Modern Journalists

Back when I was a subscriber to The Economist in the early ’00s, I always assumed their main opinion columns – Bagehot for the UK, Charlemagne for Europe, and Lexington for the US – were written by seasoned veterans who’d seen life from the parapet of an interesting and varied career. Whether or not that was ever the case, nowadays they seem to be written by hipsters who look as though they’ve never been anywhere without 4G:

Certainly, a failure to venture beyond the trendy areas of Berlin would explain headlines such as this, written in April this year:

Amusingly, one particular Twitter user has started a series juxtaposing this headline with stories which portray Germany’s embrace of diversity in a rather more realistic light, e.g.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Cliffe is an Oxbridge graduate and the only job he’s held outside of political journalism in his 8-year career is that of researcher for Chukka Umunna. I suspect this is typical throughout the mainstream media. There’s a reason I let my Economist subscription lapse over a decade ago; who in their right mind would pay to read this stuff?

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36 thoughts on “Modern Journalists

  1. I stopped buying The Economist some four decades ago when I decided I didn’t want to be talked down to by people my own age but with less experience of the world.

    Since that time I am told it is just as condescending but now with a more marked progressive left bias.

    Compelling stuff for a virtue-signaling age of identity politics, possibly, but why pay for it when there’s oodles of this guff everywhere for free?

  2. I stopped my subscription when the Economist fell into New Age superstition and anti-science. Libeling Gen. Petraeus did help their cause either.

  3. The Economist was useful for hearing about stuff from all over the world – but it has always been rather poor at the detail. Basically if you know a country really well, you know that the Economist position is wrong or misinformed. The bizarre way in which they became anti-science and bought into AGW* and the more recent utter inability to understand the rise of populism were the reasons why I stopped buying it.

  4. Looking at the Economist staff list he seems the only journo based in Berlin. “Bureau Chief, pshaw!” Maybe a girl comes in twice a week to translate the answer phone messages.

    Also, being a SPAD for a grandiloquent and unpopular opposition MP does not seem the route to riches. Linked in profile shows courses at Oxford and Harvard, which don’t come cheap. The Economist is notoriously stingy, so I’d lay odds there’s a ton of family money behind him.

    Interestingly, reports early in his stay were very negative about Berlin. Maybe he doesn’t like it.

  5. The mass media has been run like an old boy network for decades. All those Snows, Corens, Dimblebys, Milnes, Magnussons, Hitchens, Lee-Potters, Winklemans. And this also applies to pals from Uni. I even remember a story of when Boris was editor at the Spectator that he fired a journalist to give an old school pal a job.

    They could get away with it when there wasn’t much competition, but it just isn’t good business. And most of them still aren’t reforming. They’re bitching about what Google is doing to them*, about fake news. While continuing to write utter bilge that isn’t even as good as most bloggers with an ounce of knowledge on the subject (at which point, why should anyone give you knowledge).

    About the only readable publication out there is The Spectator and part of that is that Fraser Nelson is about the only serious editor out there (and also, their sales are rising unlike most publications). He also does things like having a No CV policy.

    https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/09/the-spectators-48-year-old-intern-shows-why-its-time-to-dispense-with-cvs/

    * it takes about 3 lines of code to remove your website from Google. I had to do it for a drug trial once. Anyone who doesn’t want their news stories listed in Google News can do it.

  6. Diversity and inclusiveness are definitely dropping like a stone in my neck of the woods. It seems that “peacefulness” is becoming increasingly dominant, with seemingly 50% of women openly displaying their colonialist, apartheid, assertion of moral superiority. Alongside this development, the level of vibrancy has clearly fallen in recent years, and this, as any, kind of monoculture, obviously has a very negative impact on cultural enrichment.

    No doubt Berlin as a whole, being by size and location resistant to the pace of change in most of the west of the country, has not yet reached, and gone out the other side of, peak enrichment, but there are certainly parts of the country that have.

    On The Economist, I used to read it when Lufthansa gave it out for free. Now I don’t think it’s an option on the “download a newspaper and try to read it on your smartphone” thing.

  7. Basically if you know a country really well, you know that the Economist position is wrong or misinformed.

    One of the main reasons I stopped subscribing was I realised, while living in Russia, their correspondent had obviously never been to Russia and spoken to anyone. All he was doing was projecting his own opinions, and I quickly worked out that’s what they do everywhere.

  8. Basically if you know a country really well, you know that the Economist position is wrong or misinformed.

    This is true of all media and all topics. As a general rule, writers know how to write and not much else.

  9. I won’t be renewing my 5 year digital subscription when its due. I persevered with the audio download because I like some of the sections but gave up on the Leaders donkey’s years ago.

    I started to lose it when they sided with Google’s sacking of James Damore, it was like they hadn’t read the document or taken the time to listen to Damore’s side. (If anyone wants a refresh I suggest listening to Joe Rogan interviewing Damore, its a bit old but really insightful.)

    The problem is what to read/listen to get get a good world view?

    The Speccie has really upped its game and I might even subscribe, but it doesn’t ave the world coverage that the Economist used to have.

  10. sadly the ft has gone down the same route of pandering to the under 30 liberal metropolitans

  11. @TMB… I stopped buying The Economist decades ago when I decided I didn’t want to be talked down to by people my own age but with less experience of the world.

    Ditto.

  12. I stopped buying The Economist decades ago when I decided I didn’t want to be talked down to by people my own age but with less experience of the world.

    Ditto, again.

    I used to get it in work but when we switched to the online version I never bothered registering for the company’s online access.

    I am eternally grateful for the internet which enabled me to leap beyond the establishment papers such as the Economist and broadcasters and gain access to other views which were very hard obtain in pre-internet days.

  13. Tim, if you’re in a fisking mood you might enjoy https://www.thelocal.se/20180908/not-that-type-of-immigrant

    It’s got a lot of themes you’re interested in: ex-pat vs immigrant, man finds out degree not as important and prestigious as he thought (for what it’s worth, this time it’s an MSc in Global Politics – Merit – from the London School of Economics), the travails of learning a language, a little dash of millennial entitlement…

  14. According to his LinkedIn page Cliffe also “reported to Julian Scola for five months while working at the Party of European Socialists (PES) in Brussels”. And he has a Modern Languages degree from Oxford. So that gives me a lot more confidence that he knows how the world works and didn’t just get his job because he’s a political suckup.

  15. MMcC: ‘… wrong or misinformed. This is true of all media and all topics.’ You’ll be familiar with late author Michael Crichton’s ‘Gell-Mann Amnesia effect’?

    Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. … You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

    That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

    (Crichton, Michael. “Why Speculate?” International Leadership Forum, La Jolla, CA, 26 Apr. 2002.)

  16. The problem started when journalism became a ‘profession’ that was taught at universities to slightly dim upper-middle class activists, by slightly dim upper class activists.

  17. ScotchedEarth – I almost linked that myself – it’s where I learned it.

    David Moore – if journalism was still an apprenticeship my whole life might have been different

  18. Jeremy Cliffe is the guy who got drunk one night and sent out a series of tweets about setting up a new centrist party in the UK. To be jointly led by Vince Cable and Ken Clarke, to stop Brexit, natch.
    Sample policy was to send Gina Miller to Brussels to negotiate withdrawal of Article 50 and join the Euro.

  19. The Economist ownership unlike the New York Times has been slightly camouflaged over the years, I don’t feel sorry for any of you suckers that paid them good money and then wonder why they support Globalist goals.

    Sucked in.

  20. I discovered the Gell-Mann effect myself many years ago. I stopped taking notice of newspapers / periodicals after notiving that when I read about something that I personally knew about it was always wrong, and it finally dawned on me that why should anything else they have written be any more accurate.

    Not that it’s a new problem, I believe it was Mark Twain who stated that “Someone who doesn’t read newspapers is uninformed, whereas someone who does read newspapers is misinformed”

  21. The Economist is heavily subbed to give it a consistent style; this means the thoughts of idiots are given undeserved gravitas.

    I once had a breakfast meeting with the regional CEO of a global firm, a couple of the senior chaps at that firm and a journalist from the Economist. I’ve met and worked with a lot of journalists but never come across one so firmly set on transmit. He didn’t ask questions, just burbled out ill-informed opinions and occasionally paused for affirmation.

    The firm hosting the breakfast was prepared to put up with this because a mention in the Economist is good PR.

    At the time I dumped my subscription, I’d not heard of the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect, but it was one of the reasons for binning it. I would say though; there are good journalists. Most papers have the odd one and the specialist press (either business or consumer) tends to be better all-round, because the hacks learn about the field they cover.

    The reason the Economist has a progressive-left bias is because it is an establishment publication. And the establishment is progressive-left. I got a ‘free’ Times online subscription recently and – having not read it for years – was amazed by how left it leans. If the Times is the newspaper of the British establishment then the British establishment is basically Continuity New Labour.

  22. @MBE – that article from The Local could be used as an advert for the benefits of a strong border policy.

  23. MC–Exactly right.

    David Moore–All “qualifications” for journalism/media need to be abolished at the same time the Uni staff and students are purged of all leftists.

    In future you should become a journalist by being sent out to walk around and look for stories–minor ones to begin with then bigger fare.

  24. There you go again Tim, Modern Journalism, my arse.

    Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
    The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.

    (One of America’s oldest and most beloved journalists was tendered a banquet by his fellow-editors, and surprised his hosts by the following words)

    THERE is no such thing in America as an independent press, unless it is in the country towns. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write his honest opinions, and if you did you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid $150.00 a week for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with—others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things—and any of you who would be so foolish as to write his honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job.

    The business of the New York journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his race and his country for his daily bread.

    You know this and I know it, and what folly is this to be toasting an “Independent Press.”

    We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping-jacks; they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.

  25. @MC

    Indeed, there’s a curious mixture of surprise-cum-entitlement in there – each surprise coming as something he assumed he is entitled to turns out to be chipped away.

    Surprise that Britain does not have a massive shortage of “global politics” graduates being churned out of its universities, doing all those fiendishly clever jobs that only bright young inexperienced 22-year-old global politics graduates are capable of doing, and therefore Britain isn’t importing as many of them as it possibly can in order to top up this vital yet scarce resource.

    Surprise that Swedish people might think that before granting permanent residency in their country, it would be polite to speak the language and learn a bit about the “arbitrary” native culture. The fact that one can sit in an office in Sweden speaking your foreign language, largely (judging from what he writes) because he is primarily working or dealing with other foreigners, might not be viewed by a native Swede as evidence one has successfully “integrated” even though it means one can earn an income without local language proficiency.

    Overall, he seems to assume that being a clever, qualified and metropolitan chap, he should be able to jet all over the world and live and work anywhere, no borders. He’s got the skills and countries would be mad and self-defeating to turn him down. To the extent that means he’s attracted to an ex-pat life, then fair enough and good luck to him. When he tries applying to places, he may just find – as he did in London – that a global politics degree doesn’t make him as uniquely desirable as he thinks. To be fair, it’s possible he has e.g. skills at marketing – principally to other English-speakers, since polyglotism isn’t something he claims for himself – that would be useful in various countries, and perhaps visa rules with a credentialist bent can’t recognise this, so those more rigid countries are missing out. But that’s surely one of those tough-luck parts of ex-pat life – just as few people are so highly skilled they could work in any role at any company they wanted to, there are also few people able to get a post in any country they so choose.

    Where he goes even further is his assumption he should just be able to travel to whatever place he feels like, and for his unique contribution to that land be granted, within a couple of years of arrival, a permanent residence/citizenship-track permit. Regardless of his knowledge of the local language or culture. It seems pretty arrogant to me, and I don’t think he’s got his head around “their gaff, their rules”. This is something I think Tim gets right – if there’s a place you want to go for a while, isn’t that partly because of the local culture/society and the job they’ve done so far of running the place? If they then started accepting anyone from anywhere to move in permanently and not engage with the local culture, then it would not longer be the place where you wanted to come, surely?

  26. @ MBE – “Surprise that Britain does not have a massive shortage of “global politics” graduates being churned out of its universities, doing all those fiendishly clever jobs that only bright young inexperienced 22-year-old global politics graduates are capable of doing, and therefore Britain isn’t importing as many of them as it possibly can in order to top up this vital yet scarce resource.”

    My nieces long term partner is from London and is a bit of a player in the local political scene. He is a senior delegate of the Queensland Labor Party and if they get in next year which is looking likely he is going places.

    Yes I know, I have quite a few Reds in the wider family, I excused him for now as he is young and idealistic and it was therefore okay for him to be with my niece. My niece was studying journalism at the University of Queensland when she met him and I told her that I wasn’t sure if that was a good career path. Imagine how I felt when she told me gleefully and in an approval seeking way that she had changed courses half way through to teaching! She is also young and and idealistic.

  27. @Bardon

    I’d rather have a teaching degree than a journalism degree.

    But I’d far rather have a degree in some substantively useful subject – possibly but not necessarily technical – even if I did want to go off and become a teacher or journalist. Actually having a clue what you’re writing or teaching about being an increasingly rare skills these days, apparently…

  28. @Bardon – no-one needs a journalism degree; it’s a trade not a profession.

    I can’t imagine how they fill three years.

  29. From where I am sitting the only thing that you should go to yooni for is engineering, law and medicine.

    I was trying to be polite to my niece when I said that journalism may not have been the best career path from an eventual income producing job at the end of it point of view. So when she agreed and switched to teaching that is worse on that score.

    I do agree that teachers are totally unrecognised in the role they play in building society but I can’t see the pay improving and no I still don’t think that you need to go to yooni to be one, especially someone as bright as my niece is.

  30. If the Times is the newspaper of the British establishment then the British establishment is basically Continuity New Labour.

    Exactly.

  31. Sample policy was to send Gina Miller to Brussels to negotiate withdrawal of Article 50 and join the Euro.

    Heh!

  32. In 2016, their Schumpeter columnist interviewed Peter Thiel, who had made a billion or two by co-founding PayPal and Palantir, and – unusually for his cohort – supported Trump as a presidential candidate. Thiel shared his thoughts on creative monopolies and the relationship between innovation and monopoly profits. It’s more or less obvious that Thiel’s ideas have much in common with those of the original Schumpeter – the economist, not the columnist. In 1983, The Economist published a pretty good write-up of Schumpeter’s thought for his centenary. Reading Thiel’s 2014 WSJ piece, Competition is for Losers, alongside The Economist‘s 1983 feature, anyone would recognize the link.

    Anyone but Thiel’s interviewer. I wrote about it in more detail here and here.

  33. I subscribed for 18 years – until 2002 when (among other reasons) Robert Nozick died and their obituary misquoted his motto intended to crystallize libertarian thought – correctly: “From each as he chooses; to each as he is chosen” – they reversed it to the nonsensical (or even authoritarian) “From each as he is chosen; to each as he chooses”
    (recall the similar motto in Marx)

    In 1984 they were firmly committed free-market liberals – and dripping with gravitas (or so I thought)

    I wrote my only letter to the editor – and actually got a response from an editor – but it was not printed or corrected (they never have done “corrections” have they?)

    couple weeks later they ran in their letters column some coy (brief) back and forth re: some celebrity starlet.

    Airheads!

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