Oct 22, 2023·edited Oct 23, 2023

Tara, I love your Substack. Never fail to read it and learn. But the issue here remains self-delusion. Most of the people I know in media (and you know many more, but I will be interested to see if you do not agree) absolutely believe they have done everything right. (Maybe a minor error here or there, but nothing out of the ordinary.)

Other than the 30% of non-thinkers in the population, I know few who think the media has done hardly ANYTHING right. People are treating almost all media now like Russians treated Pravda...known to be an organ of the government and therefore what was to be believed was usually the opposite of what was written.

Until the media returns to seeking "truth" (not conformance and not obligatory obeisance to the powers that be) they have zero percent chance of regaining their credibility. The first major organ that exposes Biden criminality (or whatever the equivalent is in Canada), or the utter failure of virtually EVERYTHING in addressing covid, or the fact that most of the climate change stuff is grift -- pick any one of them -- will win. Stand against the prescribed lexicon and THEN people might believe you have something worth reading.

Until then, the media is increasingly a laughingstock. The only people that used to read them at all (other than the 30% of marching morons) were the readers of X/Facebook/Instagram that happened to fall into them. As those distribution networks decide that even they do not want to mess with the current media, I expect most (other than those that are paid for with extorted tax dollars like CBC) to go the way of the Washington Post that is losing $100M this year. Good riddance, incidentally.

But hope springs eternal that some editor/publisher will step in and remember what the media was supposed to be about. I fear that hope may be all we ever get, but one hates to just give up. Meanwhile Substacks like yours, working from the margins, are doing the heavy lifting and we thank you.

Expand full comment

Tara, I wholeheartedly agree with your prescription for enhancing trust in media. If I would go a step further, it would be to encourage journalists to actively seek out information that challenges their own world views. I would encourage them to investigate to be curious, not to discredit.

Catherine Tait has habitually, almost pathologically, blamed everyone BUT the CBC for declining audiences. I suspect the others on the stage are similar. It's easy to see why, when we have a federal governing party that encourages this mindset with both legislation and public pronouncements. I think the phrase is "Truth to Power," not, "Truth From Power." But that's where we're at. No wonder people don't feel that news outlets have anything credible to offer anymore.

Expand full comment

"How do we respond to members of the public that believe that we are no longer just reporting the facts, but actively trying to influence their opinion?"

When 95%+ of the journalists are democrats/leftists, everything they write is biased by nature, why would a conservative, like me, choose to have anything to do with their opinions?

Expand full comment

With the advent of new media platforms, the average Joe has become quite adept at sniffing out bullshit.

The average Joe sees the MSM as if Goebbles had casual Friday everyday.

If your spouse cheated on you as much as the MSM has misinformed you, even the most forgiving symp would head out the door.

Expand full comment

Trust in media has declined in lock-step with decline in trust of all institutions and all of that has happened in synch with changes in our society and economy where women have come to dominate those institutions.

There is a reason for this and it gets into the evolutionary and biologically differences in how men and women deal with conflict. For males it is direct and purposely displayed so it is easy to understand. Rules of war and sports are such that opposing teams wear their colors to be easily recognized. Men in conflict can recognize the challenge from another, and after they tangle, if both survive, they will often become friends.

Women on the other hand are passive aggressive. Holding an outward appearance of friendliness while working behind the scenes to destroy their enemy. And once an enemy, reconciliation is highly unlikely.

This change has resulted in an overall lack of trust. Two-faced politics... claiming cooperation and friendliness but then profound anger and hostility boiling in the back room... and resulting in divisive actions.

This is why we all feel like society is falling apart. It is because we cannot trust the frontward presentation of our leaders while they scheme in the backroom and adopt a hidden agenda of destruction.

Expand full comment

Hi Tara, well done. I have really enjoyed learning about the media landscape from your substack efforts. In my own mind, I don't frame the issue as "a lack of trust in media". That angle, as you noticed, implies that problem is somehow with the people who don't trust, as though they are brain damaged or morally defective. To me the issue is that the media is not trustworthy, and as you noted in this stack they seem to be loathe to recognize that and to do anything about it. The fact that so much of the MSM in Canada is now on Justin's payroll does nothing to further that trustworthiness and it annoys the heck out of those of us who would rather our taxes went elsewhere.

Expand full comment

The dominant theme throughout the comments thus far is hope...hope that the mainstream media will self-correct and right themselves. Sadly, that potential has passed for they have nothing left of value.

Advertising, the financial lifeblood of newspapers, failed in the face of the internet's ability to sub-categorize its appeal and improve sales per advertising dollar spent. That race cannot be rerun.

Timeliness, the "stop the presses!" excitement and acknowledgement of "hot news" again failed in the face of internet news collection and delivery immediacy.

Refusal to self-assess. As evidenced (again) by this meeting, the MSM culture has not permitted biting criticism of itself. Their fingers have grown together hoping that things will return to "the way it used to be".

The rise of better alternatives. Tara, your substack is entrepreneurial journalism. It suffers from all the attributes of smallness, inability to reach very large audiences, a donation mindset and the resources necessary to initiate substantial research. But all of those were attributes of the post-Gutenberg era.

The rise of better journalists. The upside to the unalterable demise of "newspapers" is the self-selection of journalists. As evidenced by you personally, the best are well-gone from the stifling newsrooms, the top-down diktats of politics, customer-insensitive executives and the pseudo-takeover of woke thought. The Substack air is cleaner.

I cannot see the future but I know innovation, hard work, risk, reward and respect. Kiss the MSM goodbye, Tara. You are the future...not "them".

Expand full comment

Some other institutions are starting to grapple with the trust problem. My local city government is trying to control crime and homelessness after letting it run wild. A few university presidents have decided to stop stirring up controversy and stick to their jobs. Many businesses are pulling back from the unnecessary woke stuff and just selling beer or cars. Media hasn't even STARTED to figure it out.

Back in 2016 one journalist predicted that media would never get it. He turned out to be right.


Expand full comment

Very good article. For establishment news media execs to put on a presentation about the disintegration of public trust and to primarily focus on diagnosing the ills of the public as the problem, really reveals their deluded orientations.

Fenlon blames other people for spreading mistrust of establishment news media. Well, I think Trump got that started as a popular topic in public discourse. But when he first did that, the response was huge applause. It wasn’t as if people were hearing some new thought and thinking, “Wow! Could that be the case?” No! They already knew it to be the case and were quite upset about it, but found no one willing to openly say it. So when Trump publicly said what so many were already aware of, they cheered that someone running for president would openly call this out.

Fenlon goes on to say that he recognizes that diversity of thought is missing so that “a lot of people don’t see themselves in the newsrooms or in the coverage.” Good observation. And this rather dramatic shift to such a biased media has left huge numbers of people feeling marginalized, even disenfranchised, in the country that they have been honest, productive members of their whole lives. And that sense of being cast out is threatening. And fear evokes anger.

Expand full comment

After spending my life in journalism (and teaching media classes,) I can't express how disturbed I am to see what passes for news these days. Almost without exception, I immediately know the politics of the reporter who crafted the story that I am watching or reading. I suspect that like me, much of the audience is sick of the constant lecturing and moralizing instead of just being told the facts about what happened. Return to that and I can almost guarantee you will see an increase in your audience. Otherwise prepare for more mistrust and malaise about the news that's being produced. It is not journalism by any stretch of the imagination.

Expand full comment

An excellent and profoundly depressing article. I think so much of the mess is explained by your last comment: 'And if we expect the public to trust us, we’re going to have to start by trusting them.' The speakers neither trust nor respect a large section of the population. If they do recognise the problem, their solution is improving how their messages can be better expressed so they are understood. This was the explanation of the media to the Australian's rejection of the referendum proposition and the Brexit vote in the UK.

Expand full comment

Personally I’m wondering if the legacy media will completely go the way of book publishing companies that now sell almost entirely to libraries ie. - us. If the likes of the Liberal party of Canada had their way I’m sure the public would prop up all these organizations as “to big to fail” forever. As a book reader I’m happy that my library will purchase an obscure book for me to read but I’m not sure the federal government should be paying newspapers to report ON THEM. I don’t think the execs at CBC give two shits that we think there’s no viewpoint diversity or that they’re entirely siloed etc and there’s not much motivation for them to change considering the amount of resources we give them. There’s only one solution and that’s to basically let them sink or swim.

Expand full comment

I was shocked the other day when, over a beer, a very old friend called the CBC right wing. The conversation digressed from there into table thumping and shouting. Ack. No surprise if they feel they can do no right. What is going on!?! (We parted friends, agreeing not to talk politics ever again.)

Expand full comment

This has been an engaging topic to follow these past few months and new insights continue to unfold for me as the debacle around the state of the news media progresses.

One aspect that confuses me is why the advertisers themselves are not targeted by new legislation instead of the social media platforms, who are just middlemen extracting rents for hosting the players. It seems more effective to require advertisers to distribute their dollars across media sectors according to a ratio that is supportive to each sector. So perhaps for every $3 spent on social media, $1 must be directed to news media which covers independent and larger media. Rather than Gov. picking winners and losers this would syphon general funds to support news media (the original purpose of the “link tax”) and limits the impact of FB, Google, X etc taking those funds in the unlimited manner they currently are.

The other aspect that has evolved for me is that quality of news/media requires a cost. Free news is generally recycled from other sources and has minimal value. The cost can be financial but can also be access and barriers to access specifically. I think back to Tara’s interview with Meghan Daum a few weeks ago and it was interesting to hear of invitation only events that host focused discussions not immediately available to the merciless critique of the general anonymous subscriber. This to me is a form of brand building and discourse incubation that is somewhat shielded from the pillorying public on a low cost subscriber platform, a well of high quality ideas and conversations that will eventually permeate into the public sphere at a slower pace that doesn’t run the well dry. The cost in this case is the work it takes (by Meghan, Tara and others) to build and sustain that network of participants, the value I pay for is the quality of the discourse. I’m paying for the craft it took to refine the discourse to the higher quality.

All this to say, new models and strategies are emerging and pursuing them will be key to getting away from the ‘elite us vs MAGA them’ perception that the large media types seem to be fixed on.

Expand full comment

Have to agree that Donald Trump is the main problem here. And of course the Russians who he fronts for. These are the people responsible for fake news, mis, dis, and malinformation... We know how to stop all this. And luckily Canada is at the forefront of stemming the tide of fake news. Our prime minister is a world class leader in that regard.

Expand full comment