First it was Bari Weiss from the New York Times. Shortly thereafter Andrew Sullivan from New York Magazine, followed by MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary. All three worked for media organisations where challenging the politically correct opinion rates between unacceptable to zero.
Weiss, who was opinion editor at the NYT, declared on departure, "intellectual curiosity is now a liability at the Times". Pekary, referring to the "decisions that affect the news every day" opined "the model blocks diversity of thought and content", and called it a cancer.
What are my ambitions with this newsletter? Plus: some responses to various comments + criticisms. https://t.co/iBuJsmhaXy— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) April 19, 2021
Sullivan, "If the mainstream media will not host a diversity of opinion, or puts the 'moral clarity' of some self-appointed saints before the goal of objectivity in reporting…. Then the non-mainstream needs to pick up the slack".
All three quit their jobs in June 2020.
More recently Naomi Wolf, well-known feminist author and university lecturer announced she is now suffering remorse after voting for Biden, "If I'd known he was pro-lockdown I'd never have voted for him."Very few talk shows were interested in her opinion; she'd broken ranks. And there are more.
The question is why? There's always talent movement in media, as elsewhere, but usually driven by opportunity and ambition. These resignations were caused by dissatisfaction with corporate direction.
News stories are based on verifiable facts. Well, not necessarily. I have not known a period, except the past four years, where "anonymous" was the source of so many stories. And never in my experience have so many "facts" proved to be fiction. As the saying has it," a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on".
A most recent example was the Washington Post. Based on a single but unverified source the Post story referred to President Trump's now-famous phone call pressuring Georgia officials to "find the fault". It was picked up by other media and ultimately included in Trump's second impeachment.
The lie, and it was a lie, was exposed after a digital copy of the call was discovered in the trash file of the Georgia state investigator's computer. Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote a lengthy critique on how "Big Media" so often "independently confirm" each other's falsehoods.
Earlier this year Keri Lake, a top-rated news anchor in Arizona for nearly 30 years, quit her job. Why? "Sadly, journalism has changed a lot….I don't like the direction it's going. The media needs more balanced coverage and a wider range of viewpoint in every newsroom."
While America leads the way by virtue of its size and media output, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are scale models.
Australia has deeply divided news sources. The ABC in both radio and television is so radically left and woke, that principles of journalism, law and justice are frequently trashed. Witness the coverage of sexual allegations against Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age, now owned by Nine Entertainment would be the papers of choice for ABC adherents. As Chris Kenny wrote in The Australian, "If we are prepared to stand by and watch as Labour and Greens politicians (along with Malcolm Turnbull) destroy Porter - based on unethical, deceptive and vindictive journalism funded by taxpayers at the ABC, then we will rue the day".
In New Zealand, we are mostly spared, or have been, the raw bloodletting exemplified in other places, although for how long? What has not been avoided is the substitution in some media of advocacy for objectivity. The arrogance of some in both television and press is deplorable.
Groupthink has no place in science and "battle of ideas can't be fought with censorship", in the words of George Williams, deputy vice-chancellor and Professor of Law at the University of NSW.
Along with Greenwald, a few years back I would have paid little attention to Matt Taibbi. His time at Rolling Stone magazine as an "unfenced" commentator has transpired into an independent author publishing online on Substack. He, Greenwald and others are examples of the media tectonic plates shifting.
Taibbi suggests the need for a new media channel, the press version of a third party not aligned with either left or right (or in his case Democrat or Republican); employing a fairness doctrine-inspired approach that discourages groupthink and requires at least occasional explorations of alternative points of view; embraces a utilitarian mission stressing credibility over ratings including by operating a distribution model that as much as possible doesn't depend upon the indulgence of Apple, Google, and Amazon.
With Anzac Day on our minds, let us hope those who fought and died for freedom did not do so in vain.