Home > Analysis, media, Opinion > Knockoff? Maybe, but it says more about what the Chinese thinks of the American newsroom

Knockoff? Maybe, but it says more about what the Chinese thinks of the American newsroom

Interesting story here. The truth is it says more about the American newsroom. As the Colbert Report revealed here, news can come out of American journalists’ asses, and they often do. See highlighted text below; so very true. Hence, newsrooms across America are going bankrupt. The only way to buck the trend, frankly, is to do real reporting and more truth!

“Most of them are actors,” admitted Xiao Li, a former employee ofPopular News. “The company discovered years ago that 98% of all news could be produced by an off-the-shelf computer program, which analyzes trending stories and just cobbles together a generic news article. You can’t tell the difference.

Reproducing the exact atmosphere of a successful Western newsroom is for the benefit of advertisers, who are encouraged to visit and walk through the bustling office. The presentation is impressive – profits ofPopular News have increased 65% in the past eleven months, since they switched over to the new “no journalists” business model.

“I made a huge ad buy after visiting their office,” said Michael Zhao, head of the Number Three Coat Hanger Factory in Tianjin. “The cheap office equipment, editors shouting at reporters and calling them illiterate, security escorting laid off staff out the building, all that clutter – the environment was perfect! I thought I was in Cleveland or Denver, not Beijing.”

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  1. Charles Liu
    August 2nd, 2011 at 14:31 | #1

    Seattle area has a fake 小肥羊 Little Sheep Mongolian hot pot:

    http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/voracious/2011/07/bellevue_hot_pot_shop_frustrat.php

    Maybe I should go take some photos and write it up.

  2. August 2nd, 2011 at 20:37 | #2

    The story was a parody, making fun. You missed the point.

  3. August 2nd, 2011 at 20:46 | #3

    I don’t understand this fake no fake stuff. Fake is bad only if disguised to fool the customers into believing what they getting is genuine – confusing the customers about a brand – and profiting from the confusion.

    What’s wrong with make believe – or even non-genuine things that are clearly non-genuine? Generics drugs play an important social function – it provides a comparable alternative that is comparable but not the “genuine” thing. I’m all for generic watches, furniture, drugs, … yes even news. Our news is as good as NYT – maybe better – and we don’t charge an arm and a leg (by sneaking propaganda in between every other line of news)…

  4. raventhorn2000
    August 3rd, 2011 at 05:39 | #4

    This falls under the specific area of Trade Dress laws, which protects the “look and feel” of a product.

    But, International Trade Mark Laws are varied on Trade Dress, and NOT all countries have Trade Dress protection.

    UK and India (which are common law nations), do not have trade dress protection in their trademark laws.

    UK however, does give the legal theory of “passing off”, which is more akin to counterfeit (not something that merely looks like the real thing, but everyone knows it’s an imitation).

  5. raventhorn2000
    August 3rd, 2011 at 10:16 | #5

    Chinese trademark laws are unclear about “trade dress”. Some experts have opined that the Chinese trademark laws protect against infringement of “look and feel” in some portions, and thus, that is essentially “trade dress”.

    But I believe the relevant portions only discuss “look and feel” of products that would generate confusion between the original product and the “knockoff”.

    There are plenty of case laws in US that even suggests that if a “knockoff” clearly label itself as a “knockoff”, then it does not necessarily infringe on the “look and feel”.

    1 clear case was where Walmart designed a bunch of imitation children clothing products that imitated a well known brand name clothing product line (which has a distinctive type of animal patterns on the clothing).

    It always amaze me that Americans don’t know their own IP laws well enough, and yet blab non-sensical legal opinions about how other countries are violating IP laws.

  6. August 4th, 2011 at 00:03 | #6

    The post you’re quoting is a piece of satire, not a news story.

  7. August 4th, 2011 at 01:17 | #7

    @C. Custer
    So? Anything in the post you disagree with?

  8. Chris Devonshire-Ellis
    August 4th, 2011 at 04:27 | #8

    Sorry guys egg on faces there. But it was an excellent spoof.

  9. August 4th, 2011 at 06:23 | #9

    I don’t know what egg on faces there. Allen and I were talking about a real legal issue.

  10. August 4th, 2011 at 20:36 | #10

    yinyang :
    @C. Custer
    So? Anything in the post you disagree with?

    The fact that it’s noteworthy or really tells us anything about newsrooms anywhere, either in the US or in China.

  11. August 5th, 2011 at 05:36 | #11

    I’m not sure that was even a sentence.

  12. Kai
    August 5th, 2011 at 21:11 | #12

    Custer is saying he disagrees with yinyang making a post about Stan’s satirical piece at all because it wasn’t noteworthy or instructive about newsrooms anywhere. The only thing noteworthy is that it was satire and the only thing it is inherently instructive of is what it satirizes, both things you guys have very publicly missed. Any serious conclusions you make on faulty or utterly misunderstood premises are automatically weakened if not rendered inert.

  13. August 5th, 2011 at 22:01 | #13

    @Kai
    I took the satire to be serious. Sure, I’ll accept my English not being so great.

    But, frankly, as satirical as you might have read it, I see it being the same type of material as been in the U.S. press lately.

    As to my conclusion invalid? I don’t think so. What about the ‘conclusion’ you think is invalid? (Sure, the part belittling Stan is no longer warranted. Sorry, Stan. But I think he’d be able to understand.)

  14. Kai
    August 5th, 2011 at 22:34 | #14

    @YinYang

    I said “automatically weakened if not rendered inert” which is different from “invalid”. Any point you make is tainted by the embarrassment of having misread, misunderstood, or mistaken the piece you were reacting to. This damages your credibility because your intelligence and judgment are now called into question.

    Of course, everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but we can’t deny the effect our mistakes have on how our audiences see us. Other than not having made this post at all, I think the only graceful save you could’ve done was to quickly and self-deprecatingly acknowledge your mistake. Everything else looks like desperate face-saving, whereas honesty and sincerity might help repair credibility.

  15. August 5th, 2011 at 22:52 | #15

    I am a little confused. What’s the relevance of whether the China Hearsay piece is a satire?

    1. I never confirmed with DeWwang the specific point he meant to make, but I don’t think it was trying to pick apart the China Hearsay piece and say aha – another example of “bad journalism.” I thought yinyang simply took the story at face value and was merely pointing out that Western media is so bad that even Joe Smoe in China know it. Now, I am assuming the facts described in the story in the China Hearsay piece is essentially true – that some media entrepreneurs in Kunming had set up some fake newsroom to draw advertisers, relying on computers to generate contents for news shows. If the story itself is fake … oh well, I didn’t catch it.

    2. Because of the above, I don’t understand the relevance of whether the China Hearsay piece is a satire or not. The point is not the article but the content of the article – the fake newsroom – assuming, of course, that the story is not fake…

  16. Kai
    August 5th, 2011 at 23:06 | #16

    @Allen

    It’s relevant because yinyang presented it as the catalyst for making his point, as well as support and vindication.

    1. I didn’t say or suggest yinyang’s point was to pick apart the China Hearsay piece and show it as an example of “bad journalism”. Why do you think that?

    2. The story is fake. Stan wrote it as satire. Do you know what he was satirizing?

  17. August 5th, 2011 at 23:22 | #17

    @Kai #16

    So the story about the fake news bureau is fake? Oh…

    Ok: if that’s the case:

    On behalf of yinyang, myself, and everyone here at HH – on behalf of all Chinese people and all humanity, I – Allen – sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding we caused.

    Seriously, let’s just let this post go then. We have some good posts. We have some so so posts.

    In general, I understand what is a satire. But I guess I just don’t go to China Hearsay enough. What gave it off? When I read it first – and when I re-read it now – I still wouldn’t think it’s a satire. I was /am incredulous about the story. Call me gullible. But in my experience, real life is just sometimes strange … so I simply took the story at face value….

    By the way, people can take most of what we write here at HH at face value. Raventhorn2000 tried to be cute with some of his post earlier, but I told him to nip it. Enough people already think we are weirdos, being satirical would only make us look worse! :-0)

  18. Kai
    August 6th, 2011 at 00:05 | #18

    @Allen

    Yeah, read the comments on Stan’s post.

    I think you’re only hurting yourself with the “sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding we caused” bit because I don’t think many will see it as a genuine and sincere but rather a desperate relenting, as if you’re being victimized. Moreover, if your goal was to avoid this one mistake from undermining your other posts, you’ve failed by proactively dragging in your other posts (“we have some good posts, we have some so so posts”) trying to preemptively defend them.

    You should’ve just said, “oops, we didn’t realize it was satire, don’t we feel stupid now.” And left it at that. That’s what I meant about “self-deprecatingly”. The more insecure you come across when confronted with being “wrong”, the more ammo you give your detractors.

    I would say a lot of China watchers who follow the trending stories surrounding China would catch Stan’s piece as being satire just with background knowledge. If that failed, I think a cursory Google search for snippets or key details in the article should’ve given it away. The fifth paragraph is particularly obvious. You should be questioning just what China Hearsay is to be receiving a tip, which you can find out from the About page (assuming “Popular News” didn’t make you suspicious already). Anonymous blogger in Kunming should’ve reminded you of all the recent Fake Apple Store coverage. Intern “Kiki” should’ve been suspicious as well for not using a full name. And “trolling social media”? Smoking?

    Anyway, just be careful of taking something at face value in the future. Having a discerning eye will help you articulate and advance any other points you have to make.

  19. August 6th, 2011 at 00:56 | #19

    @Kai #18

    Well Kai – thanks for your lecture about having a discerning eye.

    I don’t really read China Hearsay – much less comments there. Hope that doesn’t hurt my “reputation”… (ooh, I’m so worried…)

    You certainly have lots of words to describe much about nothing …

    Lighten up a little, chap! Good day.

  20. Pete North
    August 6th, 2011 at 01:39 | #20

    I guess when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    Sore arse Allen?
    Not surprising a sincere apology was too much to expect from you…

  21. The Newsroom Jones Made
    August 6th, 2011 at 04:44 | #21

    This was a great exchange starting with Kai’s introduction and methodical, articulate and accessible dismantling of the OP and many of the posts that tentacled out from it. Reading it, I was reminded of some of Philip K Dick’s writing about the difference between replicants and people, namely the ability to read between the lines and pick up subtle satire/sarcasm, and the inability of some replicants to get the more layered and nuanced sarcasm/satire.

    It would be foul for me to suggest Chinese are replicants, though I do have my doubts about some Shanghainese. What I really find curious is that sarcasm seems not to be employed in China as much as in the U.S., and when it is used it is for different purposes. Further, Chinese people often just don’t *get* western sarcasm, or are baffled by it, especially coming from the people they consider such straight shooters.

    Myself, I cannot stand the snark and sarcasm that pools in the U.S. and blogs written by Americans and westerners… but of course being an American myself I am somewhat culturally programmed to employ it as a means of communication. I get it right off the bat, and The Onion-esque nature of China Hearsay’s post was evident, certainly intentionally so. But I enjoy that many Chinese don’t seem to be as sarcastic – or at least as snarkily and snidely sarcastic as Americans – in their daily doings. And when I see post’s like Allen’s, I am reminded of this. Allen himself employed a bit of (self-concious) sarcasm and snark in his “apology”, but he was completely fooled by China Hearsay’s post and stayed fooled even late in the game. In fact, it seems he still has doubts about whether it was real or not.

    I say we give Allen the Voight-Kampff test. Yes, I’ll take one too.

  22. August 6th, 2011 at 09:29 | #22

    I feel some proportionality is in order.

    After realizing I misread the China Hearsay article, I thought about what harm I have done and what I might change in the OP.

    Certainly, my post implied China Hearsay don’t see the bigger truth; that Chinese think American newsrooms make up stories.

    Satire or not, I don’t think that implication is really that bad. Belittling someone for the wrong reason is obviously wrong, but is not entirely different than what Kai did in ‘lecturing’ Allen and myself on this logic implying a lack of morals or intelligence to understand.

    Now, I didn’t seem apologetic in comments here, and that was because we were responding to Mike Cormack and C.Custer comments up top.

    So that goes back to what I would change in my OP.

    I would change ‘story’ to ‘satire’ in my first sentence. That’d be it.

    Wouldn’t you read their comments as they are dismissing this entire OP because I failed to see China Hearsay’s piece being a satire?

    Kai made a bigger deal than need be starting in comment #14 saying I shouldn’t make this post at all. That’s the same line of thinking as Mike Cormack and C.Custer which I disagreed with.

    Hence, I agree with Allen; Kai, I hope you will lighten up a bit.

    The Newsroom Jones Made insights about Chinese don’t get sarcasm and satires in general is spot on. I can personally attest to that. Snarky and snidely sarcastic remarks usually come across as rude and condescending.

  23. The Newsroom Jones Made
    August 6th, 2011 at 10:27 | #23

    yinyang said:
    The Newsroom Jones Made insights about Chinese don’t get sarcasm and satires in general is spot on. I can personally attest to that. Snarky and snidely sarcastic remarks usually come across as rude and condescending.
    +++++++++++++++
    Does this mean you’re willing to take the Voight Kampff test? First question:if you’re from Hanghzou, let’s talk about turtles 🙂 Anyone get that reference?

    I should add that I don’t think Chinese don’t *get* sarcasm, it’s that they employ it much more sparingly, and in different circumstances. Yes, I realize the problems inherent in using “they” but I feel it’s a fair generalization. Actually, many if not most Americans find “snark and snide” (no, it’s not a new Comedy Central show) rude and condescending as well. Why we continue to employ them in such copious measures… is a whole another thread.

    An aside:
    Kai can write his ass off. Everytime I see his comments I have to give him his propers.

  24. Kai
    August 6th, 2011 at 11:08 | #24

    @YinYang

    I’m going to avoid the meta-discussion about who should lighten up.

    Regarding my comment #14, I intended and thought I was being quite frank and civil with you, yinyang, given that we’ve corresponded amicably many times in the past. I didn’t think of my comment as making a bigger deal about anything. You asked if I thought Stan’s post being satire makes your conclusion “invalid”. I replied by saying that’s not what I was saying and elaborated to outline what I understand to be the potential consequences of your mistaking Stan’s post to be real.

    Next, I think I very fairly acknowledged and openly reminded that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and I’m addressing the effect our mistakes have on our audiences. Your mistake has resulted in quite a few people laughing at you, something I have mixed feelings about because while I don’t agree with you on everything, you and I both know very well that I do agree with you on many fundamental things. I would have preferred if you didn’t make this mistake, because your detractors will use it against you unfairly. Nevertheless, what is done is done and I’m commenting to share my perspective in the hopes that it might help you seen a perspective that I felt you hadn’t yet seen and considered.

    I then offer what I think would be the most graceful way of dealing with such a situation, something I think I would myself do if I found myself having made the same mistake. I’m not really the type to just pretend it didn’t happen or go down fighting. A mistake is a mistake, so let it be an “honest” mistake and be a better man for it. Detractors will still cite it to question my credibility and judgement, but refusing to acknowledge it–I think–only empowers them whereas having the good humor to acknowledge is a sign of human humility that I think engenders more respect from more people. That’s my calculation of how to deal with such a situation. Self-deprecation acknowledgement, honesty, sincerely = repairs credibility.

    Allen expressed his confusion over how Stan’s post being satire matters at all to your original post. I understand he, like you, is trying to separate the conclusion from the initiating premise. I very clearly said I can understand the conclusion’s (I think “point” is better than “conclusion” here) validity but tried to explain again why your initial mistake of Stan’s piece was a glaring problem. You want people to acknowledge or agree with your point but many people are going to still be stuck thinking you must be stupid for not having realized the piece you quoted and took seriously was satire. That mistake hinders the audience’s reception to whatever larger point you’re trying to make.

    I’m not really clear on how “belittling someone for the wrong reason is obviously wrong” ties in with me supposedly “lecturing” Allen. I don’t understand what “logic implying a lack of morals or intelligence to understand” is referring to either. I don’t think I mentioned “morals” at all and I mentioned “intelligence” in the course of explaining how some people are going to interpret your mistaking of Stan’s post. I don’t see how but I apologize if you saw anything I said as implying you lack intelligence to understand. I surely hope simply correcting you or pointing out your mistake doesn’t amount to an assault on your intelligence. The latter should be along the lines of “you’re a stupid dumbass” or “how could you be so stupid as to not see…”.

    Next, I don’t understand why being apologetic or not has anything to do with responding to Mike Cormack or Custer. Neither of them really flamed you for your mistake. They just pointed it out. They didn’t even ask you to change the original post. No one did as far as I can tell.

    I actually don’t read their comments as them dismissing the entire original post but I do see you forcing that upon them. They point out a mistake, and your respond sounds like you ignoring them and demanding that they address something else. Had you readily and openly acknowledged the mistake, and then invited their thoughts on the point you were initially trying to make or bolster by quoting Stan’s post, you might’ve gotten farther. Instead, you just look like you’re unwilling to admit to a mistake and desperately trying to change the subject. Please, go back and re-read the discussion. I really hope you can see that. Maybe it wasn’t even your intent but its how its coming across to some people and that too hurts you. It makes you seem insecure and unwilling to listen. That’s not good if your goal is to engage in discussion.

    I think as a result, that’s why Custer didn’t bother to respond to your question, because you didn’t acknowledge him. You dismissed his point and thus him.

    As an aside, I suspect Custer also isn’t willing to discuss your point because he doesn’t think it is worth discussion. I could be wrong, but from what I know about Custer, he fully agrees that there can be bad journalism and news reporting from America. He’s said and written as much before. If you’ve followed his writing, you’d already know as much as well. You’d be asking him to agree with you on something he doesn’t feel he needs to reaffirm to you.

    But aside from that, I think he saw your reaction just as I did, which is you not having realized Stan’s piece was satire and that you seem unwilling to acknowledge it, seemingly fearing that doing so will undermine your larger point about American journalism…when in fact, doing so will actually rescue your point from being hindered by your initial faulty premise.

    I think you’ve done a disservice to yourself by being too quick to see Mike Cormack, Custer, and now I as your enemy. Of course, I have no idea what you previous experience is with Mike Cormack or even Custer, but I find it unsettling that you think simply pointing out a mistake is a wholesale attack on whatever point you felt you were making. Look, the vast majority of this post is quoting something you failed to recognize as satire and upholding it as evidence for your point that American journalism has major faults. So it turns out this evidence or affirmation of your point wasn’t really evidence of affirmation of your point. That doesn’t mean your point lacks evidence or affirmation, but it does mean you made a mistake. Separate the mistake from the point. You may think you’re doing that by ignoring the mistake with a “So?” and challenging those people who pointed it out to address the point but that just makes you look ungracious and insecure. How would you view someone who ignores a valid point you’ve made by saying “So?” and refusing to acknowledge it?

    Neither Mike Cormack, Custer, or I used snark, sarcasm, or intended to be rude and condescending. I really don’t see that at all in our comments. If that’s how we came across, the whole “Chinese have a victimhood complex” thing is going to rear its head.

    I’m not sure how I can be more exhaustive in dealing with the above issue so I’m going to address your point now:

    I disagree with your suggestion that newsrooms in America are going bankrupt because of some lack of real reporting and lack of truth. I think both are major problems with many “newsrooms” in America but I’d say the primary reason they’re going bankrupt is because the business model of the American news media is being challenged and changed by new technologies and paradigms with how society consumes information (read: internet). I think trying to tie their bankrupting with “real reporting” and “truth” is political spin. You’re basically saying “they’re suffering consequence A because of them doing/not doing B” with B being your pet criticism.

    If you want to make that causal connection, you need to advance your conclusion by offering some sort of evidence that American newsrooms are losing money because of their lack of real reporting or lack of truth. Think about how you would do that. Consider that many newsrooms are actually doing less “real reporting” because they can do so and actually make more money. They can do puff pieces about Justin Bieber or some other “popular news” topic and get more monetization than from a piece that involved “real reporting”. They can get more monetization from opinion pieces and editorials than from “the truth”. Therefore, how can more “real reporting” and “truth” save them from bankruptcy if it is the opposite that is actually making them more money?

    What’s ironic is that this is also a main point expressed in Stan’s satire piece.

    So look, your criticisms about the amount of “real reporting” or “truth” coming out of American newsrooms is entirely agreed especially and certainly amongst many in America. But other than mistakenly taking Stan’s satire as real, I think you make a second mistaken conclusion in trying to argue that the American news business is losing money because of their lack of “real reporting” or “truth”. You haven’t proven that…and I don’t think you will. You will, however, have a much easier time proving that they’re not doing “real reporting” or they’re not reporting the “truth” even when they know it.

  25. August 6th, 2011 at 11:09 | #25

    @The Newsroom Jones Made #21

    Well, I don’t know if I was “fooled.” The game – for me anyways – was never a game of fool me, fool me not. All I did was simply have a look at an article at face value – warts and all.

    Satire is one of those things that comes across – that is most effective – when you have a good, common shared normative view of something. Something that looks like satire to a liberal may look really offensive to a conservative (and vice versa).

    Allen himself employed a bit of (self-concious) sarcasm and snark in his “apology”, but he was completely fooled by China Hearsay’s post and stayed fooled even late in the game. In fact, it seems he still has doubts about whether it was real or not.

    To be honest (apologies to yinyang), when I first read yinyang’s post, I didn’t get what he was getting at. I didn’t even bother to read the China Hearsay piece (to me, if you don’t grab me in the post, I am not going to click some link you give). I let it sit there till Kai came in. I didn’t know what’s the big deal. So I gave the China Hearsay a cursory 20 second read yesterday. When Kai replied so very seriously, I gave that piece another 20 second read.

    Anyways back to satire again, I remember one of my partners at the law firm told me, when dealing with clients on serious matters, you may joke some – but do it in person, only occasionally by phone, and never email. The reason is that because unless the client and lawyer has a close relationship sarcasm often doesn’t come across well typewritten.

    Also about my “satirical” comment #17 above – being satirical about oneself and with a clear word signal such as “seriously” (as I did) is one thing – joking around with “facts” is quite another…

    Anyways – this is not an indictment of the writer or reader. When the reader didn’t get something, it’s the way it is – stop making it into an idiotic issue of “intelligence” – like Kai did – of the reader.

  26. raventhorn2000
    August 6th, 2011 at 13:34 | #26

    Perhaps the Satire misses the mark by basing on popular misconceptions and biases.

    I can’t imagine anyone would find satire based upon racism funny nowadays, and racism is just another form of bias.

  27. August 6th, 2011 at 13:48 | #27

    @Allen
    Thanks for weighing in. I read the article 3 times and never did it occur to me as satire.

    @Kai
    I appreciate this:

    Your mistake has resulted in quite a few people laughing at you, something I have mixed feelings about because while I don’t agree with you on everything, you and I both know very well that I do agree with you on many fundamental things. I would have preferred if you didn’t make this mistake, because your detractors will use it against you unfairly. Nevertheless, what is done is done and I’m commenting to share my perspective in the hopes that it might help you seen a perspective that I felt you hadn’t yet seen and considered.

    You said:

    You haven’t proven that…and I don’t think you will. You will, however, have a much easier time proving that they’re not doing “real reporting” or they’re not reporting the “truth” even when they know it.

    And I am not purporting to prove; impossible with half a dozen sentences. You might not have noticed, I marked this as an Opinion piece.

    Yes, new technology is broadly eroding news business. That’s obvious. Old media are in fact embracing the Internet too. That impact will be there with news truthful or not.

    I have to run for now, but will come back later to explain why I think more truth in fact helps buck the trend.

  28. Kai
    August 6th, 2011 at 23:34 | #28

    @raventhorn2000

    I don’t think Stan’s satire piece was based on racism but I’d warrant satire does inherently exploit popular misconceptions and biases. However, Stan’s piece was based on his annoyance with all of the regurgitated reporting about fake Apple stores. He felt it was a stupid news item, a phenomenon that isn’t really new in China as the reports were making out to be, and that all these media outlets were rushing to run the story over and over again because it gets eyeballs. In a very real way, Stan was criticizing the lack of “real reporting” and “truth” that yinyang laments.

    @YinYang

    No, you’re not purporting to prove, but you’re making an assertion. As I said in my last comment, I disagree with it for the reasons given and feel that if you want to make that assertion, that suggestion, you’ll need to offer more (at least for me as your audience, maybe others don’t need more and will readily agree). You earlier asked about your conclusions, right? I don’t think whether you marked this an opinion piece or not is relevant. Just because we say something is our opinion doesn’t mean it can’t be questioned or challenged, especially after you asked for if there’s anything in the post we disagree with.

    I’m a bit closer to the cynic camp on truth in media these days, as I get older. I’m not convinced the majority of people value the truth over affirmations of their biases. This doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of people who appreciate and will even pay for high quality “real” reporting or “the truth”, I just don’t see enough evidence in the mass media context that they’ll carry the day especially as technology increases the fragmentation and personalization of information discovery, delivery, and consumption.

  29. August 7th, 2011 at 01:58 | #29

    @Kai
    1. More ‘truth’ will help U.S. media stem the erosion from ‘foreign’ media

    If all U.S. media coverage about the war in Afghanistan and Iraq were of the same narratives, then sooner or later many people will figure it out that is being the case. Why did people turn to Al Jazeera for coverage of those wars? Why did they turn to Al Jazeera for coverage of the Arab Springs?

    Because many people have figured out Al Jazeera offered alternative ‘truths.’

    The growing presence of Al Jazeera (and Russia Today, and perhaps soon CCTV, etc) means U.S. media will continue to erode. They offer different versions of ‘truth’ that is hardly present in the U.S. media today. Hence, in my opinion, more ‘truth’ would help their business case.

    2. More ‘truth’ will help U.S. media stem the erosion from bloggers and new media.

    Hunffington Post, Salon and other ‘new media’ are taking business away from traditional U.S. media because they offer different ‘truth.’ Bloggers even do it for free.

    Incorporating articles written by bloggers and broadening the narrative is in fact a way to conglomerate. That will also bring back audience.

    3. The intrinsic value of news media is real ‘news’ and ‘information’ (from ‘real’ reporting) that get at ‘truth.’

    More real reporting and ‘truth’ creates more intrinsic value. We might lack imagination today in how to properly monetize this value. Sure, people are not necessarily after ‘truth;’ they are after affirming their bias. In that case and on the flip side, I would say, society will have to find a way to pay for this value.

    Fragmentation and personalization requires lots of choices – lots of narratives – lots of point of views – lots of real reporting.

    Fragmentation is because the traditional news media failing to offer narratives exist in new media or elsewhere. Fragmentation is also because the traditional news media failing to offer the reporting others are reporting (Al Jazzera, for example).

    In order for them to expand total audience among themselves, they will have to offer more topics, narratives, etc. other audience want.

    Hence, I believe more ‘truth’ and more ‘real’ reporting is needed.

  30. Kai
    August 7th, 2011 at 07:23 | #30

    @YinYang

    I think the “erosion” from foreign media is limited to a very small subset of the general population, perhaps only amongst somewhat liberal elites (or, as some prefer, liberal elitists). It isn’t enough to be compelling to me at this point. People who sing praises of Al Jazeera as a mainstream news source in Western countries, especially America, remind me of people who think Chinese activists on Twitter are representative of the general population in China.

    That said, and as you already know from our previous email conversations, I’m all for more competition in the media and news business. One thing you have the be careful of, though, is equating “truth” with “critical reporting of the West”. For example, very few people would uphold CCTV as being a poster child for “truthful” reporting, including the Chinese themselves. What CCTV offers is a competing narrative, but that’s what Fox offers too.

    …which brings me back to my point about truth versus affirmation of biases.

    But it does look like you’re saying that if “traditional media” incorporates more narratives, perspectives, opinions, etc. from “bloggers and new media”, that’ll “buck the trend” of traditional media losing money/going bankrupt. Correct me if I’m wrong. It also sounds like you’re equating more media choices with there being more “truth”.

    I accept that, in that formulation. I think that’s even what I was arguing to you in our previous email conversations. I advocated that truth was in choice and competition (free market), not in dictation by artificial authority (i.e. state-controlled media).

    That said, I’m still not sure I’d instantly agree with your original statement in your post because I don’t think people generally see “real reporting and truth” and immediately think “new media and bloggers”. If you said: “Newsrooms across America are going bankrupt. The only way to buck the trend, frankly, is to incorporate bloggers and new media!” I’d have no problems entertaining that suggestion and at the very least wouldn’t immediately find anything disagreeable with it because it’s a common refrain in the internet tech/media industry. I read it all the time on TechCrunch or Mashable. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but boils down to “adapt or die”.

    The reason I don’t think its compelling to argue that “incorporating new media and bloggers” equals “more real reporting and truth” is because the former doesn’t always do “real reporting” by the conventional definition (being on the ground, primary sources, etc.) and the former doesn’t always present the “truth” (they often present opinion or their own spin — but yes, this brings up philosophical questions of “truth”).

    So I agree that traditional news media could survive the threats to their old business model by adapting to new media and bloggers, but I still don’t quite agree with saying this is equivalent with “doing more real reporting and more truth!”

    As I understand it, the criticisms of the traditional media not doing enough “real reporting” stems from the traditional media no longer sending out reporters but are instead cost-cutting by doing what bloggers do and writing stories off of secondary sources. The “real reporting” criticism also applies to parachute journalism, where traditional news media are just dropping reporters into a place to cover a story but these reporters end up getting things wrong that a locally based reporter who has become familiar with the area wouldn’t have. Traditional media are doing this because its cheaper than staffing and maintaining foreign bureaus.

    As I understand it, the criticisms of “truth” against traditional media either comes from general people who just prefer the “truth” of another media source or it comes from people who avail themselves to more sources of information offered them by all the media and internet media we have available these days and engage in critical thinking on their own.

    So, I do see traditional media incorporating more narratives from more sources such as bloggers and new media may help it retain or capture more audience. I do think doing this will help against any erosion of its existing audience from competitors including new media and bloggers. This may indeed “buck the trend” of audience erosion, and money losing insofar as audience correlates with financial solvency. But I don’t see this as necessarily being “more real reporting and truth”. Maybe “more ‘real’ reporting and ‘truth'”, with emphasis on those quotation marks around those keywords to stress that some very loose and specific interpretation of “real” and “truth” is being employed. Maybe that’s why you added so many quotation marks in your latest comment. That’s the only way I could reconcile myself to your original assertion in the original post.

  31. The Newsroom Jones Made
    August 7th, 2011 at 09:12 | #31

    yinyang, how familiar are you with U.S. media? When you say:
    +++++++
    The growing presence of Al Jazeera (and Russia Today, and perhaps soon CCTV, etc) means U.S. media will continue to erode. They offer different versions of ‘truth’ that is hardly present in the U.S. media today. Hence, in my opinion, more ‘truth’ would help their business case.
    +++++

    I have to say that you really ought to do your homework, you seem woefully ignorant of how the media works in general, and really naïve about what constitutes a “different version of truth” to establishment media. Al Jazeera’s US operations are largely staffed by seasoned insiders of the same staid organs which contribute to the rest of mainstream western media. For example, Al Jazeera’s Ken Rogoff? He used to be the IMF Chief and he’s a Harvard Professor. Any of the lukewarm editorializing he does for Al Jazeera could just as easily show up in the NYT. As for Russia Times, RT is broadcast over Time Warner’s cable system. Look at the contributors to Russia Times. How likely is Time Warner to give any play to a true outside POV? I dare you to find anything in any of the media outlets you mentioned that you couldn’t find on Salon.com, or in the Associated Press, UPI, Harper’s, The Guardian UK, the Nation, the Atlantic… all mainstream western media publications. NOTHING that they offer is much different than what the NYT and the other flagships offer, because for the most part, they are (with variance in popularity) one and the same.

    As far as CCTV being a radical departure from western media – if you can accuse western media of being biased for the home team (an assertion I very much agree with) how can you not do the same for CCTV? Is that your idea of fair or responsible media, a bias that you find pleasing? And please don’t tell me CCTV presents true alternatives apart from it’s domestic reporting. Among today’s headlines in the world section:

    Angry about demotion, Chilean police officer appears with underwear
    Syrian FM promises “free and fair” general elections

    Venezuelan President Chavez bound for Cuba for chemo treatment

    CCTV also plays a neat shell game whereby they source articles from China Daily and slap an “editor” tag on them. China Daily, for their part, sources them from “agencies”, but doesn’t specify which agencies. I suppose this allows CCTV to avoid mentioning that they get a lot of their stuff from western sources. But, here is a good example of how “alternative” so much of the writing at CCTV is:

    http://english.cntv.cn/20110805/114154.shtml

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2011-08/05/content_13059453.htm

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/03/us-fashion-saggyjeans-idUSTRE7726KU20110803?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563

    Yes, a Reuters article became a China Daily article, which then became a CCTV article… and some “editor” gets to burnish her credentials by “editing” (read: copy and paste) it and adding her name. Nice trick, that one! All three articles are word for word the same. Is that your idea of “different”? Trust me, this sort of thing is very much the rule at CCTV, I haven’t gone to some great lengths to find an aberration. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with relying on wire services to fill out the newspaper… but what I find so distasteful about CCTV and China Daily is that they so steadfastly present themselves as alternatives with a “true” voice when they clearly aren’t. And it isn’t as though they are lacking in resources or struggling to keep up with the competition. US news outlets would absolutely love to have the lack of competition that they have!

    yinyang, It’s kinda lazy to not do better research. It’s intellectually disingenuous to ignore the faulty and bizarre reasoning that you try to pass off as a sharply thought alternative to mainstream western views on China. Pointing out bias is one thing, but if you are going to throw stones you ought to have sounder arguments.

    I won’t get into the rest of your post.

  32. August 8th, 2011 at 11:08 | #32

    @Kai

    Look, I am not singing the praises of Al Jazeera for being mainstream. The point is it does erode. And I agree, not by a lot. Al Jazeera can erode on certain topics, and with RT, CCTV, potential for erosion is in fact more than Al Jazeera alone.

    I asserted this in the OP:

    The only way to buck the trend, frankly, is to do real reporting and more truth!

    On ‘truth.’ Yes, per our prior email exchanges you took the position of ‘market place of ideas’ and competition as the best way to get at truth. I think we both agreed there are problems with that, and you believe that position is still the best among others.

    I should have clarified this. In this exchange here, I accept for the American society, the position that ‘truth’ is suppose to some how come from this competition (for the forseeable future).

    Now, in speaking for my assertion, this is indeed the context I am speaking from.

    So, of course one shouldn’t equate “truth” with “critical reporting of the West.” IF “critical reporting of the West” gets at truth, you will have to agree that is good competition.

    Here is a quote from David Gergen, who advised 4 U.S. presidents:

    I try to tell them that the United States is going through a rough patch: the rise of lots of problems that we have allowed to fester over the years now coming to a head just when our politics are polarized, poisoned and paralyzed. Moreover, there is almost no one in high places who commands the full trust of the country — from the White House to Wall Street, from Congress to the media.

    I emphasized the distrust in America towards the media. Granted, Gergen is talking about it in the context of nobody in America can be trusted enough to lead the country to solution to the big problems. The point I want to make with respect to this ‘trust’ is that without, the public won’t be as interested in ‘news.’ That erodes business right there, because they think the information they get is not so useful.

    So, how does the media get back trust? If we take the ‘competition’ idea, it must go back to more competition of narratives, more real reporting (yes, as journalists on the ground), and broader topics.

    You said:

    The reason I don’t think its compelling to argue that “incorporating new media and bloggers” equals “more real reporting and truth” is because the former doesn’t always do “real reporting” by the conventional definition (being on the ground, primary sources, etc.) and the former doesn’t always present the “truth” (they often present opinion or their own spin — but yes, this brings up philosophical questions of “truth”).

    I don’t think you should look at it that way. I’d say, “incorporating new media and bloggers” equals “more truth.” That is by the ‘competitive’ definition. Don’t misconstrue me to say “equals truth.” Certainly, leave out bloggers being on the ground reporting, because they usually don’t.

    You said:

    As I understand it, the criticisms of the traditional media not doing enough “real reporting” stems from the traditional media no longer sending out reporters but are instead cost-cutting by doing what bloggers do and writing stories off of secondary sources. The “real reporting” criticism also applies to parachute journalism, where traditional news media are just dropping reporters into a place to cover a story but these reporters end up getting things wrong that a locally based reporter who has become familiar with the area wouldn’t have. Traditional media are doing this because its cheaper than staffing and maintaining foreign bureaus.

    I think that’s the wrong way to look at the ‘real reporting’ issue. I didn’t make this point very clear in my prior comment. U.S. media being on the ground is not as big a problem, but their vascillating only among too few topics is a much bigger one, which is what I mean by lack of ‘real reporting.’ Please refer to my prior post: Pew Research Report, “THE U.S. MEDIA ON CHINA”. What PEW Research found when it comes to ‘China’ coverage in America, there were only a few topics dominating in coverage. I believe this is also true when it comes to other areas other than ‘China.’

    Obviously, if you actually count the number of topics covered, they are very broad. But the predominance of a handful of topics is glaring. Day in and day out repitition counts.

    U.S. media in fact hire local journalists on the ground to get information. Technology makes that practical. In some ways, local journalists who understand local culture and customers should be able to do a better job. But they are often asked to stick their head up peoples asses. That’s the problem. The body is in fact more than that.

    You said:

    So, I do see traditional media incorporating more narratives from more sources such as bloggers and new media may help it retain or capture more audience. I do think doing this will help against any erosion of its existing audience from competitors including new media and bloggers. This may indeed “buck the trend” of audience erosion, and money losing insofar as audience correlates with financial solvency. But I don’t see this as necessarily being “more real reporting and truth”. Maybe “more ‘real’ reporting and ‘truth’”, with emphasis on those quotation marks around those keywords to stress that some very loose and specific interpretation of “real” and “truth” is being employed. Maybe that’s why you added so many quotation marks in your latest comment. That’s the only way I could reconcile myself to your original assertion in the original post.

    Unless you think America is ready for more tax dollars going into media, I think we have to accept audience correlates with financial solvency. Yeah, if I didn’t put quotes about ‘real’ and ‘truth’ I think this discussion would have been very different. You are right in that we need to allow room for their definition. The reasons are obvious.

    We are indeed talking about bucking the trend. We are not talking about making U.S. news media organizations into Googles and Apples.

    If U.S. news media don’t do more ‘real reporting’ and offer more ‘truth,’ how else do you propose they buck the trend?

  33. August 8th, 2011 at 11:10 | #33

    @The Newsroom Jones Made
    I’ll try to address your comments tonight, so please bear with me.

  34. August 8th, 2011 at 15:34 | #34

    @The Newsroom Jones Made
    Okay, I’ve just read your above comments. You said:

    NOTHING that they offer is much different than what the NYT and the other flagships offer, because for the most part, they are (with variance in popularity) one and the same.

    Your are right. When you read what I write in this blog, you will know that I often make this argument.

    As far as CCTV being different from Western media – that’s an entirely different topic. You make no sense getting into it here.

    [Update]
    If you don’t mind, I hope you will read my exchange with Kai right above.

  35. Kai
    August 24th, 2011 at 09:18 | #35

    @YinYang

    It’s been a long time since I last visited your website but I do want to stop by to say I’ve now read your response although I remain unconvinced by your explanations for your original statement.

    To reiterate, I don’t equate “real reporting and more truth” with “incorporating new media and bloggers”. If it helps, I can see how “incorporating new media and bloggers” may help traditional media “buck the trend” of “going bankrupt” … but I also feel “incorporating new media and bloggers” does not necessarily mean more “real reporting and more truth”.

    I can readily accept “newsrooms across America are going bankrupt. The only way to buck the trend, frankly, is to incorporate new media and bloggers!”

    I can’t readily accept “newsrooms across America are going bankrupt. The only way to buck the trend, frankly, is to do real reporting and more truth!” without a compelling explanation of what “real reporting” and “truth” means.

    If you explain “real reporting and more truth” is “to incorporate new media and bloggers”, I’d respond with the objections, concerns, and disagreements I’ve already mentioned. I just don’t see “new media and bloggers” as being remotely equatable to what I understand “real reporting and more truth” to be.

    For example, one of the major issues with regards to Chinese media and internet today is the problem of rumor-mongering. New media (internet technologies and paradigms such as forums, social networks, microblogging, etc.) and bloggers (internet users, netizens, microbloggers, etc.) are a major vector in the spontaneous creation and propagation of rumors and false information. How can something so commonly associated with the false be so casually associated or equated with “more truth”?

    Of course, new media and bloggers CAN result in “more truth” and CAN–philosophically–result in more “truth” by the marketplace of ideas framework we’ve previously discussed, but I don’t believe anyone reading your initial statement would be thinking so abstractly. They wouldn’t 1) immediately understand you as meaning “new media and bloggers” nor would they 2) then immediately associate “new media and bloggers” with conventional notions of “real reporting” and “truth”.

    The loop doesn’t close.

    I believe your original statement alludes to your general criticisms of Western media (Western media bias, specifically and often against China but not always)…and you’re suggesting that the financial decline of Western traditional media is vindication of your criticisms. It’s like a Christian saying “you’re having problems at work because you haven’t accepted Jesus into your life, and the only way to buck the trend of troubles at work is if you do”.

    My response was to show how LESS “real reporting” and less “truth”, by their conventional definitions, has actually helped traditional media “buck the trend” of going bankrupt. I’ve shown how “new media and bloggers” do not necessarily produce more “real reporting” and “truth”, by their conventional definitions. Given this, how can your explanation stand?

    Here’s another thing, something I think The Newsroom Jones Made alluded to: Would you apply your original statement to Chinese traditional media? Are they going bankrupt? Why or why not? How is their financial business model different from Western media? What effect does this have on the amount of “real reporting” and “truth” they produce? Are they not also facing eroding audiences from new media and bloggers? Should they too incorporate new media and bloggers…so as to have “real reporting and more truth”? Would that “buck the trend”?

    Coming full circle, this is why I objected to your original statement: The primary reasons for the financial decline of traditional news media has little to do with “real reporting” or “truth” at all. It has to do with their previous business model being destroyed by new media enabled by new technology. It is wrong, or at least politically-motivated, to say “the only way to buck the trend, frankly, is to do real reporting and more truth!” and more so if you’re only pointing at Western traditional media.

    All traditional media everywhere is being threatened with erosion, of audience and the financial solvency of their traditional business model, by new media enabled by new technologies. Government funding as enjoyed by state-run media like CCTV or BBC can help with the financial solvency issue, but it too presents conflict of interest issues that jeopardize and compromise “real reporting” and “truth”.

    So, I still don’t agree with your original statement, or the original premise of your entire post either: I don’t think news coming out of journalist asses is the primary reason traditional newsrooms are going bankrupt and I don’t think “the only way to buck the trend, frankly, is to do real reporting and more truth!” It sounds sweet to certain ears, just like other bible-thumpers will enthusiastically nod their head upon hearing the above “accept Jesus” exhortation, but that’s premised upon a presumption that isn’t actually established.

    And, remember, there is no shortage of news coming out of CCTV/Xinhua Chinese journalist asses either, right? Are they going bankrupt? To the degree they are not, is it because the news coming out of their asses is more “real reporting and more truth” or is it because they have a different business model subsidized and guaranteed by state funding?

    This isn’t even really about Chinese vs. Western media, but about a fundamental misunderstanding or misrepresentation of why traditional media in general is “going bankrupt” and a mistake in suggesting amorphous “real reporting and more truth” will prevent that result. That just isn’t the case.

    It’s one thing to criticize Western media bias or shoddy Western media reporting, but its another to attribute wholesale the decline of their traditional business model as being the result of insufficient “real reporting” and “truth”. The former has a very low bar to meet. Only a complete idiot would staunchly deny that there IS bias in the Western media (just as in Chinese media) and that there IS shoddy Western media reporting (again as in Chinese media). The latter, however, has a very high bar to meet, and I submit a bar that cannot be met because the argument just isn’t true.

    I don’t care if you guys want to spend your days arguing about which media, Chinese or Western, is “more” biased or has “more” shoddy reporting. I think that’s a fool’s errand. But I do, in this case, want to object to what I think is an incorrect statement of why Western traditional media is “going bankrupt” and what they can do about it.

  36. August 24th, 2011 at 10:40 | #36

    @Kai
    You wrote a lot and hard for me to address all of your points. The bottom line response for me is towards the end of this comment.

    You said:

    It’s been a long time since I last visited your website but I do want to stop by to say I’ve now read your response although I remain unconvinced by your explanations for your original statement.

    I am glad you did, and honestly, I generally gain something from our exchanges.

    You said:

    To reiterate, I don’t equate “real reporting and more truth” with “incorporating new media and bloggers”. If it helps, I can see how “incorporating new media and bloggers” may help traditional media “buck the trend” of “going bankrupt” … but I also feel “incorporating new media and bloggers” does not necessarily mean more “real reporting and more truth”.

    I am sure you have heard me said in the past, “free” media does not mean it is truthful. You then argue more competition is the best way to get at truth. You can see how we are going in circles, right?

    Since we are talking about ‘China,’ I do believe if the mainstream media in the U.S. incorporates perspectives offered here about China, then I think it will help get towards the truth more.

    If the mainstream U.S. media incorporates more of the same narratives – as we see in many English language ‘China’ blogs, then that hardly changes anything.

    You said:

    I can readily accept “newsrooms across America are going bankrupt. The only way to buck the trend, frankly, is to incorporate new media and bloggers!”

    So, Kai, are you so sure that is the only way? Can you imagine now me being a stickler demanding you offer a better explanation? In this case, I’d say, that sort of makes sense and let’s move on.

    You said:

    I can’t readily accept “newsrooms across America are going bankrupt. The only way to buck the trend, frankly, is to do real reporting and more truth!” without a compelling explanation of what “real reporting” and “truth” means.

    Fair enough.

    And I tried explaining them. “real reporting” means going to the real sources and get information. The Colbert Report segment about how U.S. media speculating the Norway attacks were from Muslims is an example of not real reporting.

    On toy recalls, report about the fact that the vast majority of Martel’s recalls were due to their design flaws – and NOT manufacturing is real reporting. In this context, it is about having journalistic integrity.

    “truth” in the ‘competition’ context we are discussing here means simply more perspectives, more narratives.

    You said:

    I just don’t see “new media and bloggers” as being remotely equatable to what I understand “real reporting and more truth” to be.

    And I agree with you. Thus, I think your ‘more competition’ idea is flawed for this very reason.

    So, even accepting your ‘more competition’ idea is the best way at more real genuine truth, then why not more narratives and perspectives from whereever?

    You said:

    Of course, new media and bloggers CAN result in “more truth” and CAN–philosophically–result in more “truth” by the marketplace of ideas framework we’ve previously discussed, but I don’t believe anyone reading your initial statement would be thinking so abstractly. They wouldn’t 1) immediately understand you as meaning “new media and bloggers” nor would they 2) then immediately associate “new media and bloggers” with conventional notions of “real reporting” and “truth”.

    You should go back to my comment in #29, point #3. In my mind, more real reporting and truth also comes from journalistic integrity.

    You said:

    My response was to show how LESS “real reporting” and less “truth”, by their conventional definitions, has actually helped traditional media “buck the trend” of going bankrupt. I’ve shown how “new media and bloggers” do not necessarily produce more “real reporting” and “truth”, by their conventional definitions. Given this, how can your explanation stand?

    Sure, I understand this is the trend for Fox News, CNN, and the other major media outlets. The Economist too. And so far, they are doing better because of it.

    Don’t you think NPR is doing really well? Why? Because Americans perceive it to be more objective.

    You have to go back to what I quoted of David Gergen. Lack of credibility is breeding disinterest.

    Kai, I don’t have enough time to address your other points and will fast forward to this:

    It’s one thing to criticize Western media bias or shoddy Western media reporting, but its another to attribute wholesale the decline of their traditional business model as being the result of insufficient “real reporting” and “truth”. The former has a very low bar to meet. Only a complete idiot would staunchly deny that there IS bias in the Western media (just as in Chinese media) and that there IS shoddy Western media reporting (again as in Chinese media). The latter, however, has a very high bar to meet, and I submit a bar that cannot be met because the argument just isn’t true.

    This is a matter of opinion.

    Stop and think about this: if all U.S. media switched to reporting with upmost journalistic integrity tomorrow, would not their business turn around?

    Given the U.S. is the only superpower, what do you think happens when U.S. media is respected around the world?

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