I Will (continue to) Pay for My News

The short To-Do item: Subscribe (as in pay money every month) to reputable news sources. Here’s a list. Pick two and pay them:

Also, turn off AdBlock for the reputable websites that don’t offer a subscription service.

The long explanation of why this is so important: Much ink has been spilled about the issue of fake news. And I have no idea how to stop ignorant people from believing lies. But I can’t control what people do. Only what I can do.

And I can pay for my news.

The real news has a lot of blame to bear for this monstrosity, too. They covered the email “scandal” like it was a real thing. They reported Trump in the beginning, when he was a joke. Etc. etc. But why did they do this? Well, as it turns out, that’s our fault.

They wrote bad news because that’s what brought in the page views. And page views put tacos on the table.

Bear with me as I go through a little of the history and structure of news. I’m an ex journo in print journalism, so I am going to speak about that. But it’s not that different on the TV side — just substitute the phrase “cable news” for “internet”.

It used to be, back in the day, that every adult had a subscription to at least one reputable news paper. And sure, they still paid for the news with advertisers, but the advertisers knew they had a floor of viewers because of the subscription. So, if the Podunk Times could say they had a base of 20,000 subscribers, they could set advertising rates accordingly.

But then the internet happened. People started reading things online. And papers could TRACK it. So suddenly, instead of a wide and assumed base of 20,000 readers seeing your ad for Podunk Physical Therapy, you could tell that really, only 243 had seen it.  And not one of those people had clicked through to the actual website.

They tried so hard. They made the ads bigger, flashier. The ads started scrolling over the page. They contained games. They blurred the line between content and ads (to a scary degree).

And we all just installed AdBlock.

So now, they aren’t getting any  ad revenue except from people who don’t know how to install AdBlock. And they can track exactly what those people are reading. So they start writing more stories that get more eyeballs, because that’s where the money is. At news aggregators and clickbait sites, sometimes those people are literally paid per reader.

I know when I worked at the website of one of the most old-fashioned newspapers in the country,  we on the digital side lived and died by our eyeball numbers. If I hadn’t met my target, I would gin up more page views with photo galleries. Carnivale in Rio, with the mostly naked dancers, got way more page views than a sedate tour of the villages of Ireland, let me tell you. So I started looking for racier content because my raise was entirely dependent upon the number of page views I got.

If your end-of-the-week paycheck is dependent upon page views and you notice that the old people who don’t know how to install AdBlock keep reading about Trump… well, you’re gonna write about Trump. (Or Hillary’s email “scandal” or whatever.)

Those are the incentives in place and they’ve warped the news that we see.

We can fix this by paying for our news. Then they have a revenue stream that’s constant, regardless of the page views. That means they can write decent journalism without pandering to the whims of a fickle public. The above list is not definitive by any means. Suggest your preferences in the comments.

 

 

Call the House Oversight Committee (and its Chairperson)

In addition to establishing new social norms, I’m going to call the House Oversight

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Chairperson Jason Chaffetz walking in front of a helicopter

Committee today (202-225-5074) and the Chairperson of that committee, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), (801) 851-2500) to support the call for a bipartisan review of Trump’s financials and apparent conflicts of interest. My script will go something like this:

 

 

My name is {NAME} and I’m calling from {Town, State} in order to demand a bipartisan review of Donald Trump’s financials and extreme conflicts of interest. I support Rep. Cumming’s call that the committee immediately begin conducting a review of President-elect Donald Trump’s financial arrangements to ensure that he does not have any actual or perceived conflicts of interest and that he and his advisers comply with all legal and regulatory ethical requirements when he assumes the presidency.

I totally stole that wording from Rep. Cumming’s stern note to Chairperson Jason Chaffetz. It’s almost certain I’m going to get a “mailbox full” message and so I’ll try back again and again and again. Because if I can do it for Springsteen tickets, I can do it for democracy.

After several hours, I haven’t been able to get through at all the to committee. So I have found all the R members of the committee and I’ll be calling them:

Jason Chaffetz, Utah, Chairman (801) 851-2500
Blake Farenthold, Texas (361) 884-2222
Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming (307) 772-2595
Buddy Carter, Georgia (912) 265-9010
Gary Palmer, Alabama (205) 968-1290
Jim Jordan, Ohio (419) 999-6455
Jody Hice, Georgia (770) 207-1776
Jimmy Duncan, Tennessee (865) 523-3772
John Mica, Florida 407-657-8080
Justin Amash, Michigan (269) 205-3823
Mark Meadows, North Carolina (202) 225-6401
Mike Turner, Ohio (937) 225-2843
Ken Buck, Colorado (970) 702-2136
Mark Walker, North Carolina (336) 229-0159
Paul Gosar, Arizona (480) 882-2697
Mick Mulvaney, South Carolina (864) 206-6004
Rod Blum, Iowa (319) 266-6925
Ron DeSantis, Florida 904-827-1101
Scott DesJarlais, Tennessee (423) 472-7500
Thomas Massie, Kentucky (606) 324-9898
Tim Walberg, Michigan (517) 780-9075
Trey Gowdy, South Carolina (864) 241-0175
Steve Russell, Oklahoma (405) 602-3074
Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin (920) 907-0624
Will Hurd, Texas 830-422-2040

Every Friday for the Rest of my Life: Practice Not Accepting Bigotry

Over the past year of so, Americans have normalized hate, bigotry, and lies. We’ve smiled awkwardly when our racist uncle spewed venom at the Fourth of July picnic. We’ve “listened with love” to relatives who say shit like homosexuality is antithetical to “an objective moral standard.” We’ve changed topics to avoid ruining Billy’s birthday party when our friend-in-law insisted Hillary was going to throw everyone in FEMA camps.

That needs to stop today. Now. My action for today (and for every Friday for the rest of my life) is to start to reset the boundaries of normalcy.

So, today, I will read the Southern Poverty Law Center’s scripts for how to deal with everyday bigotry and I will practice saying these things. Literally, I will do little practice skits with my husband and in the mirror. Because saying these things is hard, people. It’s very very hard. But it’s the most important work I can do.

It’s nice to imagine that I will be proactive if I see street harassment but… how will I do that? Because I am white, I will read experts of color on what they think I should do, and then I will mentally play out how things will happen. This nice person has a great cartoon on what to do and I will think that through. In addition, I will practice “passive atmosphere changing” like this nice lady.

Also, I will read Captain Awkward’s amazing and compassionate advice on how to set boundaries. I will understand that I will fail sometimes. I will get comfortable with the idea that I will uncomfortable.

Women in America are socialized not to have boundaries, so I will remind myself that reasonable boundaries are healthy. I will remind myself that “Don’t say racist things in front of me,” is a reasonable boundary. And that anyone who argues with my boundaries is acting in an abusive manner. With gritted teeth and stubborn determination, I will remind myself that I don’t have to change anyone’s mind. Just let them know what is acceptable around me and what is not.

Despite all that, I will also spend some time this weekend getting OK with the idea that some of my personal relationships are going to blow up over this. But this is more important than keeping the peace. This is more important than almost anything else.

Because people are already dying because we don’t do this.

 

 

Join the ACLU

Thanks to Tuesday’s clean sweep of the House, the Senate, the White House, and the whole SCOTUS mess, the Republicans are in power. The DNC is a smoking pile of rubble. That means thcourt-trumpere is essentially no opposition party to protect the people. Happily, we don’t need to build one from scratch. The ACLU has been here, fighting for our civil liberties, for almost 100 years. They are already gearing up to fight Donald in court.

But they need both members and money to do their job effectively. For my first Fight Trump Friday, I joined the ACLU on a monthly basis. Regular small contributions are better than one big one. (You’ll hear me say this a lot over the next four years.)