Nick discussion

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Nick Sylvester

Aaron: I think our discussion with/about Nick today could have gone on much longer, as many points went unexplored and views unexpressed because of time constraints. I'd like to continue the conversation here, and throw out a few talking points. I'm also going to ask Rebecca to email Nick and invite him to participate if he so chooses.

Some questions to start things off:

1. What was the "moral weight" he talked about?

2. How do you feel about the hypothetical situation in which the entire NY Times staff decides to ignore facts and instead write reflection-based pieces expressing their personal sentiments?

3. Is this really a cyber-related topic? Fake news stories being perceived as real is not a new phenomenon (e.g. Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds Broadcast"). The internet does add some interesting elements here though, like the fact that now one of Nick's friends is afraid of being Googled. How do the technologies talked about in class affect the kind of journalistic issues discussed today?

Josh: Aaron, nice idea to start this page. Here’s my take on your question #1:

To me, the “moral weight” achieved by faking a story about pickup bar strategies or faking an interview with the latest hip-hop flavor of the week is dubious to non-existent. If there is an inherent moral value in manipulating (essentially, lying to) readers by writing fiction in a forum where readers have historically come to expect facts, I failed to see what it was from today’s discussion. If the technique has any value at all (which I would question), it seems to me that that value could only be understood as aesthetic/artistic (as Prof. Nesson suggested) and not as moral.


Josh: Full disclosure: Nick didn’t really say that.

Kenny: As for number 2, I think we need some kind of fact-based "trustworthy" news source, and the NY Times is currently pretty good at that. So it would be a loss if they changed in that way. I think it's important for EVERYBODY to be able to know the facts and then develop opinions. If all reporters turned into opinion columnists (or comics or artists or whatever), we'd lose that foundation of facts from which others could develop commentary. However, if the NY Times did change, some other news service would quickly pick up the slack. There would suddenly be a huge space in the market for somebody to be "your strictly fact-based news source" and sell a ton of papers that way because people would demand it. In short, I don't think we have to worry too much even if the NY times writers hypothetically start doing what Nick did. If they did, their editors would fire them. And if the editors didn't, some other newspaper would provide the service formerly provided by the NY Times. It would all balance out.