Journalism and "journalism" in the mainstream media

Before everybody started using the web, most families bought a daily newspaper and watched TV news. Independent, investigative journalism was funded by advertising to the big audiences that newspapers and TV enjoyed (plus some revenue from tha actual sale of newspapers.) Digging out facts that governments don't want people to know takes a lot of time and effort by sharp, experienced people. But the newspapers made enough money to employ them.

Then the Web came along. Now, hardly anyone buys a daily newspaper. Why would they, when they can get the news free on the web? So newspaper sales collapsed, and consequently their advertising income collapsed also.

Examples

NewspaperPeak CirculationRecent Circulation
Guardian (British)490,000 (1995)141,000
Telegraph (British)1,030,000 (1995)360,345
New York Times1,926,800 (2013)374,000
Washington Post832,332 (1993)254,379

(Historic circulation data are from www.historic-newspapers.co.uk and www.historic-newspapers.com.)

Of course these and other papers have websites which generate some income, but much less than their printed copies used to. They therefore haven't enough money to pay expensive, highly skilled, investigative journalists. Their sources are now mainly government and corporate press releases, superficial factual reporting, and comment from people who are often very competent in their fields, but who present their own biases as "authoritative".

They also publish articles based on "leaks" from government sources. Of course, leaks from sources inside government were used by real investigative journalists too, but in a completely different way. A good journalist regards a leak as raw material, to be evaluated and checked. The journalist will want to know: what is the leaker's agenda? is there a history of contact with the leaker? have past leaks from this source been reliable? is the supposed "leak" not really a leak at all, but just what politicians want people to believe? can it be checked? The top investigative journalists developed multiple sources within government and the civil services. It can take years to develop such sources, during which time the journalist might actually write very little. Papers can no longer afford such people. Everyone who writes for a media organisation today has to generate articles which increase either readership or clicks.

Censorship

In most western countries, censorship is enforced by the large corporations which own mainstream news media, social-media websites like Youtube and Facebook, and popular search engines, especially Google, under political pressure from the executive branch of government. Websites which present unapproved facts or opinions are still reachable in most countries, but most people will never find them because search engines will not rank their relevance highly, while any links to them, or discussions referring to them, will be deleted. (Rumble.com is a free-speech alternative to Youtube, but most web users haven't heard of it.) Paypal is a powerful enforcer of censorship: sites which expose inconvenient facts, or opinion contrary to the official line, are cut off from Paypal funding.

Extreme censorship: the European Union

Within the European Union, however, news sources presenting news or comment inconsistent with NATO propaganda are blocked by law. We can bring you headlines from Russia Today, for example, but if your internet connection is in the EU you will not be able to go directly to the linked articles. EU legislators are not competent in IT, and if you are, you have various ways of getting to the banned sites wherever you are; but we cannot take the legal risk of helping you.

... so how can you find out what's going on?

There's no magic solution. The best you can do is read a variety of sources, and that's what this website is for. You'll find mainstream sources here, but from different countries, whose governments have different agendas. You'll find bloggers who have a lot of insight in very specific areas. You'll also find mistakes and bigotry, and you'll have to make up your own mind about whom to trust. The days when you could just look at your "trusted source", whether it was the New York Times, or the BBC, or the Guardian are over. (All three of those sources have published lies, which they may or may not have known at the time were lies. Sometimes they published a correction, sometimes not, but the correction was never as prominent as the original lie. Many, perhaps most, of the people who trusted those sources and read the original lie never saw the correction.)

Our "Basic News" page is intended to be useful as it stands, but if you want to get the most out of this website, you'll want to make your own choice of feeds. The Basic News page shows headlines from only 36 websites, out of more than 200 available to logged-in users: you don't need to rely on our selection of what's worthwhile - you can make your own. It costs you nothing, and we carry no advertising. The cost of running this website is trivial (about 60 euros per year), for which we get a nice warm feeling that we're doing some good.

Privacy: We do not record which news sites you visit (in fact, because of the way our service works, we don't even know which links you click on).