First comes the usual snark about Twitter and new media degrading news.
Something happens, and before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and the lessons drawn. The story is absorbed into agendas. Everyone has a preferred take on it, a particular use for it.
Then finally Frank Bruni admits that this is how the New York Times does things.
To write for The Times and to know the principal players was to see this for the oversimplification that it was and to note that we were getting a taste of our own medicine: How often had some of us here emphasized one story line to the exclusion of others in sizing up a candidate or corporation?
But then he backtracks and blames social media.
News has always been paired with analysis, and a certain degree of assumption and conjecture rightly enters into the laudable attempt to make sense of things. What has changed over recent years are the platforms and the metabolism of the process. Twitter and other social media coax rapid-fire reactions from a broad audience…
Sorry Frank, but it’s not about Twitter. Yes Twitter makes things worse, but it makes things worse that were already bad.
The root of the problem isn’t Twitter. It’s the pathology of liberal activist journalism presented infamously as “Explaining America to itself.”
Eventually the graduates of the New Left saturated everything with agendas. They politicized everything until you couldn’t write a restaurant review without discussing locally grown food, fair trade and the representation of Latino female chefs at steakhouses.
An informed reader’s job 1 when processing anything these days is to ask what the agenda is. Analysis is agenda. Explaining is propaganda.
The old fashioned reporter is dead. He was replaced by a social justice warrior with a press pass. And social justice warriors eat their own. That’s what happened to the New York Times.
Frank Bruni states the obvious, but offers no proposal to return to another way of doing things. Instead he concludes by blaming Americans for the sins of their media.
Americans have seemingly grown accustomed to this. They may even hunger for it. With just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the remote, they find something to confirm their prejudices, to validate their perspectives. And the gratification is almost instant.
Americans would like to turn on the news and read the paper and get reliable information. Poll after poll shows that they don’t believe they can do that anymore.
Twitter didn’t polarize America and its media institutions along sharp political lines. Outlets like the New York Times did. And then you ended up with articles written to match White House talking points and the erosion of the line between the front page and the editorial page.
The social media that Bruni complains about has vulgarized this perversion of journalism. It took away its pretense of high-mindedness and threw in “We need to talk about X” to set the political profit motive for every scandal.
But they’re just doing what the New York Times had been doing. Only without shame.
The New York Times writes gun control pieces after a shooting. They write, “The NRA is a blood death murder machine” pieces.
The difference is in the style, not the substance.
Both are telling a particular story. They’re exploiting a tragedy for the sake of their political agenda. It didn’t start yesterday, but what has changed is the near absence of non-agenda reporting especially on the national stage. If everything is biased, then everyone is entitled to their own biased citizen journalism.
Twitter isn’t the problem here. It’s the solution to the bad journalism of the New York Times.