Caught with your paints down
I saw a story on Buzzfeed this morning about a woman who showed up to court without pants.
It quickly reminded me of this tweet I saw yesterday on Fox News:
Same story, but notice how the Buzzfeed article makes it immediately clear that this woman has been mistreated by the court system. The judge is furious at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections — not the woman. My first impression after reading the Fox News tweet and listening to the first half of the video is that this woman may have deliberately showed up to court without wearing pants out of disrespect. The wording of the tweet implies she is mad at woman.
This is just a tiny example and you could argue that no one lied or did anything wrong. However, don’t underestimate the aggregate effect of consuming hundreds of misleading news stories. Both stories contain an element of click-bait, both tap into a feeling of disgust in order to engage their readers. But only one completely buries the lead, humiliates its subject and distorts the larger narrative.
Good journalism should encourage readers to ask questions and contextualize the world around them. Infotainment has no such lofty aspiration. Buzzfeed may put together a mean listicle about Dachshunds, but it draws a firm partition between that and its more serious content. In doing so they are able to maintain journalistic integrity while still remaining profitable. The most generous assessment of Fox News is that they conflates infotainment and journalism for the sake of ratings. The most damning is that they are deliberately doing so in order to serve a larger agenda.