tv Doc Film - Post Truth Times - We the Media Deutsche Welle November 5, 2017 8:15am-9:01am CET
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d.w. made for mines. twenty sixteen was an exciting year the results of the u.s. presidential election and the bricks and referendum in the u.k. surprised a lot of people in the run up to those votes there was a lot of fake news floating around some observers said that facts have become less important. the post truth age had arrived. at the time i was working on a film about journalism and i wanted to find out more about this new phenomenon.
i had always believed that the truth was the truth and that anything else was just false so i decided to talk to colleagues and experts to see whether this was actually the case. i don't accept the. kind of post-modern. ideas that truth doesn't exist i think it does we can try to find there are certain levels of truth there's verifiable truth. that means that what you wrote can't be verified so we need a media that. is able to filter those lies out expose them so that we can. shape our society and the most honorable way that we can the government always lies they may not be lying all the time but when it's in their interests they have to lie in order to protect their ability to govern and i think so if you're dealing
with a political figure and a political figure makes it plain. you would be wise to check it out with two or three other people. the world has become more complex and there are few simple answers anymore there have always been liars but these days they're being elected to political office many voters are poorly informed and they take those lies as truth. have fun but already passionately made over people are always trying to be the first to put out a tweet that creates a lot of media noise yet our society is the worst informed in human history even though we have all the resources we need to get information and study but not. i used to think that today's technology and our almost unlimited access to information would make things easier but today journalists have to work harder than ever to make sure they get their facts right. i decided to find
out about these challenges that journalists face this new journalism. to do that i talk to a veteran american reporter. gay talisa is eighty five but he loves his job and has no plans to retire he still remembers his first day on the job at the new york times in one thousand nine hundred sixty three d. opens the doors from the reception room into this a new miss. the room hundreds of typewriters hundreds of editors and writers and smoking cigarettes and typing and making noise the machines had built the lives they used to tell of the typewriter had to fill every time you hear the bells you hear them so many people working for the next day's newspaper the activity the atmosphere was exciting and like a movie it was like walking in a big movie set. we have in common our desire to tell the truth we
have in common the power wants to control us. so many of those who talk about a post truth era take advantage of the fact that a lot of people don't trust journalists and that can be dangerous. i see journalism more as a mission than exactly a profession it's the oxygen of a democratic society or i just can't. thing else with my life to be a good journalist we know that in order for democracy to work citizens have to be informed they have to know what is being done in their name they have to know if the two towns over there are starting to frack in the oil wells and that might affect your drinking water my grades were always near the bottom of the class except in one thing my curiosity was on bounded my curiosity was intense it was it was incessant people are interesting and if you're the kind of person who's
interested in people then journalism is a great job for you when journalists come to us it's generally to complain that they're not being allowed to be the kind of journalist that they want to be. i didn't know what else to do would be a journalist. journalists and newspapers now face a serious existential crisis. many reporters are worried about the future of their profession there are a lot fewer jobs for journalists these days. we're looking for one hundred. people out of a newsroom of about seven hundred fifty eight hundred people so it's not a huge cut but it's a big. you know the guardian will still be a huge news organization will still be a huge newsroom we will still do great journalism the problem is you can only do that so many times before you start really cutting into the core of what makes the
guardian the guardian and i think we're seeing. the least number of people who could do the job right now. in tough economic times newspapers try to do the best they can with reduced staff a lot of the journalists have to juggle several jobs at once it's called multitasking so they have less time to focus on their top priority. to report the facts. we know that media outlets are laying off journalists but the journalists that remain are overworked reporters will tell us for example well i used to have to write one story a week and now i have to write a story a day what does that mean practically well what it means is maybe the journalist can't even get up from their desk to go talk to somebody to get
a story it means they are increasingly reliant on those press releases those press packages if you are and you have a deadline a half an hour you need to do a story i think it's very difficult to avoid going to that pre-prepared thing that you've got that's got a quote in it that's got a name in it that's got background information and it is fed to you to make it easy for you to tell it that way. many people are unaware that these days information flows directly from the centers of power and it's later circulated as independent information. journalists have become increasingly dependent on these sources and that in turn has hurt their credibility. it seems as though they've become mere colleagues in
a machine that's run by political and business interests. polish journalist and author restart capuchin ski wrote in the late one nine hundred ninety s. that business understands the truth doesn't matter. nor do political disputes. business wants to turn information into entertainment and as soon as that happens it can be sold. and the more controversial information is the better it sounds the. the. the. i've come to the massachusetts institute of technology near boston to talk about that with social critic nom chomsky.
is a media are. you think about them from a kind of a structural point of view of the major media and say your son's washington post a c.b.s. news presently on major corporations which lose so product to a market like other businesses the market is advertisers that's where their income comes from not from subscriptions of the product that they're selling his order. for several decades we've been diluted with infotainment. it's produced by the mass media and reaches us via our t.v.'s computers and smartphones. many of us seem to enjoy it particularly the flood of information and social media . journalists and big businesses are not responsible for this we are.
it comes from our natural desire to be entertained. a real understanding of the world will require some taking on some depth and our real story of an event needs to have some historical context and some social context and a range of views and you're just not getting that from a place that's just playing you a clip downloaded from my t.v. show in another country and then a few three sentences under it saying isn't this neat look at this you know this is entertainment and this is not news but one of the consequences is just what you describe the effort to reduce capacity for independent thought and independent action by diverting people giving them a limited amount of awareness of what the world is like to try to prevent serious
understanding or critical of the gnosis. can't journalists do their jobs properly under increased time pressure the answer is no. the reporters now have to stop every thirty or forty five minutes and update the story that they filed an hour ago because it has to be updated for the web. that means someone covering a congressional committee. doesn't really have time to do anything but run into the committee here to committee members talk and then run out and update the story. naming all that together in
a way that makes sense and is documented it is virtually impossible that's why i say that. the pressure of quick reaction time to. get it up get it up fast is reducing the ability of the journalists who are trying to document the information and actually do their job. it takes time to create good journalism the new york times understands that. to my mind the new york times is done this is the model so the new york times has cut and cut and cut and cut but not in the newsroom the new york times very deliberately protected the newsroom knowing that that's why the new york times exists and that's why people pay for it. when you walk around manhattan you see lots of nail salons reporter sara mouseland near decided to investigate this phenomenon. what was really interesting
about the nail salon story is that every single person involved in every source had no reason to speak with me people in my story are undocumented immigrants working illegally in this country terrified of being discovered and yet they spoke i did approach four hundred and ended up interviewing about one hundred twenty five minus edition took thirteen months by just focus on the story and the only thing is occasionally there would be some really big news story and they'd say everybody all hands on deck drop it for a day sarah but no i work exclusively on the story my needing to with them sometimes we talk about nothing especially in the beginning we would sit down and talk about their lives and have coffee and even want to heard something really compelling i would prevent myself from asking about it i had that approach with all these people and developed a level of comfort and report with them that eventually they want to tell their story my story yes it took thirteen months but it had a magnificent payoff the times investment made last change the governor changed
a lot of my story came out and made life change so i don't think the times is going to short change stories for journalism no matter what the economic climate is. i don't believe that journalists intentionally pass on incorrect information but because of the time pressure they do publish information that hasn't been checked properly. but how can it be that many people now accept obviously false information as the truth. the founder of isis is the founder of us. the founder. over the past several decades the media have become more competitive their goal is not to provide their own interpretation of the day's events or an interpretation of the truth as they see it their job is to stay ahead of their competitors so they all go out and cover the same stories that means that just
a few big reports will make it onto the air or appear in print and other topics won't be covered at all. once they finished covering a story journalists pack up their gear and move on to the next one. this behavior could raise doubts about their motives. are they doing it just to keep up with the competition. or are they trying to create a social consensus that could benefit business or financial interests. look at how awful the wall street coverage is how wall street bankers or little more the thieves got away with all these kind of criminal acts which they don't ever get punished for the journalism is terrible there are hundreds of channels television radio on the internet. but we often get the chorus of
the same voices and what we need is that true diversity of voices i think it has to be more about fairness and more about fairness to the range of perspectives and people that exist and when those voices are there not your typical pundits that you get on all of the networks you know it seems to be you may have a number of networks they're all interviewing the same people the small circle of know nothing pundits of pundits who know so little about so much if journalists were able to achieve the highest goal of their profession and they were freed from the institutional control they'd be presenting rooted. the easy of access the most important information if you're talking about issues of
war and peace most people deeply care if you're talking about climate change the things of the planet people care the growing inequality between rich and poor people care independence just means that you are willing to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may and you don't have to keep looking over your shoulder because say your own or or your boss or your sponsor has a lines that they don't want you to cross it really has a lot to do with your freedom to say things that other people don't want to hear i mean i think the media reflects the establishment consensus. it. represents power instead of challenging power. those who seek to distort the truth can take advantage of this and offer alternatives to big media news coverage . they do this directly on social media this information goes public without being
checked for accuracy by professional journalists these days people can not only get news via traditional sources like newspapers they can also find it on news and social media networks. i think a lot of journalists dismiss buzz feed because they say well it's fluffy content and that's all that's you know and they conflate fluffy content with share ability and i just don't think that actually right this is why facebook for example is making such a huge investment in instant articles and doing so many partnerships with serious news organizations that's the same reason that snap chat is making is doing serious partnerships with serious news organizations because they know the quality content travels well as on those platforms as well. even in the age of this new form of journalism reporters have to find new stories
to cover. they can either do this by working from press releases. or they can hit the streets and dig up a story themselves. but you have to know your city you have to talk to people real life working people. we get out there every day and try to come up with new stories. it's tough to be an investigative journalist in an environment where all the bosses seem to care about is the number of hits that a story gets. i think a lot of times journalists conflate the number of clicks a story gets with impact and resonance and i think that is a mistake or plyometrics that were actually designed to measure the success of advertisements to measure the success of journalism and that's
a problem driving people to a story is job number one and it almost doesn't matter what they see when they get there i think this is extremely troubling if you say the top ten best something people want to look at that it seems like it's a comprehensive people like lists people like short items but that's not what we need and there's a difference between the kind of news coverage or just entertainment coverage short stories. that you might enjoy reading and the kind of stories that you really need to know in order to make an informed decision about you know who to vote for or what's happening in your in your community. of course information can be edited in various ways. the important thing is for journalists to get their information from a reliable source and present it accurately. reporters are just very good at sort
of finding the discontent and organizations and her drawing them out and getting them to talk off the record sometimes the way i do it as i approach them and tell them very openly. that i am very curious about them and explain why you have to go to the cop car and that's how you develop polices versus you don't do it by you know coming to their office and demanding to meet the people who want to story told perhaps a whistleblower someone who feels very strongly about something goes to media they trust which is why it's so important to be trustworthy to not stand they are protecting those in power that have a tradition of holding those in power accountable. sometimes sources agree to provide information only on condition of anonymity but
the use of anonymous sources can cause problems. one of the reasons i have. left reporting it agreed to become an editor was that. i was reporting in washington in order to get. the information you needed from the source who knew the information. you had to agree to protect them a source said an anonymous source story and that bothered me i just had trouble doing then if that source had a name they could be accountable you know the reason you put names on sources is that it when they lied to you you want to know who it was who lied to you so that you don't go to them again if you allow them anonymity then they can lie to you forever i have no secrets with my reader i insist when i talk to someone for the
record that they use their name and if they don't use their name i don't want to hear them i don't care whatever they're telling me if they don't have their name on it i can do without it. there's another disadvantage to the use of anonymous sources the public becomes used to information that's not been technically speaking properly attributed. so someone's opinion becomes information . what happens when people don't check information against the facts or when they distribute only information they agree with then facts and lies can become interchangeable. people who have access to power often captivated by it and journalists are no exception.
reporting is the gathering of factual information the writing is taking that factual information that you've gathered and shaping it. and putting it into phrases using words that make a picture for the reader but we needed that those seem pretty young too good reporting takes time to do this. but deadlock as you often get in the way you're meant to be dismissed because i didn't does my eyes are the first thing i visualize
the story i see people that are going to represent my story let the students how do you structure your story and decide what information goes into it there's not enough room for all the details in the last book to not give it a look and then i have to interview him to get the facts right i mean it is that you focus on what's important and make sure that the text flows through the move through you listen to then the real part of the work. is what your first sentence what is the first words of the first sentence how apt you write a sentence you rewrite it and how do you improve it how do you improve it you change some words or you eliminate some words or you try it with the first sentence and then with the second sentence and then with the third sentence to write a paragraph that is the lead of the story and that first paragraph has to be so
compelling. so we'll visual so interesting that the reader is going to read the second spiral graph and then the third paragraph in the fourth part read the whole story with. the material must be presented as accurately as possible. the really good it left for much from a step or simply. in the past newspapers and the news departments of radio and t.v. stations were defined by their approach to covering stories. anything that that shapes imaginings character is the types of questions you asked it sort of boy. that sort of matter for you shouldn't be turning information into propaganda from if you didn't get the needle up as you feel you have to provide a balanced account that's based on facts and include as much information as possible so that meat is controlled their own conclusions. that journalists always
have to guard against. the natural bias that works its way into everything we do we're clear we're human beings and human baby says react to the world in a personal way. that's a builtin by. these points of view help reporters decide which information they include or leave out of their stories. still powerful people have a vested interest in keeping a lid on information that could be harmful to them. and sometimes journalists feel pressure to just keep quiet about some aspects of a story. no i mean this position is there will be pressure doesn't bother me because i deal with it every day it's part of the job people are always calling and telling you not to print something. is too little believe this. news
should be what powerful people don't want you to know because after all powerful people have press offices they have ways to get out their story they have ways to get out the information that they want you to hear poorly goes only for a few and. when you're working on a story about politicians. whose business it. is hank they always call up and try to throw their weight around who knows but it's over. but some journalists told me that they can do their work without having to worry about their bosses interfering. and i can answer a question i don't think in their terms has a bias of course there's a bias but that doesn't mean you can't have good stories she was dealing with the oppressed victims. who were these women working under terrible management standards being underpaid and overworked ok that's good but using that same kind of formula
use it on power and steal for you get i have many friends who are really fine outstanding journalists. so they can describe to you the constraints that they're under who they're mostly very well aware of the institutional contracts that. shape control the. kind of work that can be produced. these constraints often work in subtle and indirect ways. but they are effective nonetheless. nobody ever says don't do that story because we have an advertiser that will be very angry about that or because our corporate owner doesn't like that kind of story that's not what they hear what they hear is. you know that's not really very sexy you know
or that's going to take a lot of resources or that's going to take too much time and when you rather do this other thing it's not ok i feel. that it's constraints can influence and sometimes it's not even aware of it i don't think i think that meant that you only need to see one reporter fired you know for getting the right wrong person angry to internalize that idea and to realize that's not something you want to do. the mass media are under economic pressure to make profits and that can lead to conflicts of interest. major corporations can pull advertisements if they don't like the way that a media outlet has covered them. c.b.s. had done a wonderful series by a reporter named roberta baskin they've done a series on sweat shop. by nike nike sweat shops and it was a great series it exposed a lot of hardship and unfairness and it was really hard hitting and it want to
wards so roberta baskin went back to do an update on the nike sweatshop story but in the meantime c.b.s. had signed a sponsorship deal with nike and so c.b.s. was running nike ads and in fact c.b.s. anchors were wearing nike clothes on the air now roberta baskin is told you know her nike sweat shop story is not newsworthy is not interesting and she's not going to be able to do it. obviously powerful people who haven't been telling the truth don't like it when this is exposed by journalists. but even if many people are attracted by power and influence they value freedom and democracy even more. we want to be able to throw the rascals out or at least we want to believe that we can.
even in the media savvy twenty first century people still need accurate information . but many still want politicians to provide easy solutions to the complex social and technological problems that we now face. by for talk to a lot of journalists and have visited a lot of media outlets and i still can't predict what role the media will play in the future. delicacy i'm only doing the thing that i knew of the work we're doing today is completely different from what we were doing twenty or thirty years ago it's absolutely different and you know we have to learn new ways to write new ways to tell a story and to reach out to people. it's a process of trial and error and. we're still looking for new ways to be the best journalists we can be. that it would have said to limit what money.
are still kind of locked in this mentality that what we're creating is a newspaper in digital form and i think that is a fundamental problem i don't even know what a newspaper website means to normal people not to journalists we know that means it's a newspaper website but you know normal people don't think about newspaper websites they think about news there are kinds of things we can do to improve how we tell stories to make the stories more real. we should be thinking about how to tell stories on mobile what are the needs of readers of news consumers on mobile what are the needs of consumers on desktop what are the needs of consumers at different times of the day. i sometimes ask myself what journalists want complete freedom like they enjoyed at the washington post when katharine
graham was the publisher or career that's not as risky and provide some financial security. i think there are examples of organizations that are and sit around around different sorts of paradigms so buzz feed is one of the thirteen ways you know you're from the west and everyone from the midwest would share that whether you think by his feet is amazing or whether you think it is you know the end of the world as we know it is not the point one state about. sort of found in a news or buzz feed that employs a number of investigative journalists including pulitzer prize winner very experienced people but also a lot of young people who are just talented reporters. and so they package the writers material in the sort of sheryl clickable way that they learn from marketing this easier contest the point is that the organization is entirely
designed to be consumed on other platforms all of the content the buzz feed creates is designed to be consumed on facebook to be consumed on twitter to be consumed on other platforms you travel via shares not via some sort of broadcast mechanism instead of that we're still in this very broadcast mentality of like we speak you listen. buzz feed as organize itself around a particular distribution strategy that newsrooms like this one just simply don't understand and are not investing in to understand and if we don't understand and that's just one example but if we don't understand this and we don't we orient around how people are consuming content now and will in the
future i mean we're dead. but do people these days actually have the time to inform themselves properly do they actually want to be properly informed they seem to spend a lot of time reading one sided or content free news stories on their smartphones. that the idea of people especially young people kind of obsessed with extremely superficial interactions with others. the little voices they hold in their will their will in a rose not a healthy thing to live. with
that. much of this content can be classified as fake news or alternative facts this material can be distributed in an attempt to change public opinion. if journalism continues to focus on soft news instead of hard hitting reports consumers may simply lower their standards. during last year's u.s. presidential campaign a lot of fake news reports were distributed on social media it's alarming that people could actually believe such misleading and oversimplified reports. questionable content is now passed around as though it were factual.
i wonder whether people actually want to hear the truth or do they just want to be entertained should we just vote every now and then and leave everything else to the government. or should journalism empower people. the basic tenants of good journalism remain the same allowing people to describe their own experience. in their book blur authors bill kovach and tom rosenstiel wrote that democracy is based on a continuous dialogue among well informed citizens but the quality of that dialogue will depend on whether the information is based on lies and propaganda or on facts that have been properly researched. people still have the right to demand serious news coverage and it is the role of journalists to provide it.
but that kind of coverage costs a lot of money and that won't change anytime soon. journalism verification requires people who are allowed to devote all of their time to verifying information that's important to go into the news or a port. that requires money journalism takes effort and journalism requires funding and journalism acquires time to get it right and to extract the truth. i believe that if people want to keep their right to access accurate information they have to take responsibility and support independent media sources financially . today many publishers have decided the consumer should pay for digital news coverage.
while i was working on this documentary a number of new payment models have become popular including digital subscriptions if people are not prepared to pay for accurate news coverage they could have serious negative consequences. those who control the media company's finances could then make key decisions on coverage. that will diminish our ability to critically evaluate the events of the day. we could simply be replaced by robots. since you're talking asking you this question if you're not mr president i'd like to have a similar answer if you were attacking our news organization now can you give us a cheer organization. those who claim that we live in the age of post truth may be taking advantage of these uncertain times or simply want to shut down the press
they believe that journalists can't be trusted because they tell people the truth and are less likely to bow down to powerful interests. to close this report by asking to elise what he thinks about the state of journalism today. what's wrong with journalism is the wrong journalists it's not journalism is it people who don't know how to be great journalists they don't know how to be they don't have pride in what they do they're just mediocre people now you find mediocre people who are in politics you find mediocre people who are in banking in find mediocre people who are in every calling in life. journalism is made up of go to bed just like the police department just like the day priesthood. not all journalists behave as they should and they bring the profession into disrepute. but if we can't rely on journalists to check the facts
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