On Fake News

In light off the recent merger between AOL and The Huffington Post, this passage on “fake news” by Gawker Media’s head honcho Nick Denton seems more apropos than ever.

Q: What irritates you in the print and online media world?

Denton: Fake news. I don’t mean fake news in the Fox News sense. I mean the fake news that clogs up most newspapers and most news websites, for that matter. The new initiative will go nowhere. The new policy isn’t new at all. The state won’t go bankrupt. The product isn’t revolutionary. And journalists pretend that these official statements and company press releases actually constitute news. Of course the public knows that most of these stories are published for the massaging of sources — and that’s why they don’t read them.

What’s news? Online, at least, we have the numbers. So we know that few people care about the twists and turns of state legislation, for instance — or about product announcements from any company other than Apple. So we have no excuse. I’m on a jihad within Gawker against fake news. Unless the twin towers are falling or Brett Favre actually sent the cock shot, it probably isn’t news.

I learned the news business in the UK, in which newspaper political coverage is much like cable TV news in the US. Fake news, manufactured, hyped, rehashed, retracted — until at the end of the week you know no more than at the beginning. You really might as well wait for a weekly like the Economist to tell you what the net position is at the end of the week.

To follow the daily or hourly news cycle is the media equivalent of day-trading: it’s frenzied, pointless and usually unprofitable. I’d much rather read an item which just showed me the photos or documents. And if you’re going to write some text, take a position or explain something to me. Give me opinion or reference; just don’t pretend you’re providing news. That’s not news.

There’s so much shit news/content on the internet that keeps being recycled over and over and over again.  It’s one thing to curate, take a position and explain the significance of something to your readers, it’s another thing to pretend to being a news organization (ahem, the Huff Post) when you’re really just a content farm.

As always, with anything Denton related, the entire interview is worth reading. [via superpunch]

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