Thursday, July 23, 2015

MSM exploitation of their own reading demographic

"I’m the mom whose encounter with an angry Maine diner owner went viral. Here’s what happened..." from Ann Althouse. She is commenting on an original article in the Washington Post. She says
An annoying person gets a forum in The Washington Post. I'm only interested in reading the comments, of which there are over 5,000 in less than one day.
Actually, she doesn't comment at all, she quotes the top three Washington Post comments which are all derisory of the mom, her cluelessness and her selfishness. It seems like the mom, Tara Carson, was seeking sympathy but instead has attracted instead all the pack-like condemnation of which the internet is capable. You have to wonder, does it take an internet storm for her to realize that inflicting a screaming child for forty minutes on a bunch of strangers is not considered well mannered behavior? And where is her home training?

But that's not the only article Althouse highlights. This time it is one from the New York Times. "Another article about an top-tier MBA-grad that is supposed to represent millennial women?". Again Althouse refrains from commenting herself, instead quoting a NYT commenter to the effect that privilege, class, and entitlement are blinding the NYT writers to how out of touch they appear to everyone else. The original article is More Than Their Mothers, Young Women Plan Career Pauses by Claire Cain Miller.

The embedded and otherwise invisible classism is referenced early in the article.
A variety of survey data shows that educated, working young women are more likely than those before them to expect their career and family priorities to shift over time.
Sure, it is interesting to track sociological trends and changes. But this isn't really new news at all. It has been going on for three decades and more. The limiting factor is in those four words, "educated, working young women." I.e. about 10% of the population, and definitely the richer 10% of the population.

The journalistic catering seems so blatant that it comes across as nauseating but I suspect that if you have sufficiently thick blinders, it is not so blatant.
The surveys highlighted that two generations after women entered the business world in large numbers, it can still be hard for women to work. Even those with the highest career ambitions are more likely than their predecessors to plan to scale back at work at certain times or to seek out flexible jobs.
Plenty of robust studies and surveys show that there is virtually no difficulty for women entering the business world and succeeding to exactly the same extent as their male peers. Again, not new news. This has been documented across the OECD for more than twenty years. The journalistic sleight of hand is that Miller is comparing apples and oranges. It is easy for women to work and succeed. It is hard to do that in combination with children. That is the rub of the issue. Miller is pandering to her audience by framing this as an unfair system doing a disservice to women in general. That is not the case. What Miller is trying to hide is that choices have consequences. Choose to have no children and you will do as well as your comparable male colleague. Choose to have children and have your spouse be the primary care giver, and you will do as well as your comparable male colleague. Choose to have children and go part time, take a pause, etc. and you will do as well as your comparable male colleague. Where you won't do as well is if you take a pause and then compare your outcomes to those of a colleague (male or female) who continues working. This is the journalistic deception and pandering.

Conservatives have long argued, rather cruelly, that the non-news portions of the New York Times are written for the interests of the 1%, wealthy, college educated (indeed graduate educated), metropolitan living, champaign liberal women. It does not help refute that contention that the two studies cited in the article are the career outcomes for Harvard and Wharton MBA women.

I think Althouse is on to something larger than simply citing two major newspapers making embarrassing arguments on behalf of well educated, upper class white collar women. Or at least, I see a point, whether or not it is the one to which Althouse might be alluding.

More in the NYT than in the WP, but I have sensed a trend in the past couple of years in both. I think it perhaps relates to news organizations becoming more and more attuned to website traffic. The more readers of an article, the more it should be attractive to advertisers. Within limits, as illustrated by the current travails of Gawker. That trend is towards clickbait articles such as the I’m the mom whose encounter with an angry Maine diner owner went viral. Here’s what happened by Tara Carson.

What I am interested in are the editorial ethics. An article such as this has virtually no news content or interest. It is, I suspect, readily predictable that it will generate a lot of views and that many of those viewing will have a negative take on the writer, Carson and will comment accordingly. Carson is presumably representative of the paper's target demographic, privileged, professional, urban, well educated, wealthy women. The editors are giving members of that demographic platforms to write articles about themselves which can be anticipated to excite derision and mockery.

I see why the papers want to do this from a commercial perspective. It's all click throughs and viewers and traffic volumes. But surely they should be exercising some moral judgment as well. It doesn't happen every day, but perhaps weekly, I will see either in the NYT or the Washington Post, or both, some article of this nature where your first thought is "What were they thinking writing this?" What was the author thinking writing something that would make them look so bad? What was the editor doing to let that article through? It just seems exploitive.

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