I read a lot. A lot. I can easily smell an agenda if it is reflected in writing without due diligence.
As such, it is impossible to rely on “conflict of interest”. Likewise for the “editorials” and “opinions” in journals because they are reflections from the “thought-leaders”. Who knows that it might be just to drive their own agenda?
The title itself is perhaps a tad misleading. Any profession is honest, but some of its practitioners leave it open for interpretation. For example, does CAR-T Cell work? No one knows, except that it makes claims about “progression-free-survival”. Can you trust it? No. But that’s what the trend is! To see what sticks in heavily pre-treated individuals, instead of effective palliative care.
In its current state, news has become a casualty in the fight for perceptional dominance that is determined by algorithms and biases. I had subscribed to a leading financial daily in India, but I was appalled at the gradual deterioration at the altar of liberalism (aka stupidity admixed with pseudo-intellectualism). My blog posts don’t reflect my political biases, and I intend to keep it this way. I asked for a refund and exercised my choice not to support their brand of journalism.
I shifted my focus to paid websites because I assumed that they would be more aware of their reader’s sensibilities. One of them was a startup based on South India with the promise of one story per day for five days a week. In its heydays, it was a perfect solution for my daily routine. I loved the stories because they had a sharp focus on issues that made me think. I reached out to several writers as it helped to get a better perspective on what they wrote daily. It was a great concept until they went through some internal upheavals.
Now it has become a cesspool of agenda-driven drivel that has become a time suck. For the first time in my subscription history, I have been skipping stories (which I have paid for) because as a company, they seemed to have lost their guiding principle. Organisations undergo “evolutionary changes”, but here they discovered their atavistic tendencies to ruin the reader experience. Aside, they lost key personnel who wrote excellent stories.
What rattles me is their decision making tree. I am aware that I am not the only customer, and they have a whole market with heterogenous interests to cater to. They are not writing for me “exclusively”. However, if anyone is doing a deep dive to ferret out the nuances and make sense of the confusing world, it is expedient to expect what is paid for. It should force readers to think, ignite curiosity and express an opinion as a key takeaway.
Fast-forward and I got reconnected with some ex-personnel who started their own jig- with my favourite authors joining back. I paid without a moment’s hesitation, and I am glad to share that my bet has paid off as an enriching rewarding experience every morning. My only complaint is that it is not enough!
I just finished reading an interesting bit on the National Statistical Organisation (NSO) that does it’s quarterly/yearly surveys. I had extensively referred to their health survey, in my own write-up, as they are the only authentic surveys available in the entire subcontinent. However, it is was clearly apparent that they had not factored in recall biases for healthcare expenditure and never created a model to match tax receipts, for example. I, of course, disagreed with the author at many levels, but that is not the moot point. It made me ponder over why it was flawed, in my opinion, and what could be done to ameliorate. That’s the whole crux of journalism and writing. It is when it forces you to think.
I can also appreciate that blog posts allow me to express a range of opinion freely, and my views are constrained on academic writing or in my external contributions. However, I back up my ideas with the way I interpret the journal articles, for example, and I’d expect the others to do the same. It is precisely what the author had done- back it up with quotes to drive the story forward. A brilliant exposition of the organisation that none of the mainstream media would have ever touched it.
I search for that quality of discourse because there are far better authors than me around, and it helps to learn from the way they approach and string words.
I am not linking to the sources here, deliberately. There are sensibilities involved, and most of the people alluded to should remain anonymous.
I remain addicted to long-form journalism, though! Very few writers have constructively engaged with the readers, and I honestly crave for an excellent conversational platform.
(My Telegram channel (radoncnotes) is up and is active with many notable submissions from across the web. They are filtered, discussed and debated by the smartest users on the planet! I merely collect them and automate the process to publish them in my channel. There’s also a linked private group to converse and I intend to take that forward someday).