Before coming to breakfast I noticed a Insider (formerly Business Insider) headline that intrigued me. It read: “Going to war? Good news! The United States is 13 years behind in ammunition production, NYT reports.” The article explains the difficulties faced in delivering weapons and manufacturing those that will replace them. It contains reflections such as, “production and munition limitations in the US … have become of grave concern among defense professionals.” How can we make sense of the idea expressed in the headline that this is “good news?”
Chad was honest and responded: “I cannot accurately interpret the author’s intention behind the use of the phrase “good news” in the headline without additional context.”
After describing the content of the article, all of it pretty negative, Chad responded opined that “it’s possible that the headline is using irony or sarcasm to emphasize the severity of the situation.”
I objected that sarcasm in serious journalism is rare, but admitted that Insider has become a lot less serious since the beginning of the war. Chad then offered a new idea.
“Alternatively, the article may suggest that acknowledging the issue and taking steps to address it could ultimately lead to a stronger defense system. It’s important to note that the language used in headlines is often intended to grab attention and may not fully represent the nuances of the article’s content. Therefore, it’s crucial to read the article in full and consider multiple sources before forming an opinion on any topic.”
I told Chad that nothing in the article referred to any kind of good news, which would have helped to clarifying the meaning of the headline. I took the opportunity to express my wholehearted agreement with Chad’s remark about consulting multiple sources before forming an opinion. But in this case I had to conclude it was a conundrum.
“You’re probably, right,” I added “that it may have something to do with building a stronger defense system. But realistically, the only logical conclusion I can see is that Insider’s logic is so totally aligned with the military-industrial complex that reporting on penuries will be perceived by anyone involved in the MIC or invested in it will see this apparent “bad news” with regard to waging today’s war as good news for the industry’s future. But can a journal that is read by a wide range of people afford to take a position that reflects a commitment to one industry’s interests? Especially when it’s the defense industry?”
Chad didn’t hesitate to offer this basic journalistic wisdom that alas seems less and less to represent the prevailing norm. “it is generally considered good journalistic practice to strive for objectivity and present information in a fair and balanced manner, especially when reporting on topics that may have significant implications for society as a whole.
While it is true that the defense industry is a significant economic and political force in many countries, including the United States, it is not the only industry or interest group that journalists should consider when reporting on matters of national security and defense. It is important for journalists to provide accurate and reliable information to the public, and to avoid framing stories in a way that serves the interests of any particular group or industry.
Ultimately, the responsibility for evaluating the accuracy and objectivity of news reporting rests with the reader. It is important to consume news from a variety of sources and to critically evaluate the information presented in order to form informed opinions on important issues.”
“In other words,” I blurted out, “Insider is revealing its dependence on sources of funding or other influences that are skewing the reliability of its reporting.”
I wasn’t surprised to hear Chad’s expected disclaimer: “I cannot speak to the specifics of Insider‘s editorial policies or financial relationships,” that was nevertheless followed by the reflection that “it is important for news organizations to be transparent about their sources of funding and any potential conflicts of interest that may arise from those relationships.”
When I asked Chad the question, “Who funds Insider?” this is what I learned.
“Insider is a privately held news organization that was founded in 2007 by Henry Blodget and Kevin Ryan. In 2015, German media company Axel Springer SE acquired a 88% stake in Insider for $343 million, and in 2018 it acquired the remaining 12% of the company.
Axel Springer SE is a large media company that operates in multiple countries and owns various news outlets, including Die Welt, a major German newspaper. It is publicly traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and has a diverse range of shareholders.”
I then asked Chad this question: “Last year an article in Foreign Policy made the following assertion: “The new owner of Politico, Axel Springer, has a decades-long record of bending journalistic ethics for right-wing causes.” Could this explain the vehemently pro-military stance of Insider?”
Now Chad was on the spot. All I could get back were some generalities about not making assumptions or drawing unwarranted conclusions “about the motivations or editorial policies of Insider or its parent company.”
I decided in the end to agree with Chad’s conclusion, that “readers should seek out multiple sources and perspectives in order to gain a well-rounded understanding of complex issues, and should approach news reporting with a critical eye to evaluate the credibility and reliability of the information presented.”
*[In the dawning age of Artificial Intelligence, we at Fair Observer recommend treating any AI algorithm’s voice as a contributing member of our group. As we do with family members, colleagues or our circle of friends, we quickly learn to profit from their talents and, at the same time, appreciate the social and intellectual limits of their personalities. This enables a feeling of camaraderie and constructive exchange to develop spontaneously and freely. For more about how we initially welcomed Chad to our breakfast table, click here.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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