Journamalism (noun): animal, minimal, journalistic; suggestive of barely articulated and uninformed opinions; a sorry state of news gathering emblematic of the current domination by a punditocracy of a regulatory landscape wherein, “even assuming, arguendo, that each of the statements alleged in the Complaint could be proved true or false, no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact.”
The Associated Press reported on April 18 that at least eight defendants arrested and charged with crimes from the January 6 Capitol riot have claimed to be reporters or documentary filmmakers working on the first draft of history as journalists. And why not? With nearly half a century of technological advancement and media deregulation blurring the definition of journalism, short of a real life “Get Out of Jail Free” card, it is a worthwhile argument for staying out of prison.
Samuel Montoya, an Infowars video editor, was arrested Tuesday [April 13] in Texas on charges including impeding passage through the Capitol grounds. Montoya spoke on an Infowars show about witnessing a police officer shoot and kill a woman inside the Capitol.
Montoya also recorded and narrated a video while walking through the building, occasionally referring to himself as a journalist while wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat….
Montoya told a judge on Wednesday that he works for Infowars and mentioned that Jones also was in Washington on Jan. 6. Jones has not been charged in the riot, but Montoya asked if returning to work or contacting his boss could violate his pretrial release conditions.
“I certainly understand what you’re asking because this was also a news event and you work in the news or information business, but this is a line that you’re going to have to be careful of on your own,” U.S. District Judge Susan Hightower said.
In the wreckage of the regulatory standards of the broadcast spectrum era across the media landscape, calls persist for the return of public oversight; like the Equal Time provision of the Fairness Doctrine, whereby radio and television news desks were compelled toward ethical journalistic discipline by the strings attached to their broadcast licenses granted by the Federal Communications Commission.
By now, unfortunately, such regulatory oversight is a historical relic. The problem now is how to hold infotainment media to account for passing off cheap propaganda as “news gathering.” But first, we must identify and admit that there is a problem. While electronic media were dependent upon the FCC for broadcast licenses in the broadcast era, the ascent of cable and digital media exposes the lack of incentive for the news business to comply with ethical journalistic discipline while under cover of the broadest interpretations of first amendment “press” freedoms and a history of case law regarding cable companies.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787, that “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” he referred to what was then the only singular news medium. By now, the plural word “media” has been shrunk down to singularity while a new expression has risen to describe the media landscape’s prospects of sustaining an informed electorate: the news desert. According to the research, over 200 American counties have no local newspaper while half the counties in the United States have only one, usually a weekly, paper. Only about a third of Americans prefer to get their news from television, while more than half choose digital devices for news — and a little more than half of those are informed via social media apps. While newspapers are at least somewhat represented in social media on digital devices, those who prefer television news are rapidly aging out of the news consumer cohort.
Congress has struggled to regulate cable television (CATV) since the Communications Act of 1934. Fifty years later, the 1984 Cable Act defined jurisdictional boundaries among federal, state and local authorities for regulating cable television systems. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 created, according to the FCC website, the “deregulatory national policy framework designed to accelerate rapidly private sector deployment of advanced telecommunications and information technologies and services to all Americans by opening all telecommunications markets to competition” that we know today, an infotainment landscape wherein media ownership has consolidated and ethical journalistic discipline has fractured. Where once there was accountability to public oversight, limiting media consolidation and establishing requirements for editorial diversity, now there remains an entrepreneurial media landscape with all the ethical grounding of The Wolf of Wall Street.
Arizona’s Republican Secretary of State, way back on November 30, 2020, had certified the election results where President Joe Biden narrowly won the state. Now, the state’s Republican legislative majority has subpoenaed the 2.1 million recounted and state-audited ballots from Maricopa County, the state’s most populous and minority populated county, for a partisan audit that has been outsourced to a Big “Stop The Steal” Liar named Doug Logan. Logan runs a company called Cyber Ninjas that the Arizona Senate is paying $150,000 and One America News Network host Christina Bobb helped raise at least another $150,000 for the exercise while OANN provides the exclusive livestream of the process, such as it is.
“Real reporters, meanwhile, are being told by the audit team that they can serve as observers, but they can’t bring in notebooks or cameras,” reported Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic.
Ideally, the news media is a mostly private industry with a Constitutional mandate to maintain an informed electorate with a disciplined practice of ethical standards of journalism. The sad reality is journamalism: a journalistic performance of animal instincts with minimal ethics.