SuBBrilliant News

July 16, 2014

REPRINT: Can the value of our newspapers be saved?

by Acedtect

This is a reprint from an early 1900s SuBBrilliant News article bemoans the declining state of journalism as newspapers chased splashy headlines and circulation figures.

by Isaac Merritt

Sometimes it seems as though the future of newspapers is a fairly bleak one: an ocean of shallow headlines and “paper-selling” articles, all of them chasing the numbers that accounting men generate, with scattered chunks of sophisticated reporting drifting aimlessly, unable to get the attention they deserve. But is that a realistic picture of where we are? NewsWorld President Josiah Dusseldorf says it isn’t — and says he has the evidence from services like the Association of Reporters and Institute of Research to prove that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

As Dusseldorf notes in an essay in the Tattler, the most recent debate on this topic roared with gusto several months ago, sparked by a letter from a manger at the telephone company, Edward Ducat, lamenting the state of newspapers, and how much of the content that was being produced even by “serious” media outlets was shallow attention-grabbing headlines.

“Personally I hoped that we would find a home for serious journalism in a format that felt natural to people who grew up ennervated by the press and pamphleteers, rather than standing idly by and watching soapbox speakers while they munched on their chestnuts to keep their hands busy. Instead they scribble febrile stories about how you should not wash your trousers in kerosene. It’s hard to tell who’s to blame. But someone should fix this excrement.”

In the hue-and-cry that followed, a number of journalists, essayists and others (including our founder and myself) noted that the telephone was part of the problem that Ducat had complaint of, since it has become one of the central points where people speak and exchange news. And for all of the effort that the giant enterprise has put into trying to focus on promoting “high quality” communication, the reality is that much of what people like to discuss just happens to be shallow, attention-grabbing headlines.

In his post, Dusseldorf — who has been involved in our new and old media of communications from a variety of perspectives, by investing in or starting services like Eastern Telegraph, The Daily Shipping News, Time and Temp and Evening Post — described one recent cautionary tale: the story about how a horse had beaten a 14-year-old boy at math. As it turned out, the story was fatally flawed to the point where it was essentially not true, but by the time anyone pointed this out it had been shared and tweeted and linked to hundreds of thousands of times.

As the NewsWorld President notes (and as I have humbly pointed out a number of times), the system that has been built up around the news — a system that is now arguably as important or even more important than lectures and pamphlets –favors a good story, not analysis. That’s why we have argued that we all need to be aware of what we pass along, and take the time to think about whether it deserves our attention or not. Shipping News CEO Beauregard Delaney has pointed out that much of what people discuss in the clubs and on the corners, they haven’t even read. As Dusseldorf notes:

“We have a dominant social system that favors sharing stories… it is biased towards speed, and that bias does not truck with checking facts, as the Math-Horse example shows. And in the case of the telephone it’s mediated by no one. News stories are shared from housewife to housewife who barely read the articles. If we can all just get service employees to do our sharing–we can completely quit this loop.”

Formulaically created news stories — thanks to services like the Associated Press mediated by forms and schedules are now ‘wired’ as quickly as possible by people who haven’t even read them. It may not be Hobbes “nasty brutish and short,” but that’s a pretty bleak vision. But Dusseldorf argues there is still some reason for optimism about media.

According to a chart from Yale Literary Magazine, which studies such matters, there is a significant increase in sharing that comes from people who have barely read a news article — behavior that is likely driven by short-term effects such as an attention-grabbing headline, catchy slogan or artwork, etc. Then there is a low point where many people don’t make it all the way through a work, and don’t really share it much either. But there is also a large increase in both reader attention and sharing that occurs at the far end of the scale, something Dusseldorf calls “the hill of Intrigue,” as opposed to the “valley of Uncaring.”

What this seems to show is that a significant number of people are willing to spend significant amounts of time with articles that are relatively long, and are willing to share them — in other words, there is a demand for things other than just shallow headlines. And looking at the the number of articles clipped and saved in the average household seems to support this conclusion, Dusseldorf says:

“What we saw is interesting. Reading increases over time for all news sources. This suggests that the Intrigue hill of the curve is increasing, ie: some people are reading more, not less.”

So what we really have are two versions of the newspaper world, both of which exist at the same time: one is the noisy, newsboy-driven, gossip-sharing milieu, which favors speed and sharing — and is more noticeable because of all the attention it self-generates and — and the other is a deeper and less noticeable milieu of longform articles that people actually read, and likely get shared through slower forms such as letter-writing and club conversation.

Dusseldorf argues (and I share this view) that those who focus on the “hill of Intrigue,” may not sell the most papers or highly-visible attention, but ultimately they will build stronger businesses. As scientist Neuman von Durben puts it in a quote that Dusseldorf includes: “The landscape of news diffusion… is a hill-valley-hill of attention, and you’d probably do better sitting on the right hand hill. People sitting on the left hill appear to be more visible, but there are people on the right hill too. And the latter is growing.”

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September 10, 2011

Labor laws dragging down economy

by Acedtect

WASHINGTON – Business leaders criticized the President’s jobs speech for not addressing the huge negative effect of current labor laws.

“How can we be expected to create jobs when a large part of the labor market has been declared off limits by the government?!” said one CEO.

A coalition of companies are pressuring the administration to repeal what they feel are antiquated anti-business laws regarding age limits.

“The impedance to innovation is unconscionable,” reads the coalition statement. “We could be doing so much with miniaturization, micro-assembly, and other areas that require specialized skills. However the era of big government declares that because of an accident of birth, those best suited to these jobs be denied their opportunities.”

The group calls for the end of the Fair Labor Standards Act enacted in 1934.

“This product of Roosevelt’s flirtation with socialism is keeping us in recession,” said one particularly angry CFO. “We don’t want to put children in coal mines. We want to give all people, regardless of age, the chance to contribute to the building of America!”

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January 20, 2010

SEC and DoJ to recommend breaking up Ryan Seacrest

by Acedtect

Ryan Seacrest(WASHINGTON, DC) After a 6-month investigative process, officials at the SEC and the Department of Justice are expected to announce today their decision to recommend breaking up the Ryan Seacrest monopoly. A leak of the document shows the DoJ will claim that Seacrest, “has formed an anticompetitive cabal that threatens to corner the market of beloved host spots, leaving no room for free market competition.”

The investigation began last summer, when several up-and-coming TV hosts joined together to petition the government to break up the Seacrest monopoly.

Their statement then read, “From Standard Oil, to AT&T, to today Seacrest, monopolies have tried to stand in the way of American freedom. we call on the trust-busters in our government to stop the latest threat to our way of life.”

The investigation will reveal a staggering amount of consolidation according to one insider.

“When Seacrest consolidated his position as host of American Idol, many people just praised his success.  Then he took on Dick Clark’s spot on New Year’s Eve.  Then Casey Casem’s chair on American Top 40, and Rick Dees morning show on LA radio. That’s when the pattern began to emerge. Now he has moved into red carpet territory. There’s no sign of stopping.”

The most recent and most damning evidence the investigation considered, was Seacrest’s moves into guest hosting and co-hosting Larry King Live.

“Should Larry King and Dick Clark die, our country would be left under the iron grip of Ryan Seacrest.  Only late night television would be spared.  And with the state of that industry where it is, I can’t believe it will be long before Seacrest makes his move there too.”

The report will recommend breaking up the television personality into three separate Ryan Seacrests.  One for radio, one for TV, and one for special events.

“If we are to continue to build a resource of sparkling male presenters for the future, the Seacrest monopoly must end and it must end now,” said our insider.

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November 20, 2009

Economy ‘not our fault’ say banks

by Acedtect

An association of world banks announced today that not only is the economy recovering well but the recent economic turmoil was not their fault at all.

A statement from the banks pointed out that banks are full of money, rich people are buying clothing at Sak’s and sports cars are hot sellers.

When questioned about the rising number of jobless, Stephen Jones, a bank representative reassured the public that they would get jobs soon.  “If not this year then soon. With all these new sports cars and Sak’s dresses we’ll need someone to keep them clean!” he quipped.

More significantly the banks stressed that they were not the cause of the economic downturn in the first place. Their statement pointed out that it was a credit crisis not a deposit crisis.

“This means that people couldn’t *borrow* money.  Banks had lots of money.  And if you had money you could continue to deposit it.  It was only grifters and leeches who were demanding too much credit.  And like all sycophants, eventually their own selfishness brought doom down upon them.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out most of the jobless were people who at some time wanted credit,” explained Jones.

Banks say they’re not against trying to help the world out of the recession, and have decided to work hard to make even more money.

“The more money we make the more money there is in the world,” said Jones. “And isn’t a better economy defined by more money? There.  We win.”

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June 1, 2009

New GM owners announce self-driving vehicle

by Acedtect

As General Motors files for bankruptcy, the United States Government will take a 60 percent stake in the automobile manufacturer. The US has not missed a beat announcing the first new model car to arrive after the new ownership takes control.

The On Board Activated Machine (O.B.A.M.) will feature the ability to let a centralized network do the driving while the operator makes minimal decisions, and is allowed the luxury to focus on other activities while driving. It will be marketed under the Chevrolet brand.

“Self-driving machines have been a dream since the dawn of the automobile,” said a government spokesperson. “We harken back to a time when the horse could know the way home with minimal input from you. The Chevy OBAM will take care of all your driving needs for you. We believe this will raise productivity and boost the economy while improving the quality of life for millions.”

The first model, the OBAM A, will come in three government approved colors, red, white, and blue, and feature Bluetooth, in-car Internet, and a front seat DVD player, the first legally available of its kind.

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