What is the value of news values?

Tony Harcup, author of the new book “What’s The Point Of News?” discusses the ever more pressing need for a shift towards ethical journalism

Chief among the values that ought to guide news reporting is that it should serve the public good by providing people with societally important and useful information, emphasising the social utility of news for an audience comprising not just isolated individuals but (potentially) active citizens. Amid the horror stories and the quirky tales, alongside the sensational and the entertaining, there is an urgent need for what might be thought of as socially enabling and democratically empowering information that strengthens active citizenship by promoting understanding and imaginative empathy.

In these highly politicised times, it’s difficult to overstate the influence journalism has on our perception of events around the world. There has long been the temptation for journalists to skew their reporting towards sensationalism and outrage, but it feels like now more than ever we need to step back from the brink.

This Video Will Make You Angry.

Whilst sifting through my news feed this morning I was reminded of this gem by CPG Grey on the way the way the media weaponises our emotions in order to get us to share their content.

Just as germs exploit weak points in your immune system, so do thought germs exploit weak points in your brain; aka emotions. Once inside, thought germs that press emotional buttons get their hosts to spread them more – measurably more…

…Awe is pretty good which is why websites that construct thought germs like biological weapons, arm them with titles like “7 Whatever’s That Will Blow Your Mind”, or “The Shocking Secret Behind This…Thing”. But anger is the ultimate edge for a thought germ. Anger bypasses your mental immune system and compels you to share it like nothing else.

Absolutely brilliant.

"Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness."
NYC Community Education Council meeting devolves into chaos amid accusations of racism.

There’s a lot of talk about teachable moments lately. But it’s not every day that you see one and a half teachable hours. Especially from a group of teachers.

The video above is of a NYC Community Education Council meeting which quickly devolves into a shouting match laced with accusations of racism, privilege and demands for apologies form making those accusations. Almost nothing that could actually benefit a school or improve a child’s education is discussed.

Which side of this debate you find yourself sympathising will inevitably be a reflection of your biases. None of us saw the moment they’re arguing about, so none of us can say who is in the right and how much so. 

What we can say though, without any shadow of a doubt, is that this isn’t the way to have these conversations. The video should start at around the 40:22 mark, where the fireworks start in earnest, but the whole thing is worth watching and thinking very seriously about.

A Farewell To The Truth.

The truth is having a hard time at the moment. In fact, in the interest of telling the truth, things haven’t been great for a while. And as much as I hate to pile on, it has no one to blame but itself. The truth is like an unruly employee who occasionally does great work,…continue reading on Medium…
Does Mercedes’ black F1 paint job really help combat racism?

The new Formula 1 season finally gets underway this season in Austria, and if you’re paying attention to the cars in front, you’ll have noticed that Mercedes’ “silver arrows” have been repainted an extremely stylish black. Here’s what team boss Toto Wolff has to say:

Racism and discrimination have no place in our society, our sport or our team: this is a core belief of Mercedes. But having the right beliefs and the right mindset isn’t enough if we remain silent.

We wish to use our voice and our global platform to speak up for respect and equality, and the Silver Arrow will race in black for the entire 2020 season to show our commitment to greater diversity within our team and our sport.

I hate to be negative about any attempt to highlight and combat racism, but other than making the cars look super awesome, what does this do to fight racism exactly? Aren’t there countless organisations that could have done some real good with the (very likely) millions it cost Mercedes to redesign and repaint their cars livery?

Couldn’t this money have been funnelled into young driver programs to give children who don’t come from rich families the chance to succeed at the highest léveles of a notoriously financially elitist sport? I mean…the cars look great! I just wonder if it’s still more important to be good than to look good.

Are we too self centred to be reasonable?

Today I was introduced to a new phrase “Trump Derangement Syndrome (or TDS for short).

If I were to try to “steelman” TDS, I’d say it was the habit of attacking Donald Trump or believing that he’s bad for America and the world, because of a blind acceptance of left wing ideals, or of the mainstream media’s biased, anti-Trump narrative.

I discovered this term in a comment thread where a number of people were saying that the fact that Sam Harris suffered so badly from TDS that it was unbearable to listen to him anymore. They cited a conversation Sam had with Dilbert creator Scott Adams as a particularly strong example.

I’m not sure if it would be fair to describe Scott as a Trump supporter, but he has certainly been something of a Trump apologist at times. And given that I was intrigued to hear what Sam was being so unreasonable about, and I’ve long been trying to gain some actual insight into why people support Trump in any way, I decided to give the conversation a listen. I’ve linked it above if you feel like doing the same.

Whether you find this discussion to be a staggering effort by Scott to justify Donald Trumps lies and/or ignorance, or a staggering failure by Sam to look at Donald Trump’s presidency through any filter but his personal dislike of the man, is likely to be based on your existing political leanings. But I did find this statement that Scott makes near the beginning of the discussion interesting:

Generally I don’t have a firm position on the big international stuff, and on the smaller local stuff, the domestic stuff, I’m in favour of people doing whatever they wanna do as long as it doesn’t affect me.

This too can be interpreted in a number of different ways. On the one hand, it could be seen as the expression of a “live and let live” policy. A view that people should be free to live their lives as long as they don’t harm others.

On the other hand, it could be taken to demonstrate that Scott really doesn’t care about what happens in the rest of the world as long as he is okay. Certainly it seems impossible to be ambivalent about Trump’s attitude towards the truth, immigrants, minorities, his staff, and even his own wife, unless your only concern about these things is how they affect you.

I’m not trying to make a moral judgment here per se. I’m trying to point out that the job of creating a better society (which is ostensibly a political leader’s job and to a lesser extent the job of each voter) has to, by definition, include a willingness to concern yourself with things that don’t affect you personally. Without this will, it’s possible to wait and see, or justify anything, because you don’t really care about the consequences as long as you can be confident they won’t affect you.

Maybe this is the reason for the starkness of the divide between us politically at the moment. It seems like the political fringe on the left and right (which is increasingly becoming the political mainstream) is arguing against the things that do, or that they fear will affect them, and wilfully ignoring the things that affect people that are not then.

As much as I disagreed (and was occasionally exasperated) with Scott during this conversation, I feel like the way he’s thinking is being employed by people all the way across the political spectrum. The blind spots were seeing in the thinking of otherwise intelligent people don’t seem to be explainable in another way.

Language and Racism.

A peculiar feature of the truth is that it’s funny. Actually, wait. The truth is clearly not always funny. What I mean is that there’s a certain joy that reliably accompanies the truth. And this joy will, under the right circumstances, make people laugh. Great comedians all understand this. The Richard Pryors, the George Carlins,…continue reading on Medium…
Would you have been on the right side of history during slavery?

A thought-provoking Twitter thread on how morality changes with time, perspective, and our proximity to the consequences of taking action.

I sometimes ask students what their position on slavery would have been had they been white and living in the South before abolition. Guess what? They all would have been abolitionists! They all would have bravely spoken out against slavery, and worked tirelessly against it.

Making sense of the Buddhist idea that the self doesn’t exist.

If we’re really being mindful as we are hearing the bell, we see that for however long the sound lasts—maybe 15 seconds, or 20 seconds, or 30 seconds—within that time, there is constant change going on. It’s nuances of sound: vibration, intensity, pitch. So many different things are happening within what we would call “the sound of a bell.” So we’re really seeing the changing nature on a much more refined level.

And the same thing happens with the familiar meditation object…the breath. Normally we go, “Oh, take an in-breath, take an out-breath”—as if each of them is a single unit. But when we’re really being mindful, we see that even within an in-breath, there are hundreds of sensations that are happening. And the quieter we get, we tune in, we refine our perception.

It’s something I call NPMs, Noticings Per Minute. In the beginning, our NPMs are pretty low, maybe 10 or 20. But as we cultivate awareness and mindfulness, the NPMs go way up and we see within a breath, or within a step, so many different changing sensations happening

And we also see the changing nature in our minds, the rapidity of thoughts arising and passing.

Well worth a read. It’s not often that something like attention is described in such a precise yet relatable way.