Milo and journalism’s business model

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Back in 2011, Ginny Whitehouse wrote that the key to journalism’s business model wasn’t Facebook or live video or apps or social media.

“It’s not enough to be able to write an inverted pyramid lead and know how post it on Twitter,” wrote Whitehouse, a journalism professor. “Professional journalists must know what those 140 Twitter-allowed characters have to do with privacy, conflict of interest, truth, fairness, promises, etc.”

For Whitehouse, the future of journalism hinged on something far more fundamental… ethics.

She went as far to write that ethics courses “offer the best financial hope for the future of the journalism.”

“It is by ethics that journalists will separate themselves from everything else clamoring for public attention,” she wrote. “Perception of ethics then holds as much weight on the bottom line as speed of delivery and ease of access.”

Is this true today?

I think about the news this week of Milo Yiannopoulos resigning from Breitbart after his comments about sex with minors. It seems that Milo had finally (finally!) crossed the line by saying pedophila was OK in some instances.

Prior to his resignation and being dropped from his book deal, Milo was a senior editor at Breitbart. If you measure success by attention, he was doing extremely well for himself and his “news” organization. But if you measure him by journalistic standards — truth, fairness, etc — Milo was the antithesis of journalistic integrity. And he reveled in that fact.

So why did it take him condoning pedophilia to finally trigger a downfall? Up until this week, the worse his actions, the higher his profile rose. Laurie Penny wrote a profile about him last year that, if accurate, means he’s a nihilist.

We’re not just talking about another run-of-the-mill Twitter troll in Milo. We’re talking about the most influential writer — playing the role of a journalist — on a website that has had a huge bump since November. It is now the 31st most popular website in America, just seven spots beyond The New York Times.

So back to Whitehouse’s assertion from six years ago: “Perception of ethics then holds as much weight on the bottom line as speed of delivery and ease of access.”

I think this might actually be true, with the keyword being perception.

For some, Milo is speaking truth to power. For others, he’s a troll.

For some, The New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, etc are the “very dishonest media” or even “the enemy of the people.”

For others, this same media is the backbone of democracy right now and they are subscribing in droves, thus supporting the business model as Whitehouse predicted.

Is the perception of ethics what’s most important here?

Written by

Educator. Podcast addict. Wrote a book about creativity: http://bit.ly/thecreativejourney

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