I have just listened to the first 35 minutes of your conversation on disinformation and the media with Matt Sheffield. I probably won't listen to the remaining 90.

Here's why: I am a veteran of 41 years in the MSM. Retired in 2012 after a career largely in print, but also online in the last 15. I was a reporter, editor, publisher and ran an international news service. And I continue to be an avid consumer of news, local, state and national in far too many media.

The two of you bring up some good points, but sadly you fall victim to one of the syndromes you discuss: thinking that people in the past for some reason failed to realize problems you see clearly today.

Let me assure that professional MSM journalists have been wrestling with issues like gaslighting, the belief that only negative stories are "real journalism," "gotcha" journalism, highly publicized charges of wrongdoing that found the be worthless after the media spotlight has moved on.

I actually laughed outloud when I heard that "the MSM don't realize that they are operating in a hostile environment."

Anyone who is a thoughtful practitioner of the art of trying to tell people on a daily basis the truest version of what is going on in the world today that they can come up with in the minutes, hours or days they have to acquire and tell the story has wrestled with these problems within the first 6-18 months of getting into the biz. News staffs, media schools and foundations have been wrestling with these questions since at least 1970 -- when I was hatched from J-school.

The reason these problems have not been solved, though many remedies have been and continue to be tried, is that they are hard problems that have a lot to do with the way the human brain works.

Does this malfeasance still occur? Absolutely! For example, I have thought that the "dump on Kamala" stories were probably ginned up and sold to various political writers by the same shop that came up with the stories about Hillary's emails.

Let me just say from the vantage point of experience that the solution is NOT to ditch objective reporting and replace it with a diet based solely on opinion. The challenge -- today as it has been since at least 1970 -- is to persuade the public to actually read/watch/listen to those followup stories and analytical pieces.

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Hi Jane, it doesn't surprise me one bit that a media insider like yourself would describe how the media operates as objective journalism. There's nothing objective in being the voice of the PR industry and money. You reveal yourself when you blame the public for pitiful journalism.

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Jan 4, 2022·edited Jan 31, 2022

Hi Jane, I appreciate you struggling with these questions and talking about the structural issues. I have to say that I am very strongly with David here.

The way the human brain functions doesn't preclude a better media environment – although certainly our brains affect how we process information from the news. (I'm a brain scientist.) The paths forward are at the societal level – structural changes to journalism and institutions, as Dave and Matt insightfully lay out here.

You talk about the history of journalism going back to 1970, but the structural changes we need are based on journalism far before that. It was around 1940-50 that modern "neutral" journalism really settled in, and I think it's not a coincidence that at the same time the news industry had just fought off New Deal anti-corporate reform efforts. By the 1950s, the US journalism business had settled largely into its current form: entirely up to unregulated markets and heavily dependent on advertising. Trying to be neutral and taking no stand is a strategy that maximizes total addressable audience, and it's no surprise that big corporate news outlets, from 1950s Luce Time/Life, to CNN and MSNBC (owned by AT&T and Comcast), to the NYT (publicly traded on the NYSE and expanding into new media, see Framing Britney) have clung tightly to neutrality.

Other countries don't let their journalism try to compete with entertainment media in a totally unregulated market for ads – Sweden and Norway heavily publicly subsidize news, and so does Germany. Japan does too, and it also has 5 or 6 big national papers, affiliated with parties, with known points of view, dependent on large subscriber payments that have not been the norm in the US. Many news outlets in all these countries are /not/ neutral. Also, not coincidentally in my view, those countries have not experienced the same rise of polarization and oligarchy as we have seen in the US.

And we ourselves have not always had a news business dependent on a totally unregulated ad market. The Founders put the Postal Service in the Constitution in large part to publicly subsidize newspapers by giving them very low postage rates (McChesney and Nichols 2010 walk through this.)

I, like Dave, think the solution IS to ditch objective reporting, which only leads to tearing things down, never advocating for good things. Let's emulate the best parts of other countries' news models.

It's not unreasonable to think that Lincoln would never have freed the slaves if not for the strong, values-based, abolitionist press. The Liberator was not neutral. (It was also subsizided by the postal subsidy.) Somehow, America has gotten away from that. We should ask our journalists to advocate – for truth, for democracy, for human rights, just as the abolitionist press did.

Happy New Year!

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So, brain scientist, if all the journalists are no longer neutral and objective but partisan, who do we trust to tell us what’s really going on?

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terrific interview - maybe long but worth it.

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There were a lot of good points touched upon in this discussion. Thanks!

One question I have: if we had to choose between a climate change denialist and someone who doesn't deny climate change is happening but puts forth a woefully inadequate proposal, are we better off with "outright denial" (because more people will just think they're fools) or "woefully inadequate" (still makes *some* progress and gets more people in the realm of talking solutions)?

Dan Crenshaw was recently on Trevor Noah's show. He sounded imminently reasonable, but put forth a climate plan based on natural gas exports, nuclear power, and carbon capture. Even though I know this plan is complete BS, it still seems like a better discussion to be having than one with people saying "the jury's still out on whether humans are causing this."

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Is there, will there be text for this?

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I don't think so, Bruce -- this one's way too long.

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I don't listen to you (takes too long) but I do read you.

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