The Erosion of Journalism

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Tue, Apr 7, 2015 - 7:29pm

Good news! My magazine, Abyss & Apex was nominated for a Hugo Award, one of the two big awards in Science Fiction. Bad news; we are under assault by those who do not like our (alleged) politics. It's been an absolute primer in disinformation, lies, conformational bias and bad journalism. It's the bad journalism I want to highlight, because it stifles free speech and a free press. Note: This is a complicated post but I will try and simplify and give you links.

First and foremost, let's take a look at what happened with Rolling Stone's coverage of an alleged rape. The Truth About UVA and Ferguson Isn't Good Enough for P.C. Crowd covers it pretty well. Quote:

In the UVA case, a young woman known only as “Jackie” claimed that she was repeatedly gang-raped at a fraternity party, a shocking allegation that the Columbia report determined was not even an exaggeration, but a fabrication. In other words, it was a lie.

Reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely has been pronounced guilty of “confirmation bias”—she wanted Jackie’s story to be true because it felt dramatically emblematic of the story she wanted to write: universities’ inadequate response to accusations of sexual assault. The report notes one of her many lapses was not “confronting subjects with details”— an odd omission for a journalist.

And the same thing happened at Ferguson:

Justice Department investigators have proven that Michael Brown was not simply pulled over and shot in the back with his hands up, but shot while attacking police officer Darren Wilson. However, black Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capeheart, after urging us to admit that the initial MSNBC take on the Ferguson encounter was inaccurate, has been deluged on Twitter with vicious slander for his insistence on admitting the truth. That slander is founded on an assumption: America needs to understand how disproportionately cops kill black men, and facts incompatible with that mission are irrelevant. To stress inconvenient truths is still unenlightened, missing the “larger point.”

Welcome to my world, at the moment. The "larger point" about the Hugos is that they have not gone to enough women, minorities, or people with non-traditional sexuality

You see, my magazine was part of a suggested slate of works and venues for Hugo award nominations, called the Sad Puppies 3 slate (because boring message fiction was the #1 cause of puppy-related sadness! - yes, we had some fun with it.) Read the slate yourself and see that it is a suggested batch of works. People are encouraged to read and decide, and nominate other things if they wish. This was transparent: not against the rules, but traditionally gauche to be so forthright.

Well, you'd think we were drowning puppies, not trying to get stories we loved on the ballot. In fact, Sad Puppies 3 was a reaction to Hugos increasingly going to boring and politically correct "message fiction" - heavy-handed stuff that checked a whole bunch of affirmative action and victim boxes. We just wanted good stories, and we were tired of the gatekeepers--a small bunch of industry insiders and fans-- choosing "the best in the field" for an open award and making unpersons of anyone who disagreed with their politics.

Yesterday the following media outlets ran articles about the Sad Puppies campaign, in which they either directly said or insinuated that it was run and populated by racist straight white males with the goal of keeping scifi white and male. We were also supposedly guilty of ballot-stuffing and block-voting (both provably untrue).

The Telegraph
Entertainment Weekly
Salon
Huffington Post
Slash Dot
io9
The Guardian
the AV Club ( a non-parody part of The Onion)

oh, and ComicsAllaince, the Daily Dot . . . the list grows.

Joseph Goebels would have especially cringed at the one in Entertainment Weekly, (here is the archived version) It was not opinion piece but a "news" article. The hit piece inked to a slate full of women, but said there were no women on it (fact checking is obviously optional to more and more journalists). And, in fact, we added more diversity of thought and race and gender.

Entertainment Weekly, after threats of a lawsuit, offered a correction.

CORRECTION: After misinterpreting reports in other news publications, EW published an unfair and inaccurate depiction of the Sad Puppies voting slate, which does, in fact, include many women and writers of color. As Sad Puppies’ Brad Torgerson explained to EW, the slate includes both women and non-caucasian writers, including Rajnar Vajra, Larry Correia, Annie Bellet, Kary English, Toni Weisskopf, Ann Sowards, Megan Gray, Sheila Gilbert, Jennifer Brozek, Cedar Sanderson, and Amanda Green.

I'll see if I can find that picture of the Hugo nominees last year: 32 white people, seven of them (I think; some are behind others) women.  Bonus: the guy who runs Sad Puppies 3 has been married to a black woman for 21 years.

Misogynist and racist? Hardly. "Perhaps the most bizarre allegation is the claim that supporters of the Sad Puppies constitute their own clique, and are trying to achieve dominance for conservative and libertarian authors. The presence of liberals and progressives like Anne Bellet, Kary English, and Rajnar Vajra on the nomination slate appears to have escaped critics. Correia, Hoyt, Torgerson and others have always maintained that their goal is to end political intolerance in sci-fi, not reinforce it." Source.

There is some room for confusion, since Sad Puppies 1 (a few suggestions handled by bestselling author Larry Correia including a guy named Vox Day they all hate in SF circles, me included) and Sad Puppies 2 (a handful more suggestions that made the ballot to prove they would be mocked - Correia, again) were slightly different. But the hated Vox Day was completely left off the SP3 slate (run by SF author Brad Torgersen) so he went and formed his own slate, Rabid Puppies.

Torgersen recused himself, Correia refused a nomination, and the bombastic Vox Day got three best editor slots and six of his Castilia House imprint works were nominated.

Vox Day has said some quotable, racist-sounding things, but he is not on the SP3 ballot. We are all getting tarred with his brush, and the press will not hear otherwise. They've made up their minds what the facts are, and no amount of deviation from the narrative is allowed.

In a world where a whisper that you are racist or a woman-hater can lose you your job or get you blacklisted in your industry, a press with an agenda is a frightening thing. Luckily for us at least, eBooks passed printed ones in sales a few years ago, very profitable, and self-publishing or using  (or creating) a small press is so easy now almost anyone can do it.  Print-on-demand allows small print runs. Brick-and-mortar stores have been replaced by distribution through Amazon.com. People can get word-of-mouth book reviews through places like Goodreads. The agenda-driven, advocacy journalists that are trying to hold us back can't, since the gatekeeper's are no longer needed.

But the preferred "narrative" lives on, and the "facts" are what the press decides are the truth. This has frightening implications for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

 

3 Comments

HughK's picture
HughK
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 6 2012
Posts: 761
Sand Puppies and press with an agenda

Hi Wendy,

It's good to hear Abyss & Apex was nominated for a Hugo, and I wish you all the best. It's also great that you are featuring Sand Puppy and his brothers. :)  I love speculative fiction and have read a few stories in your magazine.  Although it's certainly not avant-garde, I recently read A Canticle for Leibowitz, a speculative fiction classic that won the Hugo way back in the early 60's.

As you say, your post is complicated, so I have a question for you regarding your comment about a press with an agenda.

What, in your view, is the single most (or the top three, if you prefer) biases in the mainstream media?  How high does the PC bias that you see rate when compared to the other biases of the mainstream media?

Cheers,

Hugh

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
Investors Business Daily weighs in

Another Great Moment in Mainstream Journalism

And to answer our question, Hugh, the worst problem in contemporary journalism is a lack of fact-checking. These are journalists think Twitter is an accurate news source, and live in an echo chamber of mass-customized information where all their friends say the same things,  so "it must be true" since  "everyone knows it."  It is; I believe, a direct result of only getting your news from sources that line up with your beliefs, coupled with the teaching of Advocacy Journalism.

HughK's picture
HughK
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 6 2012
Posts: 761
Georgia Man Saves Family from Rabid Dog

Hi Wendy,

I certainly agree with you regarding the lack of fact checking.  A good example of that is found in the way that the following story was covered recently in South Carolina.

Just after the Cooper Bridge River Run, in Charleston, one of the runners was walking down a street when he saw a family cornered by a rabid pit bull.  Acting quickly, the runner threw a rock at the dog, which then started to chase him, enable him to lead the pit bull away from the family.

A journalist from the Post and Courier saw the whole thing and went back to the office to write it up.  As he was writing his editor came in to show him the paper's first draft of a headline:

"Local man saves family from rabid dog"

The journalist looked at the headline, and then said to the editor, "Sir, the man was actually from Augusta."

Half an hour later, the editor returned with the new headline:

"Georgia man saves family from rabid dog"

The journalist very politely told the editor that the man was from Augusta, Maine.

"August, Maine...I see," said the editor.

The next morning the story was front page news, with the headline reading

YANKEE STEALS FAMILY PET

***

I heard this from a friend of mine who now lives in Columbia SC and while I bet you've heard it already, I still couldn't resist.

Hugh

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