The "liberal media" myth
The narrative is baked in, and it's wrong
Thanks for all your support, especially to our friends at Armory Square Ventures! Sree’s newsletter is produced with Zach Peterson (@zachprague), with a tech tip from Robert S. Anthony (@newyorkbob). Cartoon by Rivers.
🗞 @Sree’s Sunday #NYTReadalong: Sunday mornings, 8:30-10 am ET, we read a print newspaper out loud on our Readalong video show, as we have almost seven years now. Usually, it’s the NYT, but we’ve done the Chicago Sun-Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post and more. Watch two years of our archives here. The Readalong is sponsored by Muck Rack. Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
📺 My Digimentors team is working with companies and nonprofits around the world to create virtual and hybrid events. We’ve worked on events for 50 people and 100,000. See our updated brochure. Please talk to us if you need events help or social media consulting (no project too small or too big): firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
THERE ARE LEFT-LEANING MEDIA OUTLETS, but the idea that mainstream media has a liberal bias doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Right-wing pundits and operatives have spent decades painting what they call liberalism with a brush as broad as the Hudson River — and they’ve been wildly successful. What’s worse is that our journalistic institutions have not adapted, and we’re all paying the price.
Although it predates his presidency, the Trump years cast the entire idea of “balanced journalism” into a cauldron of fire. We simply weren’t prepared, at an institutional level, for what he brought to bear. Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) has a great piece in The Washington Post Magazine (adapted from her must-read memoir, “Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) From an Ink-Stained Life”) that details her time as public editor at The New York Times during the Trump years and how the industry can do better going forward. She couches this in a hypothetical of another Trump presidency, but I think that it applies right now, regardless of his position — the die is cast, and his MAGA acolytes are littered across the electoral map, both locally and nationally.
From the piece:
In every way, Trump was a deeply abnormal candidate, but the news media couldn’t seem to communicate that effectively or even grasp the problem. Instead, his every unhinged, middle-of-the-night tweet was covered like legitimate news. To be fair, the media was applying a standard that had made sense up until that moment: When a major presidential candidate says something provocative or worse, it’s newsworthy. The problem is that we were applying this old standard to a candidate who was exploiting it for his own purposes — while seeking to undermine democracy itself.
Now, maybe that old standard was wrong to begin with, but it doesn’t really matter anymore. As Sullivan says in her piece, political journalists need to be tough, and not be afraid to call balls and strikes when that’s what the job requires.
The blowback from the right (but not just the right, to be sure) will come, and journalists need to able to “relentlessly explain themselves. The fact is that the blowback is baked in, and the quicker we all internalize that, the better. “But the liberal media won’t tell you THAT,” they’ll say…but they say that about EVERYTHING, and that’s the point.
Calling the insurrection what it was — it was an insurrection, led by an outgoing president, with the goal of harming or even murdering elected officials — is not a liberal view, it’s a fact. Saying that Republicans routinely mislead, and continue to mislead, on the Covid pandemic, immigration, climate change, Medicare and Social Security privatization, and more, are not “liberal bias,” they are well-documented and unquestionably true.
Watch this clip of CNN’s Dana Bash interviewing Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake about the results of the 2020 election:
And then watch another clip, from the same interview, about immigration:
It’s easy to watch these and say that Lake was floundering or flailing, but, for her audience, she wasn’t. She was on CNN touting the lies and hysteria on which her campaign (and many other GOP campaigns) is built, and her audience will undoubtedly see it that way. Of course, she had an obligatory “the liberal media twists my words” statement after the fact, claiming that CNN “turned down her microphone” during the interview.
This is the playbook, full stop. We have a large cohort of Americans, and a depressingly large cohort of office holders and office seekers, who are incapable of accepting the facts. Perhaps the facts are on the side of people they disagree with — that’s not bias, and it’s not even anti-republican, it’s just the truth.
In January of 2021, Josh Sternberg wrote a great piece on the topic, and it stands up better and better as the days go by.
[I]nstead of taking a left/right approach, by taking a ‘is this truth or is it a lie’ approach, you provide readers and viewers with a more accurate view of a moment, helping the citizenry ultimately make better decisions.
Amen to that.
A word from Armory Square Ventures
With this year's Nobel Prize in literature to French author Annie Ernaux and the Booker win this week for Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka, is world literature peeking up at the sun?
We remind fans of this newsletter that the deadline to apply to the Armory Square Prize for South Asian Literature in Translation is December 31, 2022. Take a look at our website for eligibility guidelines and FAQs.
The prize aims to cultivate a new generation of literary translators working with South Asian languages and is an effort to remedy disparities in literary translation worldwide by supporting compelling storytellers from the Indian Subcontinent. Words Without Borders recently profiled the initiative.
The new prize will be open to translators of literature written by a South Asian author in a language other than English. Any book-length work of narrative prose, fiction, or nonfiction, by a South Asian author (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives or the diaspora) will be eligible.
The jury brings together award-winning specialists in South Asian and non-South Asian literary translation. It will first and foremost consider the quality of the translation, paying particular attention to the creative and artful solutions that the translator has used to address the translation challenges posed by the work. The jury will also consider the significance of the original work and its author, and the extent to which the language and author are underrepresented in English.
Until next time,
The ASV team
New Smart Home Devices Expand Roku’s Reach Beyond TVs
By Robert S. Anthony
Each week, veteran tech journalist Bob Anthony shares a tech tip you don’t want to miss. Follow him @newyorkbob.
Isn’t it nice when a product you already own and use comfortably gains new capabilities without your having to lift a finger? Roku’s new lineup of smart home devices promise to do just that for owners of its streaming devices and Roku smart TVs—at a price, of course.
At a recent Pepcom tech product press event in New York, Roku showed off its new smart home devices, which includes doorbell video cameras, indoor and outdoor security cameras, programmable light strips, smart light bulbs and other devices. The products were developed in collaboration with Wyze Labs Inc., a company founded by three former Amazon employees.
A key feature of the new Roku Smart Home devices is that they’re compatible with the operating system (OS) software in Roku TVs and devices, thus allowing their video feeds to be viewed right on TV screens. The newest version of Roku’s smart TV OS (version 11.5), which adds a variety of new streaming features, is currently rolling out to compatible Roku TVs and players.
For example, with the $80 Roku Video Doorbell & Chime SE, which upgrades existing wired doorbells, users can see who’s at their doors from their TV screens or from a smartphone with the Roku Smart Home mobile app. Voice-enabled Roku remote control owners will be able to use voice commands to select and view video feeds from connected devices, according to Roku.
The $40 Roku Indoor Camera 360° SE automatically detects and tracks motions and sounds and can be remotely controlled. A microphone and speaker let users have two-way conversations and the 1080p video camera includes a low-light mode. The $100 Roku Floodlight Camera SE, which resembles a Mickey Mouse silhouette, offers a 1080p video camera with color night vision, motion-activated floodlights and a siren in addition to two-way audio.
Apaid Roku Smart Home Subscription adds cloud services like video clip storage and other features. The new Roku smart home devices launch in mid-October and will be available exclusively at Walmart.