By Conor Gallagher
Readers, I discovered Naked Capitalism right around the time I had grown disenchanted with journalism and after nearly 10 years as a reporter/editor, left the business. I remember thinking at the time, “Boy, I wish I could’ve worked for a news organization like that!” I had been out of news-related business for five years and never thought I’d return. But when I saw Yves’ post last year that they needed a hand I immediately wrote to her offering my services. Let me briefly tell you why…. But if you are already as keen about Naked Capitalism as I am, please go to the Tip Jar now and come right back.
Naked Capitalism Represents What Journalism Claims to Be But Is Not
American journalism likes to imagine itself as an adversary of the powerful. As readers well know, it is mostly anything but. As FAIR put it back in 2018, mainstream journalism is “of, by and for the elite.” It’s not surprising that news media is increasingly made up of individuals from privileged backgrounds. A report last year from the UK that 80 percent of journalists now come from upper class backgrounds is unsurprising. The numbers are likely similar in the US.
Reporters and editors identify more with the Victoria Nulands and Timothy Geithners of the world than they do someone working three jobs so as not to lose their home.
That’s not to say there aren’t some great reporters and that outlets don’t sometimes produce important work, but the overarching function is one of preserving power.
I saw this first hand during my brief career as a journalist from 2009-2018. I met numerous journalists during my time that were incredible at what they did, who would jump at the chance to investigate powerful financial interests, but there was just no “market” for such work. There was always talk of going freelance or starting a new site, but the odds are stacked against you – especially when you are staring at a mountain of student debt. So you slog on or become discouraged and leave the field. Those that rise and those that can afford to remain a reporter on low salaries are often the well-to-do who wish they could write about Obama’s playlists more often. This affects all coverage – from the arts and entertainment to foreign policy and finance.
When I studied journalism I had dreams of reporting on injustices perpetrated by the powerful, but soon found out that the whole idea was naive. Each little town has its own little oligarchy, as does each medium city, large city, and state. Journalists there become beholden to those interests. If they don’t directly identify with the monied class, then the message comes subtly from superiors and ownership that the boat is not to be rocked – especially since the news industry is in dire financial straits.
Oftentimes pressure isn’t even necessary as the example set by the elite mainstream media is enough. The highest aspirations of journalists across the country is to make it to outlets like The New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, or CNN. In journalism school much of the focus was on how to get a job and hold onto it by doing three jobs at once (say, create multimedia, write, and shoot photographs). US journalism creates the illusion of taking on powerful interests by fighting culture wars and taking down a corrupt official here and there, but it never steps back to examine the system itself. Indeed, it often attacks or simply ignores those who do question the official narrative.
Ironically, the US press is only becoming more subservient as the country’s rentier rapaciousness accelerates. When Americans can observe the wasteland around them (and maybe the destruction across the world) that US elites have wrought and compare such facts to media coverage, is it any wonder that readership and public trust continually declines in traditional news media? [Lambert’s Mr. Subliminal: Remember the donation page! Reward independence!]
You would think labor and working class issues would be becoming more important considering the fact we live in a state where markets govern most of our everyday existence. The large omission of such issues is a statement in itself.
Depressed by this national media landscape, I set off to work for foreign media outlets abroad, but there you run into similar problems. The admirable goal of such outlets backed by state money is to counter the western narrative that is projected around the world by the western media. Yet, their newsroom personnel are similarly plucked from the ranks of well-connected and do not wish to overthrow the apple cart. They simply regurgitate the government line (for example, during my time at TRT it often seemed like the entire goal of the newsroom was to enthusiastically back Türkiye’s efforts – along with those of the US – to topple the regime in Syria).
This is why Naked Capitalism is one of the best offerings there is. It is unaffected by outside interests, and truly means it when it says “fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics and power.” Naked Capitalism is only becoming more important as the press gets increasingly folded into The Blob. Naked Capitalism’s coverage – whether original or the amalgamation of voices scrutinizing powerful interests – is increasingly global, complete with well-informed commenters from around the world. So please support this increasingly rare and valuable endeavor by going to the Tip Jar and giving generously generously.
Speaking of the commentariat…
The Commentariat Is What Every Editor Should Aspire to Be
It’s like having dozens of seasoned editors on each individual post. There are comments that contribute historical tidbits that add to the depth of the piece. Every post becomes an evergreen as there are always comments that include interesting angles to explore for future posts, which expand upon the original. There’s always someone there to catch a factual slip up. And there are multiple voices there to set the record straight if a commenter tries to take the floor with inaccuracies.
When you couple Yves’ and Lambert’s, and now Nick’s and KLG’s unrivaled insight and tireless work with such thoughtful commentary, it truly makes Naked Capitalism a treasure – a site that should be required reading in journalism schools.
I feel fortunate to be able to contribute, and am excited to keep learning more from the commentariat. I hope you are too. Please give what you can.