As goes the media world, so goes something greater...
On the occasion of its 15th anniversary, Politico has published the opinions of various experts on the question, “Is Media Doomed?”
As far as I could tell, none of them came up with a definitive answer but perhaps that’s because they asked the wrong question. For one thing, which forms of media are we talking about anyway?
It’s a fair assumption that human societies will always have some sort of media because we almost certainly have always had them. The original forms probably involved cave drawings and fireside gossip sessions.
The ways news travels in a pre-literate society — by word of mouth — persists even in the most highly techno-societies. Think about it — when you hear some news from a friend it can have more impact than from a venerated news source, right?
And in today’s environment, “media” encompasses a far broader swath of sources than the ones (including Politico) that I aggregate daily, because these are primarily traditional journalism outlets that normally adhere to the professional standards people like me believe in.
Information circulating via Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, SnapChat and other social media reaches at least as many people as these traditional outlets. Disinformation spread by QAnon, Trump and other extremist sources carve out their own sizable audience as well.
Governments, the academy, scientific groups, industry groups, public option pollsters, specialty publications, newsletters and individual authors affect the flow of stories, some reaching far more people than any traditional media could dream of.
Inside this cacophony, what exactly is “media” anymore?
Maybe that is another operative question.
The most common query I get from readers and friends is whether they can trust this or that source of information any longer. Skepticism even with the likes of the New York Times seems to be at an all-time high, and not just on the right.
Maybe it is our ability to trust that we need to be worried about. With so many competing points of view, optimists profess that the truth will win out. But whose truth exactly are we talking about?
Whether a story is strictly true or not is of major interest to us journalists, but I’m not so sure that is the case for our audiences. A good story — as long as it is mostly true — may be more satisfying to many than that which can strictly be proved to be so. Speculative pieces often prove to be exceptionally popular.
Maybe the question Politico should have posed is not so much about media but a much larger matter.
Is truth doomed?
Is the Media Doomed? (Politico)
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor castigated the state of Texas and her fellow justices after the nation’s high court denied a request from abortion providers to move a case challenging Texas' restrictive abortion law to a district court, calling the decision a “grave disservice to women.” “I will not stand by silently as a state continues to nullify this constitutional guarantee. I dissent," she said. [HuffPost]
'Dangerous precedent': Jan. 6 committee trains its sights on false pro-Trump electors — GOP officials in five states illegitimately claimed to be qualified to declare Donald Trump the winner in 2020. And Trump allies were openly involved. (Politico)
As he starts his second term as U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres said Thursday the world is worse in many ways than it was five years ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and geopolitical tensions that have sparked conflicts everywhere (AP)
England’s public health body investigates new offshoot of Omicron (Financial Times)
Will Omicron Leave Most of Us Immune? (Atlantic)
Australia will remain a divided nation, with the vast mining state of Western Australia canceling plans to reopen its borders on February 5, citing health risks from a surge in the Omicron COVID variant in eastern states. (Reuters)
The IRS said that it is dealing with staffing shortages and a backlog of over 6 million individual tax returns from last year as of late December, and expects “enormous challenges” during this year’s tax filing season. Here are some tips for getting ahead and ensuring your refund comes as quickly as it can. [HuffPost]
Russia's central bank proposed banning the use and mining of cryptocurrencies on Russian territory, citing threats to financial stability, citizens' wellbeing and its monetary policy sovereignty. (Reuters)
Between October and December, California received more rainfall than it had over the previous 12 months. Atmospheric rivers shattered rainfall records, flooded streets and downed power lines across the state. Before the storms, 88 percent of California was considered in extreme or exceptional drought, the most severe designations. Now, 1 percent of the state falls into those categories, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That’s a marked improvement, but California still needs a lot more rain to make up for years of water shortfalls. Even after the storms, 99 percent of the state remains in some level of drought. (Cal Today)
Last week's COVID-19 vaccine ruling probably won't be the last time the Supreme Court blocks federal agencies from protecting public health or safety, writes Jonathan Cohn. The boundaries of government power have been the subject of debate for a long time, and Justice Neil Gorsuch's anti-government view may be a lot less rooted in constitutional history than conservatives would have everybody believe. [HuffPost]
Pandemic market darlings Netflix and Peloton each saw about a fifth of their market value wiped out after both said business was slowing. (Reuters)
Pete Davidson and Colin Jost buy old Staten Island ferry boat (NY Post)
Nation Attempts To Fall Asleep By Doing Little Impression Of Sleeping (The Onion)