Michael Massing took a look at digital journalism and asked, how good is it? Maybe he should have asked, why does it suck so much? In his second missive on digital media dredge for The New York Review of Books, Massing is eager to keep his appointment with the editors at Buzzfeed, asking what these millennials, hooked up to their Twitter IVs, with their cats gifs and listicles, have figured out about serious journalism. The answer: pay for everything with sponsored content. Moving on. On his way out, he points to some other digital dead ends: longform writing, citizen journalism, and the appeal of the Ezra Klein’s of the world. But what of Journalism? Is it dead? Massing hopes the Internet’s potential to cast a light on how systems of power operate will resuscitate the good work of Good Journalism. “The Internet, with its capacity for offering regular posts and updates and for chronicling links and collaborations,” he writes, “would seem ideally suited to exploring such matters and exposing the hidden wellsprings of power in Washington.” The Intercept’s has all the ingredients necessary for such a calling, but it’s unclear whether Greenwald’s watchdog journalism will survive the publications’ internal squabbles. Massing also offers ProPublica as a promising answer, but ends up wet dreaming a database that “[documents] the links between money, power, and ideas,” to promote financial transparency and serve as a resource for investigative journalists. The good news: it’s called Little Sis, and it already exists. The rub is less on how technology can serve reporting on financial transparency. Rather, how can digital publications, who themselves are mired with questionable links between editorial direction and advertisement revenue, themselves promote, and illicit, such transparency within their own dealings? Is it much help for Buzzfeed to pour money into it’s newsroom if it willing deletes posts that make advertisers nervous? If digital journalism runs on sponsored content, and if journalists are meant to be society’s watchdogs, who watches the watchers?
Fuck That Noise indulges skepticism. It doesn’t buy into your bullshit, but it doesn’t write it off either. Instead it’s leaves you with more questions than answers.