Looking for a source of balanced, thoughtful journalism, with news based on fact, not opinion, and with its priorities properly and prudently set forth as to what is truly meaningful and newsworthy?
Run, don’t walk, from The Daily Beast.
A sampling of a recent day’s Daily Beast headlines includes:
The Daily Beast editor, Noah Shachtman, has described his site as “high-end tabloid.” Oh, come, Mr. Shachtman, you’re too modest. With stuff such as the above to work with, just a click or two downward and you’re in there with “Elvis’ Face Found on Grilled Cheese Sandwich” and “Lizard Recites Gettysburg Address.”
According to Shachtman, The Daily Beast embraces “gonzo” journalism. Gonzo journalism, part of the “New Journalism” movement of the 1960s and beyond, relegates facts to the back seat, preferring to spotlight the writer-as-protagonist and his or her own feelings, emotions, and adventures in pursuing the story as paramount. Hunter S. Thompson, who coined the term (defined as “journalism of an exaggerated, subjective, and fictionalized style,” probably from the Italian gonzo, “foolish” or the Spanish ganso, “goose, fool”) believed that objective journalism was impossible and that “absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.”
“Journalistic trash, unethical and dangerous.”
Mr. Thompson notwithstanding, The Daily Beast has had its share of scuffles for avoiding the truth, as well as steering clear of professional journalism itself.
A 2013 article about the Taliban seeking peaceful negotiations in Afghanistan was denounced as patently false.
In 2019, a Daily Beast reporter “doxed” (exposed the identity and contact information of) an individual whose faked “drunk and slurred” video of a prominent lawmaker had gone viral. The reporter was roundly rebuked by his journalistic colleagues for an egregious breach of ethics in revealing the person’s identity, or, as one writer observed, it was “repellent to unleash the resources of a major news outlet on an obscure, anonymous, powerless, quasi-unemployed citizen for the crime of trivially mocking the most powerful political leaders.” An additional dollop of unpleasantness for The Daily Beast occurred when the individual in question denied concocting the video in the first place and threatened to sue the publication.
A 2016 Daily Beast article titled “I Got Three Grindr Dates in an Hour in the Olympic Village” chronicled the ease with which the writer, a heterosexual married man, scored dates using a dating app with several gay and straight athletes in the Olympic Village. While not naming names, the writer outlined a path to easily “out” the gay athletes, thus putting some, particularly those from restrictive countries, in danger of arrest or worse.
The condemnations hurled in The Daily Beast’s direction following this catastrophe included “journalistic trash, unethical and dangerous” (Andrew M. Seaman, ethics committee chair for the Society of Professional Journalists); “journalistic malpractice” (Vince Gonzales, professor of professional practice at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism); and “deceitful… lack of judgment and disregard for basic decency” (president of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis).
The Daily Beast at first proclaimed its innocence, then temporized with an editorial, then tardily edited out the identifying details of the closeted gay athletes, before finally removing the article entirely whilst putting its writer on the shelf for a few months, after which he returned “following a lengthy period of intense reflection.”
“Journalistic malpractice.” “Journalistic trash.” “Disregard for basic decency.” Your subscription to The Daily Beast gives you all this and so much more.
Courage and commitment to truth, no matter the cost in revenue or clicks, are the scarcer commodities.
While admiring the invention of the phonograph, Arthur Sullivan of the great 19th-century operetta team of Gilbert and Sullivan, expressed trepidation about Edison’s new device, fearing that it would now open the door to the immortalization of much bad music.
Similarly, in our own time, the appearance of the computer and the internet on the international stage opens the world to instantaneous communication not just of facts, but also of disinformation, ranging in quality from the innocent to the abhorrent. Opinions, bigotry, small-mindedness can be cloaked in the mantle of “truth” with a clever turn of phrase, a pithy remark, a discreet positioning alongside a questionable “fact” or generality. Such machinations are easily employed by the unskilled or unscrupulous journalist like a Marlow Stern or Tarpley Hitt, who believe that their profession falls under the category not of “purveyor of news” but of “The Grr-rreatest Show On Earth!” which puts them in the same tent as the clowns and the freak show. Possibly that’s how such individuals would prefer to be known.
Courage and commitment to truth, no matter the cost in revenue or clicks, are the scarcer commodities, those which we should value as our world’s technological power to communicate expands in speed and influence.
Or as Edward R. Murrow, a respected journalist of a bygone era, once observed, “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”
To which one may append, truth doesn’t need its own pimp. It’s not something that can be sold to the highest bidder or marketed to a demographic. It simply is itself, and it will always prevail in the end.