The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

@Timcast vs. the Journalistic ‘Midwits’

Posted on | July 3, 2021 | Comments Off on @Timcast vs. the Journalistic ‘Midwits’

Tim Pool did on-the-scene reporting around the world before becoming one of the most popular YouTube commentators. His audience of more than a million subscribers is larger than many CNN programs. Tim called attention to Devlin Barrett of the Washington Post misinterpreting poll data to suggest that the alarming rise in crime over the past two years is entirely imaginary. This is illustrates the problem, says Tim, of journalism being a career field dominated by “midwits.”


In the course of that discussion, Tim asks an important question: Why aren’t the guys in the so-called “intellectual dark web” (IDW) working in actual newsrooms? Why are all these guys doing commentary, rather than reporting? There are several factors involved here, including laziness — i.e., spewing your opinions online is much less labor-intensive than doing the job of a reporter. Anyone can log onto Twitter (or switch on their webcam and record a video) and pontificate about what’s wrong with the world, and there are no barriers to entry, no bosses, no gatekeepers, no human resources department, no necessity of conforming to an employer’s expectations. Furthermore, punditry is considered more prestigious than mere reporting. The reporter may be required to crank out two or three stories a day, and the vast majority of his work never gets any significant amount of public attention. You’re working for a newspaper in Topeka or a TV station in Tampa, and you have a near-zero chance of gaining nationwide notoriety.

Making it to the Big Leagues of journalism is a long-shot prospect for the young local reporter, and the longer he stays in local journalism — the Minor Leagues of media — the less likely it is that he’ll ever be working in D.C. or New York. Nowadays, there are very few local journalists over the age of 30 who have any shot at the Big Leagues. Local journalism is not lucrative or glamorous, and if you are someone who considers yourself to be an intellectual, you’re never going to pursue that line of work, which you disparage as being beneath you. So, the reason IDW guys don’t become journalists is rather self-explanatory.

Journalism, as a trade, looks very different from the outside of a newsroom than from the inside. Most people think of “the media” in terms of what they see on TV, especially in terms of the millionaire network news anchors and cable-news celebrities. But the vast majority of actual work — the real reporting — in journalism is done by people you never see on TV, and who don’t spend their weekends in the Hamptons.

As for the ideological bias in journalism, I once had a cigarette break with the late Peter Jennings of ABC News, who said to me, “Don’t you think journalism is inherently a liberal business? You know, ‘Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’ and all that?”

And I must admit, in retrospect, that Jennings had a valid point.

Journalism as a career attracts a certain type of person, and it involves a certain type of work, and a certain amount of liberal bias may be unavoidable in the industry, quite generally. But the question, in our era, is who are the “comfortable” and who are the “afflicted”?

Once liberal bias as a problem became apparent to me, in my mid-30s, I saw how utterly one-sided journalism was becoming, and that problem has gotten much worse since the 1990s. The question of balance — giving the reader a fair and objective picture of the situation — is ignored by the journalistic elite who see themselves as defenders and advocates of a political project. Is there anyone at CNN (or CBS or ABC, etc.) who thinks that Hillary Clinton deserved to lose the 2016 election? Is there anyone at the New York Times or the Washington Post who has serious doubts about the Black Lives Matter movement? Because I know how newsrooms operate, and how the “water-cooler consensus” tends to shape the coverage of events, I understand the value of dissent within newsrooms. If there is no one in the staff meeting willing to play devil’s advocate — to say, “Hey, why don’t we try to take a look at this issue from the other side?” — then the output of the newsroom is certain to become homogenous in its outlook. And this is the real problem in journalism now, which you can see in “woke” staff devouring the New York Times.

The problem of “midwits” like Devlin Barrett is a direct consequence of the increasing ideological conformity of newsrooms. Barrett knows that his continued employment at the Washington Post is a function of his usefulness in advancing the interests of the Democratic Party. So he looks at the poll numbers and interprets them in such a way as to make the problem of increasing crime seem trivial, if not wholly imaginary.

Barrett is probably smart enough to realize that his interpretation is wrong — at least, now that Tim Pool had done it, surely Barrett can realize his error — but the problem is that there is no one on the staff of the Washington Post who looks at things from Tim Pool’s point of view.



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