What's your vision for rabble?

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MegB
What's your vision for rabble?

Hey folks,

rabble.ca is in the midst of incredible change. We upgraded the site (yes, we still have a few bugs to work out), but really we're looking for feedback on where we should go from here. We want your input, we NEED your input. So what's your vision for rabble for the future? We're serious about steering rabble into the future and because we are supported by individuals like you, we think your opinion on the direction that rabble has to embrace is vital. Your ideas are seriously considered by the staff of rabble and all its supporters, so please do contribute to this thread. It's that important.

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MegB

Bump!

6079_Smith_W

Haven't forgotten about it. On the other hand I don't have any specific recommendations other than to continue keeping the focus on a range of news perspectives that might not be getting proper coverage in the established media.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Personally, I tend to use babble a lot, and visit rabble pretty rarely, so I don't really have any strong feelings about where rabble should be trying to go.

But I wonder if a short survey might better help guide the hands on the tiller?  Sometimes it's easier to have (or form) an opinion on very concrete questions like "should rabble.ca be a primary news producer (i.e. with reporters in the field) or an aggregator for the best progressive news on the web?"

The question as currently asked is similar to the classic philosophical question "what shall we do and how shall we live?" -- very smart people still don't agree on a good, concrete answer for that one.

MegB

Mr. Magoo wrote:

But I wonder if a short survey might better help guide the hands on the tiller?  Sometimes it's easier to have (or form) an opinion on very concrete questions like "should rabble.ca be a primary news producer (i.e. with reporters in the field) or an aggregator for the best progressive news on the web?"

We're actually doing both (have reporters in the field and do reprints). Should we be focusing on one over another do you think? If so, there are budgetary concerns. Paying for original, timely news articles costs money, and given that we're supported by donors and partnerships with progressive organizations and not government or corporate funds, we really operate on a shoestring.

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Well, my $0.02 on that would be to focus on aggregating the best (at least until there's enough funding/revenues to realistically be able to generate new and important stories -- not trying to knock Karl out of a job here!).

To use Karl as a quick example, it's great that he can cover the Ottawa/Parliament Hill beat on the spot, in person.  But I think the value of his reportage isn't so much in his exclusive discovery of anything but in his analysis of it.  I expect he could do just about as good a job of that by hitting Hansard, while leaving lots of resources for other things.

In fact, now that I think about it a little, it seems to me that much of the value of rabble in general is not about "what happened in the world today?" but in "what does it mean (for Canada/workers/women/minorities/etc.)?" 

So, less "Peter Mansbridge lite" and more "Noam Chomsky lite".  :)

6079_Smith_W

... perhaps with the difference that Noam Chomsky represents one perspective. A news service should avoid falling into that too much; and I think Rabble has done a pretty good job of showing some range of opinion within the umbrella of "alternative".

I have seen some cry heresy over articles they think don't belong on Rabble, but I think if news doesn't present that range or challenge people it isn't doing its job. Besides when you consider divides like those who support partisan politics and those who do not, to other ideological issues, there is always going to be some news or opinion angle some disagree with at least some of the time. Ultimately that is a good thing.

I think media which get too single-minded, or put some cause above the work of journalism wind up losing credibility in the end.

(sorry it isn't much of a practical suggestion, but at least it is a theoretical vote of confidence)

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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... perhaps with the difference that Noam Chomsky represents one perspective.

Some suggest Mansbridge does too.

I'm just using the two as examples of "journalism" versus "analysis of journalism".

MegB

Well, the MSM perpetuates the fallacy of "objective journalism". rabble does not. It really IS possible to be both an activist and a journalist. You can write a story using facts that conform to a narrow and ideological editorial policy depending on which corporate demands are to be heard, or you can write a story using facts that step outside that kind of editorial policy. It's rabble's job to get those stories out there, to amplify the issues of those not generally heard in the MSM. 

6079_Smith_W

MegB wrote:

Well, the MSM perpetuates the fallacy of "objective journalism". rabble does not. It really IS possible to be both an activist and a journalist.

Absolutely you can be an activist journalist, but only if you remember the first responsibility is the journalism, even if you are dedicated to a cause. Otherwise it is just propaganda.

I am thinking of Glenn Greenwald, who when he is on his game is an important media voice. When he lets partisanship get the better of him (as he did, for example, when he started comparing Charlie Hebdo to Der Stuermer) the result is kind of sad.

But again, I raised the point as a compliment to Rabble, in that it does have differing perspectives under the alternative umbrella. An activist journalist has one voice. A news service is something more complex than that. I think it is important that it maintain that range of opinion and coverage, especially since I have on occasion read comments that some things do not belong here.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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You can write a story using facts that conform to a narrow and ideological editorial policy depending on which corporate demands are to be heard

Those "corporate demands" aren't the only demands, though.  There are always corresponding ideological demands, typically embodied by things like "Whose side are YOU on????".

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or you can write a story using facts that step outside that kind of editorial policy.

Sounds great, but could that story be subject to its own set of demands?  Not "corporate" demands, by definition. 

But what if that story were to suggest that "well, OK, the corporations might have a point here, and here's why".  Is that "good" journalism, or is it "sell-out" journalism that gives comfort and succour to the corporate side?

I think of this as being a little like employment equity.  The goal there is to increase awareness of the value of non-white, non-male job applicants who are under-represented, and to try to level the playing field for them.  But not specifically to never, ever hire a white male ever again.

I'd love to see rabble follow the lead of other sources like Huffington, or the New Yorker, or Rolling Stone, and present articles that are somewhat balanced (or at least, not visibly UNbalanced) while at the same time taking a position.  It's the best kind of journalistic writing there is. 

Let's never fall into the habit of rejecting an argument that acknowledges that there's another side to that argument, and that it's not solely populated by idiots and quislings.

 

6079_Smith_W

I don't see anything wrong with advocacy journalism (any piece that doesn't have some point doesn't have much value, IMO), or any point in moving toward a mushy middle. It is the whole purpose of this site, IMO.  Besides, even under the mainstream umbrella you will still find plenty of good articles amongst the trash.

But any discriminating reader already knows that if you want a wider range of perspectives you read a wider range of sources - something people should be doing anyway. No need for Rabble to model themselves on  other media (especially HuffPo).

I was talking about differences on this site on things like party politics and the electoral system, the big Russia vs the West question, and differences of opinion on sex work and gender, to name a couple. I think Rabble should continue to accomodate articles from all sides of those issues.

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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I don't see anything wrong with advocacy journalism (any piece that doesn't have some point doesn't have much value, IMO)

Well, as I say, if you read a good New Yorker article, you won't be left wondering "whose side are you on??".

But it doesn't read like anything that could support the other side has been intentionally omitted either.

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But any discriminating reader already knows that if you want a wider range of perspectives you read a wider range of sources

I guess it was my suggestion that those sources are already out there, already publically available, and already not needing rabble money.

The analysis of what those front-line sources report is, IMHO, where rabble finds its niche.

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I was talking about differences on this site on things like party politics and the electoral system, the big Russia vs the West question, and differences of opinion on sex work and gender, to name a couple. I think Rabble should continue to accomodate articles from all sides of those issues.

I suppose I agree (see above).

But it kind of looks like you're talking about babble, not rabble.  That's my primary interest, too.  But maybe I got it wrong?

 

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

In response to Magoo's argument in favour of 'balance' in journalism, I'd like to quote Desmond Tutu:

Desmond Tutu wrote:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

OK, but I'm not saying to any journalist "say they're both equally right".

But there are always two sides, even if you only agree with one of them (and someone else agrees with the other).

I'm not promoting "neutrality".  I'm promoting the idea that there's always the other side, and they're not just some elephant with its foot on the tail of a mouse.

 

quizzical

no. you are promoting it magoo.

we get plenty of the the other side in the news feeds we're bombarded with minute by minute of the day.

i don't want to hear the racist crap pretending to be news here for a "balanced approach" .

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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no. you are promoting it magoo.

Balanced journalism isn't "neutral" journalism.  You can write very strongly in favour of evolution, while still acknowledging creationists, and at no point throwing in the towel and saying "well, I guess we'll just never know".

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i don't want to hear the racist crap pretending to be news here for a "balanced approach" .

Do you want a "balanced approach" with regard to trans-women?  Or just the prevailing dogma of "if you believe you're a woman, you're a woman"?

Caissa

I concur with Magoo. Balanced jounalism does not mean neutral.

6079_Smith_W

Sure, but you don'r take fairness to the point of false equivalence. One can advocate a position - feminist, anti-racist, anti-poverty, pro-LGBT, pro-worker - and still be fair. Fair doesn't mean you write the position of the other side, it means you give them an opportunity to answer, and it also means you are honest enough to be self-critical.

When you are writing a piece about WalMart busting unionizing efforts and forcing workers to use foodbanks you don't have to write about their responsibility to their shareholders or how they are so nice to people by letting them park their campers in their lots. You give them a chance to explain why they treat their workers that way. That is fair.

As for slant, I care less about that than I do about fairness. If a story leaves out something important that amounts to deception that is one thing, but I don't have a problem with media writing a story from a right, left, or centre perspective. All those perspectives give me an angle on the story, and I don't see that everyone should be expected to try and cover things from the centre. That is a false ideal anyway, since we all have biases.

 

Caissa

Nobody said "fairness"; they wrote " balanced". My academic background is in history. Even when I write from a specific pov, I need to deal with alternate pov's, if only to critique and dismiss them.  Given your Walmart example, a balanced view would acknowledge the reasons why Walmart behaves as it does, if only to decry them and use them as a critique of capitalism.

6079_Smith_W

Yes, but in a media context when many people say "balanced" (at least in a critical way) they mean presenting all perspectives, not giving people an opportunity to answer an accusation. Again, when media takes that to the point of giving a soapbox to someone who advocates genocide (as CBC did and apologized for) it is a problem.

Especially with alternative media the focus should be on raising those voices which are shut out of the mainstream and right wing media.

In theory this can seem kind of complicated, but in practice a lot of it just comes down to common sense. And really, when you have a whole media landscape of different perspectives, the idea that any one writer should cover all positions, especially those which already have lots of money behind them, is kind of absurd, and even counter productive.

Anyway, I expect this 101 discussion is off on a tangent from what we were being asked for.

Caissa

Actually, I don't think it's tangential. Magoo and I have made it clear what we mean by the word, "balanced".  It is a part of what we believe the vision should be.

6079_Smith_W

Sure. Presumably that balance doesn't extend to running articles about why it is a good thing to build Trump's wall, and buy  billion-dollar fighter jets, and ignoring the other things that effort could go toward, and who is being harmed by it.

As I said, you do in fact choose a position even when you think you are not.

 

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

In the "What do  you mean by 'Progressive'?" thread, you said:

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Were the Progressive Conservatives progressive in some things? Yes they were, even though some would call them right-wing fascists.

... and that's a great example of what I mean by "balanced". 

6079_Smith_W

In that I'd probably agree with you. Not the same as broadening the mandate or perspective of a media outlet until it is wishywashied out of shape.

But I suspect your real crux is about things becoming team sports, where one cannot admit that our side may not be progressive in all things. Again, in that I'd agree good media has to be critical even of movements it supports. But like the mainstream media's false equivalency trap, there is a point at which that clouds the issue, or is just concern trolling.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
But I suspect your real crux is about things becoming team sports, where one cannot admit that our side may not be progressive in all things. Again, in that I'd agree good media has to be critical even of movements it supports. But like the mainstream media's false equivalency trap, there is a point at which that clouds the issue, or is just concern trolling.

I would not suggest that what I've called balance means "teach both theories", or that it means that 50% of any article has to support the other side, or even that a journalist needs to go out of their way to make an opponent's argument for them, or to score an "own goal".

But imagine a rabble columnist writing about Canadian political parties.  When it comes to the PC/CPC, they could remind us how the party has always been made up of greedy, priveleged people who hate poor people and hijabs, and want neverending tax breaks, or they could acknowledge, as you did, that Conservatives used to be principled and ask "what happened?"

I guess I find that second approach less predictable, less sophomoric, more credible, and most of all more persuasive.