The moral dilemma of today’s news | The tech-media divide | The problem with writing “poverty porn”

The moral dilemma of today’s news: Journalism today is in an impossibly difficult position, says Tom Rachman in the Atlantic. “The job of a news reporter today is to declare what you can’t yet know to people convinced that they already do,” says Rachman. Should journalists just provide the truth about what’s happening in the world, or is it up to them to fix it? America has been left with an is-ought problem, says Rachman: facts don’t fall into the same category as moral statements of what they ought to be, but the two are often conflated. There is no single type of source that can provide neutral facts: authority figures, civilians, and online voices all come with their own biases. Furthermore, the landscape of trust itself is constantly changing — trust in the news and in authority shift based on what’s going on in the world. In order for news to have value, journalists must provide neutral facts to an audience who is likely to be defensive rather than open minded. 

The tech-media divide: A widening rift is splitting Silicon Valley and the media, writes Benjamin Wallace in New York Magazine. The tech industry has been changing from “cute and quirky toy-maker to dystopian nightmare factory” for decades, writes Wallace. Reporters have begun to take a more critical view of the industry, writing exposés on Cambridge Analytica’s role in the 2016 election and fraud in the startup Theranos. Tech executives like Elon Musk are outspoken about their distaste for the media, and tech is beginning to recite its own narrative to combat critical reporting. The fight between tech and media is partially performative, according to Wallace, as both sides benefit from the Twitter wars and snipey comments from the other. However, it’s a precarious relationship that the two have, and keeping them in dialogue is in everyone’s best interest, says Wallace. 


The problem with writing “poverty porn”: Journalists tend to tell stories of the extremes, and in doing so miss out on a lot of the stuff in the middle, says Ko Bragg in CJR. Reporters who reach out to nonprofits and other organizations working directly with people dealing with crises like evictions or the repercussions of immigration policy tend to request a certain type of story: those who are suffering the most. While these stories do exist, there’s a certain lack of empathy that comes from cherry picking a story in this way. Instead of doing this, it’s up to the reporters to build real relationships with sources rather than relying on organizations to give them their most desperate people, says Bragg.

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