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Jeremy Arnold @jdotarnold
, 26 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
Ten media outlets got my story about @elonmusk wrong. Let's talk about why many journalism-loving people still struggle with media trust. /thread
2/ To start, let’s be specific. When people say they distrust the media, I don't think most are devaluing/insulting all the great in-depth reporting out there. I think most are talking about the rapid-response/hot-take machine.
3/ I love quality journalism. I keep 2-3 paid subscriptions at a time. Heavy consumer (especially of longform). I pass on the best to others. I think that's my civic duty (often an enjoyable one). But then there’s shoddy journalism...
4/ Problem #1: What’s the line between news and editorial now? It’s only obvious with a few outlets. Some seem to have none. How do I know if what I’m reading is hard news that’s been fact-checked?
5/ Problem #2 is internet/financial dynamics leading contributors/reporters to write very quickly about subjects they're not always experts on, often with insufficient research help and editorial input. Clickshare or bust.
6/ I've been writing about these problems in my small corner for years. Then, in July, I became part of the story. I woke up to see that Musk had retweeted something I'd written on Quora, using it as context for his apology to Thai rescue hero Vern Unsworth.
7/ Reading how some outlets framed what I wrote was surreal. I was widely accused of defending Musk. Guess they didn't see (re: slur) where I said "gross tactic", “we’re right to condemn", “terrible judgment”, etc. — or where I said Unsworth should be helped to sue!
8/ I also suggested that preferable option would be for Musk to apologize and give a meaningful donation to a charity of Unsworth's choice “to begin his amends”.
9/ Now, yes, I also said that Unsworth provoked Musk. Why? Because he absolutely did, which is an ingredient in the full story. We can make an empathetic case as to why he did (exhausted + rumors + missing key info re: Stanton). But that's not exoneration either.
10/ Now, does Unsworth doing something bad undo his significant good? Of course not! But the same logic applies to Musk. The idea that his help was useless / a PR stunt is baseless. All evidence points the other way (loads of it).
11/ Does that mean two wrongs were equal? No! Musk’s response was worse. Hence why I said Unsworth should be helped and Musk should apologize, reflect, and make donation. (Not arguing contributions were equal either, but Musk and team did way more than most know about.)
12/ Why did I write about this? Because no one else had. Zero outlets dug into the PR stunt narrative (which Unsworth didn’t invent) or put Musk’s slur in context until Vox did two days after me. I'm not a journalist. I was just pointing out how journalism erred here.
13/ How did media respond? Zero really questioned whether coverage was off-target or wrong. Zero wrestled with any of my core arguments. They either rushed by (most) or misrepresented me (10+). Many individual journalists on Twitter were also snarky/dismissive.
14/ I’m a writer, not a journalist. So? What matters is if I was right. Zero of them really dug into that. Also seems that none of them bothered to review case to see if/how two bad themes in original reporting went viral while truth was putting its pants on.
15/ I'll link a post at end that gets into extensive detail for any who want to check my work (I’m even offering rewards for corrections), but gist is that entire case rests on two points. Other things matter, but those two are foundation for the rest.
16/ Claim #1: Musk’s attempts to help were primarily about PR value. Claim #2: When Musk tweeted back at BBC on July 10, it was his hurt ego speaking because his sub wasn't going to be used.
17/ I think many misunderstood #1 because they wanted to misunderstand. Tribal thinking. As for #2, they totally overlooked what the BBC said in their linked liveblog. There’s also a question of how they interpreted/presented the “impractical” comment.
18/ In reality, an exhausted Musk who had donated loads of workers, tech, and time to help cause was treated unfairly by BBC + others, then later by exhausted Unsworth. He eventually snapped and lashed out.
19/ Point of my original piece was putting his comment into a context. Not to exonerate, but to explore. There's a difference between considering factors in sentencing and questioning the verdict. This shouldn’t be controversial. This should be norm. Else what are we doing?
20/ In summary, I wrote a post because major media didn't. Instead of weighing and considering, they ignored or else misrepresented. To this writing, zero have publicly reexamined. Hence why I decided to write sequel.
21/ I love good journalism. I invested huge chunks of my 20s educating/mentoring young people to see its value and read/think critically. Super important to me. I'm the last guy to devalue institution or think everything is fake news. But some problems are real.
22/ My hope is that media will take it to heart this time. If any want to mock/dismiss me again, that’s fine (please don’t attack/harass them). I'll answer criticisms and ignore barbs. But I want to believe they'll rise above and give it a fair shake. This is so important.
23/ If we want to reach full growth, good journalism is indispensable. Truth is light. We ought to be like the Greek heroes who asked of Zeus: “Only deliver us from the dark mist. Give us to see, and we ask no more. If we must face our end, let it be in the light.”
24/ Now, sure, distribution mechanics and business models are hard problems. But I can’t understand any argument that suggests the status quo is ok. History says trust is necessary; evidence says trust is plummeting. Media response here was perfect example of missing the point.
25/ Anyway, here's a link to the full story. I invite any/all to read/respond. I don't mind being challenged/corrected (I’m even rewarding corrections!). But I did my homework. Please also do yours.
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