Admittedly, I come off as a curmudgeonly asshole – always looking for the dark cloud – searching for the mold on the civic peaches and cream served up by our “movers & shakers,” deeply suspicious of the true motivations of self-serving politicians, their highly-placed “friends,” and “do-gooders” with a profit motive.
I wear the badge of a “blogger/troll” with pride.
It’s true, I take a perverse pleasure in my role, always arguing the contrarian view, never content to accept a “press release,” carefully choreographed by a professional “public information (insulation?) officer,” always devoid of substance and padded with a confusing blend of pap, fluff, and bureaucratese – or accede to the preening and posturing of craven politicians who prove, time-and-again, where their true loyalties lay.
It is a satisfying sense of independence our hometown newspaper once enjoyed before it was gobbled up by an international mega-media conglomerate – then merged into the “nation-blanketing” print and digital behemoth now known as Gannett – a massive churn that publishes watered-down “newspapers” in hundreds of communities across some forty-seven states.
Gannett is now the largest newspaper company in the nation – dwarfing its distant competitors McClatchy and Tribune Publishing (which owns the Orlando Sentinel) – both of which were sold to private hedge funds within the past 18-months.
According to reports, Gannett has a current goal of 10-million digital subscribers by 2025.
Given the global reach, power, and control of his parent company – I found it odd that Pat Rice, editor of what remains of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, would use his Sunday screed to cut into Facebook (and Barker’s View) – calling for greater regulation of social media, essentially establishing a government filter on the competition of ideas (especially those which are critical of Mr. Rice and his product) as a means of silencing dissenting opinions and limiting the flow and content of information to a few massive media corporations.
Because in Mr. Rice’s world, the only “truth” we need to hear comes from Zuul the Gatekeeper.
Now, the “facts” are whatever Gannett tells us they are – because they are the only game in town.
With newsrooms having been gutted to ensure a profit, there are precious few journalists remaining with the autonomy to look past the four corners of a press release, let alone do the deep dive into the local issues that affect our lives and livelihoods.
In his recent essay, “Does Facebook need greater regulation? You bet it does,” Mr. Rice gives us a personal history of his formative years as a wide-eyed student of journalism – engaging in high-brow debates on the lofty topics of “…the marketplace of ideas, and the notion of gatekeepers.”
“Occasionally a professor would join us. I remember one of them suggesting that maybe the marketplace of ideas was better for having some responsible gatekeepers present to establish some guardrails to ensure accuracy and fairness. Having had a couple beers, I pushed back. The best thing for the marketplace of ideas is complete and unfettered freedom. Let the marketplace itself decide what’s fair and accurate, and who’s right or wrong.
Yes, I was that full of myself.”
Guess what, Pat? You still are.
Full of yourself, that is. . .
Now that We, The Little People have a soapbox – a means of connecting, exchanging ideas, and voicing an opinion (the “poison” as Rice calls it) in a forum beyond writing letters to the editor, limited to 250 words, which may or may not see the light of day depending upon the whims of an editorial board – now, as a handmaiden of the largest media conglomerate in the nation, Mr. Rice comes down on the side of censorship in the form of a “gatekeeper” wielding the full might of government regulation.
“(Some blogger/trolls criticize me or The News-Journal in one paragraph while quoting our fine reporting in the next paragraph. I guess, deep down, they appreciate content built on facts.) But the unfair and grossly inaccurate and meanspirilted (sic) comments Facebook and other social media allow in the name of making us all “friends,” and the damaging tribalism they’re created at the community and national level, and their willingness to allow foreign adversaries to plant false information – all of it making the owners of Facebook and their investors billions of dollars every quarter – have convinced me that regulation is needed.”
I’m not sure if Mr. Rice is talking about my goofy rants on the absurdities of local politics and his friends who control it (is there another “blogger/troll” I’m not aware of?) – or Gannett’s wholesale assault on anyone who questions their horribly slanted narrative – an exercise in pitting neighbor-against-neighbor for over a year with divisive rhetoric on the pandemic and beyond – openly fighting the culture wars across the breadth of a once valued local newspaper now wholly controlled by a massive media-holding company with no tolerance for dissenting opinions.
Look, if Mr. Rice is having a crisis of conscience because he sold his once idealistic soul to the devil of corporate media in a weird Faustian bargain – then used his lofty position to climb the local social ladder – well, that’s his problem.
As for me, I’ll continue to “calls ‘em like I sees um” and to hell with what petty politicians, hyper-sensitive newspaper editors, and their corporate masters think.
Join Barker’s View tomorrow on GovStuff Live! with Big John beginning at 4:00pm.
We’ll be taking your calls and discussing local issues on the Fastest Two-Hours in Radio!
Join us locally at 1380am The Cat, or on the web at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live Button).