This is a thread about how journalists decide what is “news” and what isn’t. Anyone shaping the news and anyone consuming the news should understand who decides what counts as news, how they decide it, and what determines what they say about it. Here, I ask a few questions:
This thread is inspired by the gap in what mainstream media treats as urgent and what are the greatest threats to human safety, well-being, and survival.
For example, air pollution kills *10 million people* each year and causes untold additional illness and suffering. It rarely features in daily news stories. Why?
Instead, daily news is dominated by “crime” stories. But even these are “crime” stories of a certain kind: they aren't stories about the many air pollution crimes. They are the kind of "crimes" publicized by police press releases, usually involving poor people.
Much of deadly U.S. air and water pollution is also criminal, but “law enforcement” chooses to ignore it, and thus so do most journalists.
Why is this important? What the media treats as urgent helps to determine what the public thinks is urgent. It shapes what (and who) we are afraid of.
A thought experiment: Imagine if every day for the last 25 years every newspaper and tv station had urgent “breaking news” stories and graphics about the *thousands of deaths the night before* from air/water pollution, climate change, or poverty?
Take the frenzy over “retail shoplifting” from big corporate stores, which has taken over local/national news. Same reporters don't cover the $137 million in corporate wage theft *every day,* including by the same companies whose press releases about shoplifting they now quote.
The media’s frenzy has led to emergency actions by many politicians, who are feeling intense political pressure to pass laws, assign thousands more police, increase police/prison budgets, and project an urgency they have *never* shown for wage theft:…
Wage theft is more devastating than all other property crime combined. And unlike theft from big companies, wage theft is *by corporations* from workers, many of whom struggle to meet basic necessities of life. It makes people homeless and kids go without food and winter coats.
Did you know that mostly bank fraudulent overdraft fees amount to basically the same amount of property theft as all burglary, larceny, car theft, and shoplifting combined? Probably not, because the media doesn’t report on instances of overdraft fraud by banks every day.
If it’s hard to grasp the scope of the news’s silence on $50 billion wage theft epidemic, how can we grasp the scope of the news’s daily silence on the $1 trillion tax evasion epidemic by wealthy people?…
Viewed in terms of absolute property value and objective harm, this makes much of the media’s obsession with retail shoplifting from corporate chain stores look absurd.
The same is true across public health, banking, manufacturing, employment, consumer protection, tax, and environment: things that cause greatest suffering and threats to public safety—many of which are crimes—receive a fraction of the attention as what police report as “crimes.”
Most people don’t know, because "news" didn’t tell them, that fraud crimes by bankers killed tens of thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands of people become homeless each year because of illegal actions by landlords. Almost never reported each day.…
So, who is deciding to cover shoplifting with “breaking news” urgency but not air pollution, wage theft, and fraud that leaves people and their children homeless and in poverty?
The stakes are enormous. The world is careening toward extinction level events and millions are already dying from preventable causes that most people in the U.S. do not treat with urgency.
It’s hard to think of something more important than understanding the information-spreading apparatus that creates this gap between perception and reality.
Most people setting these agendas in the media are caring people committed to helping people understand the world. The NYT slogan is “all the news that’s fit to print.” The WaPo: “Democracy dies in the darkness.” How did such a gap between reality and "the news" develop?
Here are a few questions worth asking, and I hope you’ll add more:

Do the social and economic circles of journalists determine what they think is newsworthy?
Are there habits and customs relating to where journalists look for information, who their sources are, and who has the money to publicize things to journalists that determine what is considered news?
Are there professional economic incentives, racial and class biases, and jingoistic ideologies that shape *what harms* to *which people* count as important enough to be breaking news, or news at all?
What role does corporate ownership and consolidation of media companies play in determining what is covered and how urgently it is covered?

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Alec Karakatsanis

Alec Karakatsanis Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @equalityAlec

Jan 20
THREAD. I've been thinking more about the alarming speculation by the New York Times two days ago that racial justice protests **caused a big spike in murders** and I noticed something fascinating that I missed in my first analysis. To me, it's maybe more insidious.
For background, here was my previous thread breaking down the ethical problems in the NYT this week, which is part of a pattern of pro-police bias.
One of the strangest things to me in the article, which was full of unsupported speculation, was the claim that the "timing" doesn't support the theory that an unprecedented viral pandemic played a role in increasing murders that happened right after the pandemic. Image
Read 14 tweets
Jan 18
THREAD. A new scandal is brewing at the New York Times. I try my best below to document the paper's corporate and police union copaganda, and to share actual evidence and research that the NYT ignores. The stakes are huge.
Last year, I wrote about a NYT writer who didn't disclose he had worked for CIA, Palantir, and police or that he currently ran a consulting company that relies on "law enforcement" contracts. It was a shocking, unethical episode.
Well, today, NYT had different reporter write basically same story and send it to entire NYT email list. Who was his main data source? **The same CIA/Palantir/Police analyst.** Again, the NYT calls that guy a "crime analyst" without reporting any of his conflicts of interest.
Read 36 tweets
Jan 17
This for-profit prison telecom company worked with jails for years to ban in-person visits and hugs so that people would spend more on monopoly calls with loved ones, and then they give $$$ kickbacks to the jails. The owner is Tom Gores, who owns the Detroit Pistons.
As the NBA celebrates MLK day, you won’t see any players, executives, or owners say anything about why they all let this profiteer extracting Black wealth from families desperate to talk to their loved ones own a team, and why they are silent about it.
It's always been sad to me that journalists like @RealMikeWilbon @TheUndefeated @ZachLowe_NBA and many others are so easily able to ignore this very dark side of the NBA. The way Gores makes his money from the separation and suffering of Black families is unspeakable.
Read 5 tweets
Jan 16
It is a deliberate choice by the New York Times to cover the Bronx fire that killed 17 human beings as some sort of vague tragedy and to publish an article that does not mention the safety and fire code violations or the name of the rich landlords.…
Compare the lack of blame, lack of accountability, and pathological inability to discuss the causes of the harm to how the New York Times regularly covers "crime" by the poor.
You can read more about the rampant health and safety violations caused by the wealthy slumlords here:…
Read 4 tweets
Jan 16
In this viral thread, a “journalist” takes us back to the late 19th century good-old-days of media propaganda for a *railroad monopoly.* He even throws in a little science-denying innuendo that more human caging would make it all better. A few thoughts:
First, there is not a single shred of evidence that more prosecution and caging would reduce any supposed theft. This is the most studied and settled question in all of criminology. Just ludicrous, irresponsible propaganda to suggest otherwise.
Second, take a look at how similar this media panic is to the fabrication of low level crime hysteria in victorian England as soon as reform became popular. It’s both profitable to people who own things and a cultural pathology in media.…
Read 10 tweets
Jan 14
Something alarming is happening. I've been tracking this around the country, and I have never seen a judge in modern U.S. history responsible for more people in jail. Judge Ramona Franklin just hit 500 people in jail at the same time solely because they can't pay cash.
Also striking is Judge Kelli Johnson. She has the 6th highest number of people in jail because they lack cash, but records suggest that Johnson has a reduced docket because she is the admin judge. Alarming that her numbers are so high. This was her case:
None of these people are convicted. Given the comprehensive research on how jail kills people, these judges' recent decisions are now likely responsible for thousands of years of human life lost. @TexasCJE @OrganizeTexas
Read 5 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!