UCLA professor Sarah T. Roberts mourns the good old days of gatekeeping and credential-worship
UCLA professor Sarah Roberts, co-leader of something called the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry — media critics whose stated goal is “strengthening democracy through culture-making” — went on a lengthy Twitter tirade against Substack last night, one that gained a lot of attention. I should probably respond since, as one prominent reporter put it to Glenn Greenwald and me this morning, “Shit, it’s like she wrote this for the two of you.”
The main thread:
“Great!” you say! Journalism needs to be disrupted!” But here’s the problem. Journalists make their name doing reporting. This is governed by norms and practices and by ethics. Flawed and not always achieved, true. But present and guiding what newsrooms do in every way? Yes.
People not inside journalism or media may not know the specifics, but they often have a nebulous sense that there are norms — independence, disclosure of compromise, editorial oversight and vetting of the reporting. That’s what makes them trust enough to buy and read or watch.
What is much less obvious to them is what it means when there is a reporter who makes her name in a newsroom — traditional paper or fully online outlet — and then leaves for Substack (or any analog). Taking that name, reputation earned from work done in the context I just stated.
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