Thursday, 11 August 2016

Try and start a riot by begging for more

I hear publishers all the time saying: “we should listen to what readers want.” But that’s flawed logic. Here’s where I come out: readers don’t know what they want to read. How can they?

From the first day a person begins to read words, they were told what to think. Unless you work very hard to figure out new ways of thinking for yourself, the details and edges of your entire world have been painted by someone else. And in the modern world, it is only the media's palette. If people say they want cat pictures, ask whether did they came up with that themselves. Of course they didn't. They saw the idea somewhere on a news site or webpage. When people say they want more politics, did they come up with that idea themselves? Again, no. The whole concept of politics is delivered by the media as a THING to talk about. It is introduced to their minds in a specific way until the person actually believes she invented the idea herself – “I love cat pictures” or “I'm a National supporter.” People are sheep, desiring to be led. The media's job is to lead.

In fact, I think this is the heart of what’s killing newspapers. Journalists and publishers have no idea why they exist. No idea what the mainstream media is for. No clue what their role  is within a society their industry created. They honestly think their job is to “find the truth” or “deliver news,” when actually, a journalist’s job is to shape public opinion. It is to write in a specific way which discusses some things but purposefully doesn’t discuss other things.

For instance, you can vote for either Clinton or Trump – and the media will yell and scream about both to keep you watching/listening/reading. That is the framing. Understand how this is framed. Consider that what the media cannot talk about is whether voting is a good idea AT ALL. Or whether we should have a leader in the first place. Or if the concept of a nation state should be maintained or swapped for something else. Those are all assumed by the framing. They constitute the default assumption. This is what a "conversation" looks like when journalism does its job correctly (maintaining the status quo).

If you really want to feel powerless and tricked, try to verbalise the hundreds or thousands of default assumptions buried inside a sentence as seemingly innocuous as: "how high should the tax rate be for a middle-income worker?"

It is not a journalist’s job to tell people what to think, it’s to tell people how to think. What does that mean? Well, when people ask, “what must I consider as truth?” or “what exists?” if a journalist is doing the job correctly, the only answer should be: whatever the media says is the truth or exists.

That’s the process of constructing. And the final construction is a world in which it doesn’t matter what the media is saying, only that the media is saying something. If journalists do this job correctly, the media flourishes. If they do it poorly, we see the problems of today. A journalist’s sole responsibility is to keep the conversation going about what it means to live in a particular society and for that conversation to happen within the streams of media.

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