to ‘explain’ pretty much any event that occurs anywhere.

Owens worked as a cameraman for Jones from 2013 to 2017, filming his program, making ads for him, and was sent by him on ‘assignments’ to various places to gather evidence of the conspiracies at work. Jones would act like a journalist and tell the listeners to his show that he had ‘intel’ from sources he could not name that nefarious activities were going on in those locations. In an article, Owens wrote that over time, he learned that even if the team found nothing there, it did not matter. Jones would simply make up stuff to fit what he needed..
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News Corp in Australia seems just like in the US

Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News network are pernicious influences in US politics, spreading hate, division, and outright lies. But we should not forget that Murdoch is an Australian and his media empire has tentacles in his native land and in the UK as well.

Leading up to the recent elections in Australia, his media outlets in that country did what they do here in the US but it turned out that despite using the same playbook, they were not successful in their efforts to eliminate all the parties that were neither Liberal nor Labor and have the Liberals retain power.

 At the centre of this extraordinary detachment of political coverage from reality are the Australian newspapers of News Corp, from the national daily the Australian to the popular tabloids in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in particular.

Only the Northern Territory News, among its most visible publications, editorialised for a Labor victory.

The singular story of election night was how News Corp, with all its recourses and all its outlets, from newspapers to subscription TV news, couldn’t convince voters to follow its course, at least not in the numbers needed.

It is being seen as a demonstration of impotence in political affairs, and of absence of authority in the group’s claim to speak for the nation.

Academic and journalist Margaret Simons is no chum of News Corp but was not alone when she wrote this in the Sydney Morning Herald on 16 May: “I am not sure News Corporation bothers to deny its bias these days. But could this be the election in which the impotence of its skewed reporting is exposed?”

The election result doesn’t mean the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald convinced voters to back Labor as their election editorials recommended, but it does mean they were alert to voter movement and ready to respond.

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Does online advertising work?

As someone who spends way more time on my computer than is probably healthy, I am familiar with online ads because they bombard me all the time. We know that online advertising has been a huge wealth generator for those companies such as Google and Facebook that sell and place ad space and indeed is the source of revenue for any ‘free’ content on the internet. (This blog is the exception. It is genuinely free!)

The promise that the media platforms offer to ad buyers is that they can target the product to the individual buyer who may be looking for that particular item, thus preventing wasteful blanket ads. The way the platforms do that is by vacuuming up all the information they can glean from us from our online activity to create a detailed profile of each one of us that they can then sell to retailers, a process known as ‘microtargeting’. This promise of ultra-efficiency is what has led the migration of ads from print media to online media. It has also led to fears that that we are now living in a Big Brother world because our lives have become transparent to these big companies like Google and Facebook who seek every way of prying into our lives.
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Two awful liars talking to each other. Why would anyone watch?

The utterly smug and smarmy Piers Morgan has apparently launched a new talk show and he interviewed Donald Trump. That alone should be enough to deter any viewers but there is also a report that Morgan, in order to create buzz for the show, has misleadingly edited the footage to suggest that he had an angry confrontation with Trump.

Great. An utterly dishonest and unlikable interviewer speaks to an utterly dishonest and unlikable president. What’s not to dislike?

New York Times has still not mentioned the AI report on Israel

By any stretch of the word, one would think that the blistering critique of Israel’s apartheid practices by Amnesty International would constitute ‘news’. And yet, as James North writes, a week has passed and the New York Times has still not written a single word on the report. This is from the newspaper that prides itself as being the ‘newspaper of record’ and has on its masthead the slogan “All the news that’s fit to print”, implying that within its pages you will get all the news that you need to know.

This will not come as a surprise to veteran media watchers who have long known that this newspaper serves as a conduit for the message of the Israel lobby in the US, providing cover for Israeli apartheid practices under the guise of being even-handed by occasionally allowing minor criticisms to be written.
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Jesse Watters may be stupid and juvenile but he is dangerous

Fox News personality Jesse Watters has a juvenile sense of humor that he should long have outgrown. He is the kind of grown person who still thinks that childish pranks are funny.

At a gathering of young right-wingers organized by the group Turning Point, he took aim at Anthony Fauci, the highly respected infectious disease specialist who has become a prime target of anti-vaxxers because of his relentless urging of people to take safety precautions such as getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and avoiding large gatherings.

Speaking on Monday at Turning Point USA’s AmericaFest conference, Watters encouraged attendees to rhetorically “ambush” Fauci with dubious questions about the National Institutes of Health allegedly funding “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“Now you go in for the kill shot. The kill shot? With an ambush? Deadly. Because he doesn’t see it coming,” Watters said.

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Journalists should seek to be pariahs

One of the corrupting influences in US journalism lies with people shifting back and forth between the roles of reporter, a talking head pundit, political advisor, and press spokesperson for a public figure or organization. Being a reporter is the hardest job involving having to do real work and research and yet it is likely the least remunerative and has the least visibility. So it should not be surprising that reporters can be lured into those other roles. While they may think that they can remain untainted, it is not easy to maintain the intellectual separation.

In some case, they do not even try that hard to maintain a separation between what they do when working for a media outlet and advising the people they are supposedly covering. A good example of this can be seen in the report released a few days ago that Fox News personalities were privately sending messages to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the January 6th riot expressing alarm at what was going on and calling on him to persuade Donald Trump to call off the mob.
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Live by social media, die by social media

We live in an era when people have the opportunity to broadcast the minutiae of their lives far and wide via social media. It is surprising to me that so many people do not seem to realize that along with the attention they receive, there are also serious pitfalls. In the rush to be in the spotlight and impress their circle of friends and relatives, they seem to lose all sense of judgment. Nowhere was this more evidence on a large scale than in how so many of the people who invaded the Capitol building on January were eager to tell everyone of their exploits.

First of all, they gave the authorities information about their identities that allowed them to be arrested. Secondly, their online posts were effectively confessions of guilt. The best they could hope for was leniency on the grounds that they were too stupid to know that they were breaking the law. But judges are taking their posts into account in determining how harshly to sentence them and they are not amused.
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