What exactly is “Yahoo News”?
Earlier today two documents were put on a server accessible by those on the internet. One document described first hand a news conference given by Julian Assange from the second floor of the Ecuadoran embassy in London. The other was a first hand description of a performance by others, having taken place at roughly the same time, by Beyoncé and others at the United Nations in New York. Both documents were signed by “Dylan Stableford, Yahoo! News.” If you click on the picture next to his by-line you will see he claims the title of “Senior Media Reporter.”
There is no dateline on either document, and clearly Mr. Stableford could not have witnessed both events. He probably witnessed neither. But he makes no mention of sources. Or how he obtained any of his information. Yet Yahoo calls this “News.” Is this journalism?
You may pull on your chin and say, well, yes, but the anchor of CBS Evening News describes things he couldn’t have possibly witnessed, and CBS News is considered journalism. Yes, but we know that CBS employs reporters who actually look at things and, you know, “report.” It’s true that they employ far fewer than they used to. And it is probably also true that they spend more time “reporting” official statements and less time actually investigating, but that I can’t affirm, for I have no evidence aside from personal feeling. Perhaps Mr. Stableford could report on that.
Moreover, we know that CBS News has a managing editor (in fact if not in title) and we know it claims to subscribe to some form of a journalistic sense of professionalism or ethics, whatever you may call it. We know no such thing of Yahoo. Neither document has any masthead from Yahoo and I have been unable to find the editorial board of the organization.
The name Yahoo itself could hardly be less designed to engender trust in its “reporting.” Yahoos are the filthy, repulsive creatures resembling humans that we encounter in the fourth part of Gulliver’s Travels by Swift. Perhaps, however, it is part of New Media’s transparency to name itself after unintelligent, mutant subhumans. We can therefore not claim to be surprised at their productions. Or perhaps they use that description for their consumers. Who knows? In any event, they have a particularly low regard for their “news” customers.
All of this would seem to be trivial grumbling about the state of our public conversations except for one thing I noticed. Mr. Stableford in the article on Julian Assange seems to present Mr. Assange’s conference with a kind of sneer. You know the tone: the holier-than-thou tone the “real” journalists; who sit around a mahogany table somewhere in the cheap rent area of Washington, D.C., and look into the camera like they know something we never will.. The beltway pundits (as they like to be known), however, take this tone so that they can prove their loyalty to their government masters. In this rare case both Republicans and Democrats agree that Mr. Assange is a threat to the Republic. The pundits can therefore be quite smug in their condescension toward Mr. Assange, knowing advertisers will not cancel and viewers will not boycott. I suppose Mr. Stableford is aping their tone as a way of covering himself and his fellow Yahoos with the prestige of these august journalists. Perhaps this will move him into the double digits on the Mediaite Influence Index. Let’s hope.
The problem is Mr. Assange and his organization actually uncovered and published a trove of hidden material about the inner workings of our government and many of its friends. He exposed war crimes by our armed forces and showed that in many respects our leaders act differently than they claim to us, their constituents. This is what used to be called “journalism.” What is the name for what Mr. Stableford does?
Photo Source: Undated, “Dylan Stableford”, Mediate Power Grid.