Journalism's screwy logic and how complexity is a misdirection.

This is an actual job opening for the Toronto Star:

Job description

The Toronto Star’s award-winning Editorial Design team is adding another talented Data Visualization and Editorial Designer to design and develop compelling visual narratives and amazing interactive graphics.

You are excited to providing enhanced visual storytelling and reporting for the web, as well as sourcing, cleaning, interpreting and presenting data. You will help with sourcing and keenly passionate about using the best data tools available. You have a diverse background and bring a familiarity with various data formats and associated techniques such as access-to-information requests, scraping, graphics and mapping. You also have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of news reporting, including accuracy, fairness and issues involving privacy. 

The applicant should possess strong design skills and remain current with technology and digital storytelling methods and trends, with a particular focus on mobile presentation.

Data Visualization and Editorial Designer. How cute.

Rabble also had a job opening for editor I found instructive:

Are you a Canadian news junkie who knows the keyboard is more powerful than the sword? Do you understand the power of media in making political and social change, and do you want to do something about the need for powerful alternative progressive media voices in Canada? If this sounds like you, read on.

Before it asks for this:

A passion for all the digital tools available to journalists and experience in putting them to use; and

Familiarity with Basecamp, Chartbeat, Slack, and photo-editing software. rabble's content management system is Drupal-based.

The Star and Rabble use technology for work. Not a big deal because this is 2018, but what is more instructive is the over-dependence on it. In both cases, you have two Leftist partisan publications that think technology is going to do something that critical-thinking skills cannot. Giving the laundry list of acceptable topics means Rabble has no interest in digging anywhere new: let's just stick to the talking points memos that Fox News did.

The Star wants someone to make data look a certain way, which is a sign of manipulation. The facts are not allowed to speak for themselves: so let us rig the visuals to skew them.

There is very little in terms of looking for actual skillsets that a real fact-gatherer would need. It skews in favour of letting software do the work.

And with Rabble, an alleged "alternative" news site asking for familiarity with good old Chartbeat, the same program that every mainstream publication uses with absolute obsession. I have mentioned Chartbeat numerous times here, but for those not in the know (doubtful, but let's be generous) is the data and audience tracker used to see what those dwindling news audiences are pretending to stare at on their computers so no one thinks to look at the browser's other tabs to see the real interest is in porn, games, and online gambling.

It is a real knee-slapper of an irony: when there was no Chartbeat, journalism was powerful and knew what news consumers wanted to know. Now that they can gather big data on readers to sell them to advertisers, they have completely lost their power and sway.

And it is a very strange thing: we have media outlets who chose to shut off privacy-savvy Europe rather than comply, meaning these outlets are data collecting and selling it to third parties; however, that means the facts they are presenting to readers in front of the screen is paltry to the data they are collecting behind it, so to speak.

Yet none of that data has managed to persuade news consumers to stay.

Big Data is raw facts gathered without a soul, making it not as reliable as people believe. You'd think that news outlets would have so much intelligence from their quiet collection that they would know what information their audiences seek and would be persuaded to read. No such luck.

Journalism has become overly complex with demands to know peculiar software that did nothing to stop the collapse of the profession, as well as creating ridiculous job titles that aren't doing a thing to resurrect the profession.

Why?

Because there is no core, and a core cannot be rooted in any sort of technology. You have to be able to do your job without so much as electricity. If you can do that, then you have mastery over whatever toys and trinkets are around at the time.

And journalists don't know how to do that: if they do not have a laptop in front of them, they cannot function. Technology has become a crutch and a prop. A cutting edge journalist can be dropped in the middle of a war after a natural disaster where he cannot even speak the language -- but can find the facts people need to survive.

Having computer skills does not make you a journalist, let alone a good one. This isn't to say you should be computer illiterate because skills are skills, but when the emphasis is on the toys and not on the necessary skills, you have no core, no understanding of your audience, and no future.

Toys are obsolete in a blink of an eye, and there is always something new on the market promising to make all the problems go away. I can tell you when I was in j-school, we had the advantage of having the absolute latest software, cameras, and technology on the market that most mainstream outlets didn't have. It was awe-inspiring and put students firmly ahead of the times.

Today, not a single one of those things exist, making all that training null and void.

Because reality doesn't actually work that way. You cannot let machines -- even AI machines -- do the thinking for you. AI can be fooled just like a person (and something I know as I have done it for over two decades), and you still have to give facts to the public if your job declares that's your mandate.

But the profession has two sets of data -- the ones they dole out to their audiences, and the ones they give to their advertisers or other interested parties...

And yet, neither set has managed to pull them out of their abyss...