Listen now (5 mins) | And how I keep up with the news nonetheless
I'm in total agreement with you on this, Professor (I usually agree with everything you write, so I don't know if that counts).
There are some other sources with superb investigative reporting, and some are surprising. There's The Nation, old and durable, hard-hitting and true; and the occasional block-buster articles in The New Yorker, very old indeed, for good reason, and great reading overall.
I'd include Vanity Fair - not just for women, you know - which often has extremely readable articles that get behind the news to the people and issues that are or should be newsworthy. And there's even Rolling Stone, which generally has two hard-hitting political articles every issue, hard-hitting and well-written. I suspect these two publications got into publishing smart investigative political articles with the advent of crazy right-wing nutcases in our political arena.
As for The New York Times and the Washington Post, whoever writes their headlines is an idiot, going for tabloid gotcha appeal. Their articles, with "leftists" being anyone who wants decent pay and working conditions, readily available health and all that stuff that actually helps people, and "moderates", which to them means either conservative Democrats or the very few Republicans who have a soul and an inkling of caring about anyone other than themselves. And of course the non-factual right-wing columnists. Into the dustbin with those two rags!
I just donated to The Guardian yesterday, with my hundred bucks going in a very small way to help keep them solvent and reporting. What a good feeling! And I mustn't forget the daily Florida Phoenix, what journalism ought to be, which is part of nonprofit The States Newsroom, which has issues for many states - perhaps yours is included, so look them up; you won't be sorry you did. I start my day with the Phoenix.
There may be others out there, but these will get you past the BS of mass media. Thank goodness for that!
Ha, this is an old post, so maybe it's safe to comment. Perhaps I'll just be talking to myself here, I hope, lol.
Forgive my trying to describe my situation: I didn't study English in college. Barely, in high school. But I earned a perfect score on the GRE writing exam, finished a Berkeley professional editing course with an A grade, was called a "brilliant writer" by a best-selling author. . .
No bragging rights, though, because I've never figured out how to put whatever odd literary ability I may have to sufficiently meaningful use.
I'm not a perfect copy editor. I do developmental editing. I'm best at ghostwriting, sounding like other people. I guess I hear the nuances that make them unique and reveal their meaning.
For example: once upon a time, I was granted an audience with a sought-after, fashionable, investment advisor, a darling of those in the Connecticut know. After five minutes of listening to him, I literally ran screaming into the night. My friends were appalled. I was "ungrateful." I was "nuts."
Within the year, the man was wearing stripes in a Federal "pen" a la Bernie Madoff.
I try to explain myself here to say: Often, now, I can't read or listen to the news outlets that I used to, within reason, trust. I can't listen to most politicians.
I don't frighten easily. For 36 years, I worked as an international airline pilot, flying jumbo jets across the Pole and around the globe. Engine fire, all in a day's work. But listening to a newscaster now, I'm afraid. I'm afraid that we, the U.S., may have fatally lost our way, with the media helping to degrade our compass.
But I subscribed here. It sounds right. Not loud enough, though. Not enough people reading and listening; not unless your subscribers include at least everyone who voted for Trump.
I wish I knew how to do something--explain to a few million people how to hear propaganda as propaganda. But, to my horror, I don't know even how to rescue my two closest, formerly sane friends from having lost their minds.
Again, apologies. But
I do want to say: I, too, agree with what you write here about media. You've got a platform, an audience; that's priceless. Please write louder, so that more people hear.
Thank you for sharing the wisdom and for persisting.
Once upon a time, in television's formative years, there was a component called News, where we shared what was mostly a common set of facts, shared by newscasters like Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and others, over a very limited number of networks.
Enter the mass expansion of networks, media types, corporate mergers touching all the points that touch every aspect of our daily lives, including corporate lobbyists and Citizens United, and news is gone replaced by 'entertainment', a common set of facts is gone (or very difficult to piece together), replaced by alternative facts. It's a mess, and another place where following the money gives some worthwhile perspective every once in awhile.
Do we stand a chance??
Robert, you and your efforts are SO appreciated. Thank you!
I've been waiting for someone to voice this concern. Thank you so much! I LOVE the Atlantic and the Guardian. I try to watch the PBS Newshour - if not live, online the next day. And I really like Washington Week on Friday nights. I love what SubStack has done in encouraging authors to interact directly with their readers. I follow several of them, including you. I haven't watched Democracy Now in quite a while. Think I'll go back to them.
I learned long ago "Always keep an open mind but not so open that your brain falls out." For many years, I treated news as entertainment without really thinking about what it meant. In other words, I let my critical thinking skills lapse. Now, I try to analyze everything to the point I fear I've become a crusty old curmudgeon who doesn't trust anything unless I've researched it from 3 different angles. Mainstream media are for-profit organizations whose primary goal is making more money. The current means of making more money is by publishing more "clickbait." Truth be damned, full steam ahead!
I could not agree more with every single point you make about MM. It is the reason, I too, have turned to YOU and your newsletter, along with others, including those you mentioned and a few more. I stopped watching CNN and MSNBC and PBS when they all treated Bernie like you know what and marginalized him and even ridiculed him. Even Rachel showed her bias against him. They are better than Fox, which is a bar way too low.
"...we need to educate and re-educate ourselves (and our children) about how to learn what’s really going on — how to absorb the news critically. Isn’t this a minimal responsibility of democratic citizenship?"
All forms of media need to be challenged and questioned by vocal, confident, thoughtful people.
One step to helping kids truly absorb the news is to put newspapers - a variety of hard copies - in the hands of every student. Physical ownership. Begin a practice of reading that everyone can see and authentically practice.
As a teacher, I brought newspapers to school all the time. One day a student asked "Where can I get one of those?" He wasn't kidding.
The computer is an increasingly omnipresent, seductive management tool not only for teachers but also for parents. At its best, a screen can be deft in ferreting information and sparking thought. At its worst, a screen can take possession of its user, turning the adolescent's classroom or bedroom into a mind-numbing holding tank.
Adults who trust that young kids can read effectively online are at best naïve, at worst lazy. In turning kids loose on screens, we're throwing young, unfocused minds into lairs of distraction.
If the objective is to develop an informed, balanced, humane, socially graceful citizen, then the mentor needs to encourage deep-dive engagement through close and wide-ranging reading of print media followed by face to face discussions that elicit a range of perspectives and opinions.
We tend to shy away from aggressive discourse, and that's unfortunate. We should be developing rich discussion skills - aggressive in the best sense of the word - and hard-fought conflict resolution right now in every classroom.
It's beautiful to see students pull out texts to support and prove their points. It's beautiful, too, to see a strong young man secure enough in his own self-worth concede "that's a fair point" in a discussion. It's not weakness to have a thought that is flawed but it's weak to refuse to recognise and acknowledge it. That requires modelling from a strong and confident mentor willing to invite thoughtful argument, even if directed at that mentor.
Our children are daily being sucked into distractions on screens they didn't seek and don't really desire. Unfortunately, we're allowing technology and our own asocial practices freedom to rewire them. In the process, rich reading, deep questioning and thinking, extensive discourse, and our collective humanity are lost.
Perhaps a little too little and a little too late, in the past couple of days I've heard Manchin & Sinema referred to as "conservative Democrats" rather than "moderate Democrats." It appears even the mainstream starting to catch-on that those clowns are DINOs. That's not to contradict Mr Reich's observation in any way. I'm just sayin'.
We have made zero policy changes related to media and the organizations themselves have made no meaningful structural changes since they, through fear, lazy journalism, obsession with profits and access, etc., led us to invade and destroy Iraq. It's a war crime. It's unforgivable. The horrors we caused are incalculable and indescribable.
Buuuut, ya know, I guess things happen, and some outlets sort of maybe apologized, so our country moved on, because acknowledging what we did and why would pierce the veil of America as star-spangled purveyor of good and other fantasies we tell ourselves so that we can ignore any type of civic responsibility and go about our day consuming and ignoring the consequences of our actions.
We, the public, have been failed over and over again by mainstream press, but we refuse to sufficiently mobilize to address it. Elected officials benefit from the limited debate and predictable narratives of the media, to say nothing of their ability to go on and spew nonsense with no fear of real questions or challenges to blatant lies or hypocrisy.
One of the main takeaways from COVID is that our failure to address the corruption and failure of mainstream media outlets is now a danger to the entire species. A country this powerful cannot allow itself to be so easily swayed or misinformed, yet that is what happens over and over again. If we don't make this a major focus of every progressive organization, I believe we are heading toward a future where climate change ravages the planet while the press and networks refuse to show the real fallout, allow corporations to greenwash their role, provide ample time for politicians who deny that the mass death and planetary destruction are even happening, and of course, after every 4-minute surface-level exchange, break to tell us the reason our marriage isn't working is because we're using the wrong shampoo.
And the Aldening and vanishing of local newspapers is yet another problem. Here in Colorado I supported and read the Colorado Independent and the Colorado Sun, which (with some other local indie efforts) are now folded together into a group I still read and support.
And from an end-of-year Mother Jones editorial column: https://www.motherjones.com/media/2021/12/war-on-democracy-media/?keycode=71CEC01%7CP1CEC01
So, why not legally establish the cost of the Build Back Better Act as either $175 billion per year OR 25% of the defense budget, whichever amount is smaller? Language like this would certainly help me put the cost of the Build Back Better Act in perspective--and might even help a couple of reluctant Democratic senators understand the importance of their voting for it.
I trust NPR,PBS, NY Times & W Post to report the empirical facts of current events. I may also use FactCheck & Snopes to verify. But I make my own value judgments about the reported news, using my understanding of science, moral philosophy & Christian theology. I often stand on the shoulders of columnists/contributors such as Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman, Robert Reich, Heather Cox Richardson, Bishop William Barber, & Fareed Zakaria. I respect their knowledge & wisdom.
Mister Reich, I could not agree more strongly with your analyses. We Americans, have been way to complacent about taking care of our precious democracy. would be oligarchs are always on a prowl and we have enough of historic evidence from around the world to show us what we can expect when they succeed. Please do continue with your columns and education of our citizenry. (You are by far my favorite analyst of human order and societies).
The Young Turks (TYT) also report about what you were writing. The corporate news hardly ever have a progressive on. I sometimes send an email to a news outlet when I am especially angry. I don't think there is a group that lets one sign a petition or tells us to send an email to the media outlets, letting them know how biased they are and what their propaganda is about, or is there?
Spot on regarding the “status quo”. The coverage has been very disappointing, they seem to miss the point too much, have the “emergency switch on 24/7”, red breaking news banners scrolling something obvious that is news to no one. It is no longer my main source of information
Always such a blessing to read your posts and benefit from your wisdom. My sources are kqed, deutche welle (dw.com), and increasing less cnn. I also much appreciate your posts and another blogger, Heather Cox. Love kqed radio since its financed through membership and its intelligent reporting and educational information. I love DW because it provides a European and international perspective, and is funded by German taxpayers, not advertising or ratings. I find their reporting objective and professional. I used to like cnn but it has become dependent on reporting political theater for attracting viewers and indirectly advertising revenues. I love and appreciate your reporting because it’s educational content and your motivation is clearly driven by love of country and reasoning, values I share. I love Heather Cox, a historian, for connecting current events to our historic context. I also read the daily New York times feed. I pretty much have disengaged from social media for sources of information for obvious reasons. That’s a lot of time to keep up with current events, but necessary to be an informed citizen and voter. I will keep your information source in mind.