Listen now | My conversation on the future of news with Bari Weiss, Jeffrey Goldberg, Rashida Jones and Jim VandeHei
Very excited for this episode! Interesting for this stuff related to video game companies. I follow the games industry very closely, and there was also a very criticle article in Bloomberg about Sony PlayStation's CEO making a rather bland statement that we should respect differences of opinion on abortion (he then went on to talk about his cat's birthday which was probably not a great idea).
Games media is hyper-liberal, much more so than major news outlets. Places like IGN, Gamespot, and Kotaku are completely devoid of anyone right of center or even center. Influencers are also massive in the games space, and predictably they're also almost entirely left of center. It leads to a lot of one-sided stories about controversial topics and not much real journalism. For example, there's a game being made called Six Days in Fallujah where you play as American soldiers in the Second Battle of Fallujah in the Iraq War. It has interesting ideas. One of the main mechanics is that the dense urban map that the player inhabits is procedurally generated meaning AI creates a new map for every player. One of the main mechanics is clearing out streets and buildings by going door-to-door. Since the rooms are randomly generated, you never ever know what will be behind the door you open in an attempt to simulate the fear and uncertainty soldiers would experience. Sometimes it's nothing behind the door. Sometimes it's an enemy. Sometimes it's an innocent family of civilians. It's an interesting idea, and there's certainly room for criticism about the game, but all of the news coverage for it has basically argued that it shouldn't even exist. And this passes for NEWS, not opinion.
Just wanted to provide some context for a journalism industry that others might not be familiar with. Looking forward to the episode when I get time to listen!
If the Hypebeast/Woke vibe is indeed waning (please god), it will be interesting to watch whether any of the current purveyors of such preachy & boring content can successfully make the transition to the next vibe and molt and leave that skin behind like a passé fashion. I guess it depends on how different the next vibe is and how ambitious the actor is to maintain relevance.
The linked "vibes" article was one of the most unintentionally hilarious things I have ever attempted to read; unfortunately, it was written in Martian and I didn't get very far.
I think I'll go cow-tipping tonight, as us mid-30s flyover folk do. Maybe I'll go to a diner and see if an incredulous reporter attempts to interview me about my presumed economic anxiety.
Like Josh I was left unsatisfied with the conversation. I fully believe the personnel theory put forward in the conversation, but would have liked to hear more about the demand-side of the equation. Bari makes the point that the personnel at many publications are the overeducated elites so disconnected from the "average" American. But if Jeffrey Goldberg or Jim VandeHei were asked I'm sure they'd have to admit the average Atlantic or Axios subscriber is similarly over-educated, overly neurotic, and more political than the "average" American.
Point being, there is definitely an element of young personnel changing newsroom culture, but to ignore the customer demand reasons for this change misses an important part of this discussion.
(Just one example of the point I'm making, I am always struck at the high density of education stories in Atlantic, NYT, WaPo, etc. about Ivies + other elite schools. Of course you could blame their staff for this navel gazing, but I think a large part is the readership is much more interested in the world their more familiar with than a story about a directional state school.)
Hey Mr. Barro, great context and nuance as always. My one question for you is, based on your experience, how much of the news / media quality and topics being covered are a direct result of the now 24/7 news cycle that we are in and all companies to some extent trying to get clicks and ad revenue? As an outsider it's a bit unhealthy for society as a whole to get addicted to doomsday scrolling as a whole, but it definitely seems everyone wants to be first or have a "hot take". Thoughts??
I've been chewing on two Jim VendeHei comments (in the transcript, found at the 18:20 mark and then the 20:53 mark). While listening this morning, both stuck in my craw. I came back to the transcript to review the remarks and make sure I hadn't misheard. Jim throws around the words "persuadable" and "persuade" as someone absolutely certain that journalism's purpose is to persuade. Is it? Or is it to report? Is this mere semantics? I think not. I think journalism broadly has morphed from curiosity, then research, then reporting, to irritation, then judgement, then haranguing. If I'm wrong, then why, at the 20:53 mark, does Jim equate good journalism to a weapon? Why the adversarial connotation? Why did he not use the word "tool," for example? Jim may believe he is objective, and may claim his news organization is above the fray--or tries to be--but he betrays himself. He is in his own bubble, and I wonder if even realized what he was saying.
Mr Goldbergs answer ( non answer) to you re: Kevin Williamson spoke volumes. The inmates are running the asylum.
I enjoyed this podcast a lot. But did Rashida have nothing to say?