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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

News Today

March 8, 2018

As a journalist, I am always intrigued by how people take in the news and how the publisher survives.

Bill Girdner

By Bill Girdner

Editor of Courthouse News Service.

As a journalist, I am always intrigued by how people take in the news and how the publisher survives.

I recently signed up for Twitter – not feeling any past need for it – to see how our own stories get played and how that publisher operates. I followed our own Courthouse News account, a couple politicians and an account that reports on new filings in big cases like the prosecution of Paul Manafort.

But I am also getting all kinds of other tweets which are called “suggestions” and then tweets about “partner products.”

In other words, Twitter becomes a larger news feed by adding onto your choices and then it makes money with a form of advertising. Not too far from the most basic elements of a newspaper, with stories that are selected for you and that carry ads.

Facebook does much the same, creating a news feed for the users based on their friends, their likes and their shared stories, and factors that seem to be random. They of course make money from ads.

But the comments we get via Facebook reveal the stark difference between user created news and older forms of publishing, and they show the kind of wild west of news that the Russian intelligence services have exploited.

I check the comments we get through Facebook on our stories, and they are often snarky, nasty and personal. I can only rarely discern reasoning or thoughtfulness. In that environment, hucksterism, manipulation and fakery can thrive.

By way of historical contrast, I have been watching a series of shows on CNN that cover the times of upheaval in our nation that stretched from the sixties to the eighties, with the shows broken into themes tied to media and politics.

There on my screen I see that presence from college days when we would gather around a big black and white TV in the recreation room at 6:00 to watch, by common consensus, Walter Cronkite on the CBS evening news.

The anchor’s cadence is measured and authoritative, yet personal and folksy. You can trust this man. His newscast includes mild bits of commentary based on general truths rather than any sense of opinion or bias.

But the user-created form of news is different from news put together by journalists and editors. It does not have the filter that news professionals lay over the news.

Illustrating that contrast in the present, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 will alternate between a pair of thoughtful and informed guests and panels of spin meisters. The statements by the political advocates, while appearing to carry the liveliness of confrontation, devolve into bullet points, something just short of sloganeering.

They are like the social media commenters. They see only their world and their view.

So a friend pointed me recently to a show called The Eleventh Hour with Brian Williams as the host. It runs as its name suggests at 11 on the east coast and consists of a round-up of the major developments of the day.

While the show’s network, MSNBC, is known for hyper-opinionated news shows, the Eleventh Hour relies primarily on journalists as guests, from the LA Times, Associated Press, McClatchy, Bloomberg, Politico and the N.Y. Times.

It is surprisingly calming, not entirely unlike Cronkite’s old show.

You get a thoughtful analysis from print news professionals. And it stands in complete contrast to the Sturm und Drang of news in the rest of cable land and throughout social media. Like Cronkite’s show, I remember that German expression from college days.

Looking it up on Wikipedia, it fits the point here: “a movement in German literature and music that took place from the late 1760s to the early 1780s, in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism.”

Today’s constantly morphing delivery of news is now synthesizing the old form of news with modern forms of communication.

As you walk around today, though, you see people reading from their cell phones, and I have started to do the same thing. I have signed up for notices from Courthouse News, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

I now get alerts from the Post and the Times four or five times a day, which I often click on and read at full length. And from Courthouse News … I need to look into that.

Categories / Media, Op-Ed

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