Queries On Whatever The Hell This Is

back-to-the-future

Newsweek has posted what it calls “Dispatches From The Alternate Universe,” a collection of pre-written news stories and pundit pieces prepared in anticipation of a Hillary Clinton victory.

Some questions:

What is this? A joke? A lament? More comfort blanket solace for distraught progressives?

If this isn’t fake news, what is?

Were there any corresponding “Trump wins” pieces prepared before November 12?

If not, what does that tell us?

Is writing news stories before news occurs ethical? Doesn’t it automatically encourage and nourish bias?

Is Newsweek joining in the current Democratic denial—petitions, recounts, impeachment talk—or mocking it?

Is there a good reason to read this stuff?

__________________

Pointer: Twitchy

21 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

21 responses to “Queries On Whatever The Hell This Is

  1. deery

    I think it is both a joke and a lament. A wistful look at “what might have been.” But from what I’m to understand, news agencies pre-write news stories all the time, especially with things that known to be coming up. They do this with celebrity obituaries, filling in last minute details as necessary. They do it with political speeches, which is why politicians usually release their speeches to the media ahead of time, so they can pre-write the story, and aren’t doing it on the fly. So now we get to read the discarded “Hillary wins!” stories. The pre-written “Trump wins!” stories have already presumably been published the day after the election.

    • This doesn’t answer the question about whether or not the practice of pre-writing the “news” is ethical. This merely says that everybody does it.

      • deery

        I don’t think pre-writing is unethical. It is a method for writing stories. Like a lot of things, it can be used unethically, but I don’t think it, in and of itself, is inherently unethical.

    • A.M. Golden

      And it’s hilarious when they accidentally release the obit prematurely. I remember when the news outlets mistakenly announced the death of Joe DiMaggio….all those pre-written scrawls demonstrated how every writer thought he was being witty and original by utilizing, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”.

      • The Mary Tyler Moore episode about the Oldest Man in Minneapolis is, of course, the pop fiction Mecca for what can go wrong.

      • luckyesteeyoreman

        “…all those pre-written scrawls demonstrated how every writer thought he was being witty and original by utilizing, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”

        I was cringing, hunched-over in dread within five seconds of reading that, for the thought it provoked – dread for what might be pre-written someday, about our loss of Simon or Garfunkel (assuming both won’t die the same day). No. It’ll be worse. Some headline-writer will have to offer: “Sounds of Silence from Half of Iconic Duo.” Well, you saw it here first…

  2. JRH

    Is there a good reason to read this stuff?

    __________________No

  3. luckyesteeyoreman

    This, from the linked article, had me giggling:
    “Lots of outlets prepared for the opposite outcome. And so, thanks to Trump’s unexpected electoral victory, there is now a massive, unprecedented content graveyard of articles celebrating or analyzing Hillary Clinton’s would-be historic victory.”

    Translating the Newthink Left-speak: an “unexpected electoral victory” that nullifies an expected “historic victory” (by the Left’s darling) – where “expected” is expressed by the euphemism “would-be” – is NOT a historic victory. History is made ONLY by the Left – everyone WILL remember that, and WILL forget everything that challenges that.

  4. Rick M.

    I write for a baseball site and one of the occasional tasks was a game recap. I would create half the recap BEFORE the game was played. Then during the game do additions and updates. A few times it became frustrating with a surprise rally late in the game and I’d have to do a rework. I hated recaps and we no longer (thankfully) do them.

    I have a large collection of alternate history and love the genre ever since I read an article in – I believe – Look Magazine in the 1950s about if the south had won the civil war. Harry Turtledove has made a career out of that.

    I have not read the link, but will do so. I love this stuff and it can go on for the next four years or eight years. At least I have not seen any “What would Jesus do?”

  5. Frank Stephens

    As a retired newspaper publisher it is common to advance write obituaries of public officials, and rich and famous people.

    It is also common to write the background for possible upcoming breaking news, i.e. elections, the Super Bowl, or Oscars, before there is a clear winner. What we have witnessed throughout this election is a previously biased media (all media has some bias), now revealed as largely unethical and an embarrassment to its profession..

  6. luckyesteeyoreman

    I don’t think one can knock pre-writing by a free press as unethical, unless such a knock is coupled with knocking a fairly inherent and unavoidable condition in a society of free people as unethical also: competition.
    (I’ve been saving that preceding sentence as “fake news” for months.)
    I can’t put into words how hard it is for me to avoid writing sarcasm.

    • Frank Stephens

      I hope I correctly understood your comment. Journalism ethics and standards are comprised of a professional “code of ethics” or the “canons of journalism”. One tenet of that code states that ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect. I did not see much of that during this election cycle. A big part of the problem is that not all of the talking heads in our electronic media are trained journalists. Therefore they do not know of, nor do they adhere to, the journalist’s Code of Ethics.

      • Other Bill

        “Therefore they do not know of, nor do they adhere to, the journalist’s Code of Ethics.”

        Nor do the NYT or the WaPo judging from their coverage of the HRC coronation, er, the recent election, Frank. The Colombia School of Journalism also seems to be equally as MIA on this front given its pay for play deal with that environmental outfit.

      • Another part of the problem is comprised of incentives in our culture – incentives that cause even journalists who are “Code-trained” and who possess self-discipline to be ethical – to abandon ethics, and training, and even self-discipline and self-respect, for the sake of standing out above all other -casters for ratings and revenue, to obsess with building momentum for increased audience access and audience sustainment. The battle is won by whoever “hooks” the most folks with eyebait, earbait and/or clickbait, day in and day out, hour by hour, event by event, issue by issue. I guess I am admitting that there is a “dark side” to competition in media (and to competition in general) even within a free society.

        So-called thought leadership is so fiercely coveted and competed for in our society that individuals – who either do not covet it (as I believe the vast majority of us are), or, who are content to covet a sense of security derived from self-judging as “with” (or “not-with”) certain thought leaders (or even, just “with” perceived peers who are seen as “with” or not-with such leaders) – have little choice but to leave themselves vulnerable to being perceived in society as either rogues, or as “parishioners” of one ideology or another. For so many, one’s sense of identity becomes so invested in one groupthink or another that one cannot fathom, let alone permit, respect for persons not “with” one’s selected thought leadership.

        Perhaps most infuriating to me is the trend toward “multiple truth,” where a “in-group standard” is thought by persons in a group to be exclusive to themselves, but is applied as a double standard to persons outside the same group. But that’s wandering off the topic, perhaps. I don’t know. I just know that our American society faces a long, uphill battle to avoid permanent and calamitous fragmentation – and I strongly suspect that that battle may be futile.

  7. Chris Marschner

    How do you write a story in advance when you do not know the “who, what, where, when, and why.

    I can accept pundits who opine the why but until something actually occurs you can’t call it journalism – only fiction.

  8. Other Bill

    I think the publication of this trove of stories most significantly tells us how lazy journalists are. Using this “stuff” obviates the need to write, or pay for, actual “stuff.” I thinnk it verges upon signature significance.

    • wyogranny

      As if more signature significance were needed.
      They wrote this stuff and by heck they want to get paid for it. They don’t do work for free or redo their work. They wrote it and they intend to see it published. I see it all the time in the high school mind set. More “everybody gets a prize” bullshit.

      • Other Bill

        wg, I’d like to think any faculty supervisor of a high school newspaper would nix the kids’ running any similarly abortive stories. But it’s been almost forty years since I left teaching high school.

  9. Without going into the details, I heard one of the CBS News guys being interviewed a couple nights ago. He described some of their prep for election night — apparently they rehearsed calling the election. They practiced doing it for both sides, being given (fake) data so that they would be able to talk through calling the election results.

    It was an interesting glimpse into how the networks prepare for something such as this. It seemed (and still does) a perfectly legitimate exercise.

    As far as the Newsweek stuff — who cares. I would only be remotely interested if some of it actually made it into print (pixels) like the infamous “Dewey defeats Truman” fiasco.

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