By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. When we chose what to repost from what appeared a year ago in NRL News Today, the number one criteria is that the subject matter remains 100% relevant. Can journalists’ “curating” (that is, slicing and dicing to get a preordained result) possibly be current? This particular example is very much revisiting.
Reading “Can ‘Metajournalism’ Save Old Media—and Unmask Trump?” by Seth Abramson took me way, way back to my graduate school days at the University of Minnesota in 1979-1981. I was in Journalism School at one of the very best J-schools in the country while working full-time for what was (at that juncture) the first or second best college newspaper in America. At the time, all the rage in J-school was “Urban Journalism.”
I bring this up because Mr. Abramson, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences at the University of New Hampshire, has delivered at 1,819 word long opinion piece for poor old Newsweek in which he celebrates “Metajournalism.” It’s his baby and to listen to him, it will be the savior of journalism and (as we shall see) and the country from President Trump.
There’s no point (at least for our purposes) for going into great depth for what Abramson means by ‘Metajournalism.” As best I can tell, the idea is that metajournalists—like him—will essentially digest every word written on Topic “A” (“drawing from each one only that piece of information that makes it unique and unreplicable in the archive of information on a given subject”), which harried every day reporters don’t have the time to do.
Which means what to the likes of Prof. Abramson? Such metajournalists will
condense into 600 pages the work product of thousands of major-media journalists from around the world. The only question is whether such work will be seen for what it is: an increasingly urgent partner to—and signal-boost for—superlative conventional reporting, not a replacement for
Just guessing, but I suspect those who produce “conventional reporting” won’t be big on the Prof. Abramsons of this world taking it upon themselves to “curate” their copy and “making curatorial decisions on the basis of connections between far-flung articles that would not have been evident to the authors of each article when they wrote them.”
What has any of this have to do with us? Abramson cannot find enough words to describe all the sins he ascribes to President Trump. Metajournalism—and especially “epic journalism”—will allow the reader who can read only a small portion of the accounts of what are (to Abramson), the President’s innumerable shortcoming to see the “Big Picture.”
The metajournalist will figuratively mine an immense data base and after refining it, produce gold: rich, excruciatingly detailed nuggets illustrating how President Trump fails to meet Prof. Abramson’s standards.
Now, this is not just nonsense, it’s high nonsense.
To state the abundantly obvious, what is “unique” to any given account is highly subjective. Moreover, if that uniqueness was to ascribe positive motives and outcomes to the actions of President Trump, you can be sure it would not make the “unique” cut for Abramson.
In addition, when Abramson offers the familiar lament—“that no presidential administration in U.S. history has been as hard to cover as this one”—it is only to tell us that in the last 18 months, he has ground out “2,500 pages of political nonfiction on Trump’s foreign policy”—what he calls the “Proof” trilogy—of all President Trump’s supposed foreign policy failures.
This opinion piece, of course, was produced before President Trump was nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for helping to broker peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirate.
As I like to say, you can’t make this stuff up— Abramson’s rhetorical hit job on Trump that appears the day he is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.