When it comes to journalism, truth is dead, but narrative lives.

We've written about Gamergate's narrative resembling the 90's moral panic about comics. Most recently, the Gamergate narrative was being discussed at the Society Of Professional Journalists "ethics week," which is held once a year in Miami, but ended abruptly due to bomb threats. And while I have no skin in the game so to speak (pun intended, thank you very much) I do notice a similar one-sided narrative being perpetuated when it comes to music and earnings by musicians in the big tech world. And the same tendency to shut down any counter-opinion. In this case not by bomb threats but by simple ignorant bias.

Take this amazingly ill-researched and tone-deaf New York Times magazine article called The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn't in which one Steven Johnson insists that everything is just rosy when it comes to musicians earning a living. This is pure narrative, with zero truth to it, and it doesn't take a genius to understand that. One need only to look at facts presented by musicians with better and more honest statistics to understand that, no, musicians aren't raking it in. They're not even middle class any more.

David Byrne pointed out that from 2012-2013 music sales fell by 6.3%. That number has hardly gone up in the past few years with Beats and Tidal, let alone Spotify and Pandora continuing to dominate the market. People are choosing to listen for free, rather than buy. This is a fact. It not only hurts musicians, but record stores, record producing factories, and more. The idea that it's only big greedy record companies taking a hit is just plain stupid.

And while the Times article points out that sales of ticket to live performances have gone up, as usual it assumes this rise more than makes up for the loss of music sales. Which is mathematically impossible unless you are charging $150 dollars a ticket like some of the legacy acts (i.e. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame). A simple big picture view suggests correctly that the middle class is disappearing overall. Surely this would include the middle class musician as well.

Faulty math is one thing. But refusing to even consider the other side of the argument is outright tunnel vision. The Times article is myopic to the point of hilarity. Take for instance the fact that The Future Of Music Coalition served as a fact-checker on this article, and when they took issue with the article's premise, were ignored. They wrote a response debunking most of the statistics. But wait-- so did Salon and Flavorwire to name just a few.

When faced with skepticism at best from fact checkers, one would think the Times would want to have a second look. Instead they doubled down on the narrative, and got downright hostile when a musician questioned their statistics. But not just any musician. David Lowery, activist for the ethical treatment of musicians not only is in two bands, Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, but he's also a Lecturer at UGA with a mathematics background. In other words, he isn't providing anecdotal evidence, but hard evidence.

So it's amazing to me that Greg Brock, Senior Editor for Standards, would take such a flippant tone to Mr Lowery's criticism of said Times article, when Lowery was refuting the faulty statistics. Brock's pompous tone is indicative of just how far journalism has sunk. How our quest for the truth has been swapped for narrative at all costs. And a narrative that other major outlets are calling bullshit on, I might add.

I oversee the the corrections The Times, along with other issues on standards. I was aware of your initial query that was sent to the public editor's office and then forwarded to us. Because of your continued complaints, I asked to see all of the correspondence and all of the research and documentation from the reporting. I agree with our researchers that no correction is warranted.

I'm sure this is a decision with which you will not agree. In fact, I could tell in reading your queries that you would never accept any explanation from us. Because of that, I see no reason to continue this. There will be no correction and this will be the only response from my office or from anyone else connected to the reporting and research.

It's all the more ironic considering how journalism is suffering the same fate as any other content creator. Last year the Times planned on eliminating 100 of its staff. I wonder how Mr. Brock would have felt had someone written a piece insisting that The Times is thriving and journalists are making more money than ever.

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
Files must be less than 2 MB.
Allowed file types: jpg jpeg gif png txt doc xls pdf ppt pps odt ods odp wav avi mpeg mpg mov rm flv wmv 3gp mp4 dir dcr ogg m4v.
kidsleepy's picture

Note too, that this tactic of pushing a narrative isn't just perpetuated by gaming journalists, the New York Times or journalism in general. The New York Times (surprise) published a story today where a study of social science studies has concluded that 60 out of 100 findings did not hold up. In fact, there has been an increase in retractions of studies whose findings aren't holding up. In other words, it's not just the bias in journalism, pushing the narrative, but bias in social sciences, too.

anymoose's picture

That's... I mean shouldn't it be inconceivable that an academic would be okay with publishing bullshit? They're okay with having to do retractions?

Mikaur86's picture

"Most recently, the Gamergate narrative was being discussed at the Society Of Professional Journalists "ethics week," which is held once a year in Miami, but ended abruptly due to bomb threats."
The SPJ's Ethics Week was from April 27 to May 1. During that time their hashtag was flooded (both with genuine ethics questions as well as spam) and Michael Koretzky (regional director for the SPJ) got interested in GamerGate. The recent event in Miami was titled "AirPlay" and was part of a larger event held by the Florida chapter of SPJ called "Forging the Future" (http://www.spjflorida.com/future/) which, seeing the description on the AirPlay website (http://spjairplay.com/location/) is not an annual event.
Minor details and irrelevant to the broader picture? Probably, but seeing that this is an article about accuracy and fact checking in reporting, I simply couldn't resist ;)

kidsleepy's picture

You also simply ignored the quotations around "ethics week," as long as we're discussing.

Dabitch's picture

Quoting Michael Koretzky : "SPJ does an annual 'ethics week', where they teach journalists about ethics, it's not very popular it's like dental hygiene week, you know it's something you do because you have to. No one gets real excited about it. So we had this hashtag, #SPJEthicsweek, and all of sudden it started to get bombed by obscenities... (etc)"

I fail to see the issue of calling the airplay event connected to the annual "ethics Week" an event in conjunction to "ethics week"" when Koretzky also does this. Please elaborate on what the problem with this sentence actually is, and keep in mind that it's meant to be a short one - not a gamergate or SPJ scheduling biography. Did you honestly think that the sentence structure meant that discussing Gamergate was the annual event?

Ethics's picture

Mikaur86, is that a Level1 attempt of derailing a thread?

Mikaur86's picture

Actually, in hindsight I'm not even 100% sure why I posted that. Sure, I can be nitpicky at times, but usually it's at least in some productive way. I probably shouldn't read KiA at 5 in the morning (without having had any sleep yet) and shitpost in the comments of the linked articles :X
@kidsleepy & @Dabitch: This wasn't meant as a criticism of your work, I've read quite a few of your articles (at least those that were linked on KiA in the past year) and I found them interesting to read (including this one). Keep up the good work :)

Dabitch's picture

Thanks mate

Sport's picture

I'm always amazed at how stubbornly journalists defend the free music concept. How do they get this idea/ economic model to work in their minds? Why is it so important for them to defend a failed concept?

Adland is supported by your donations alone. You can help us out by donating via Donately or Paypal, tip us at Liberapay.