Welcome to 'Behind the News'

Note to Substack readers…

First, about Untitledgate. I haven’t given up on it. It’s just been harder going than I expected, and in a format where I regularly have to release some kind of content to paying subscribers, I feel I can’t just ask everyone to keep waiting for the big reveal. So I’ve been experimenting with something new to do in the in-between times.

Years ago, when I first started covering campaigns, I developed a hobby. I would walk outside my hotel room in whatever city I was in, pick up the complimentary paper they left outside the door (often a USA Today), and then try to spot as much BS on the front page as I could in under a minute, using a red marker.

Especially when it came to campaign-related coverage, it was rarely hard to end up with a whole red-marked front page in less than a minute. The New York Times is the most amusing paper to use for this exercise.

I thought about doing something similar this campaign season, only I’d do it in video form, taking bits of TV coverage as well, showing readers where the hidden manipulations and tricks are. The idea would be to play off some of the themes of Hate Inc., but do it using current political coverage.

So in cooperation with WFMU, the very cool local radio station in Jersey City, we’re playing around with a Mystery Science Theater version of media crit, which we’re calling Behind The News. The plan is to spoof all the crawls, chryons, boxes and overlays to rip on modern news coverage – cable format on cable format crime.

Obviously we’re still working out the kinks in terms of what works and what doesn’t, how much extraneous stuff to cram in the screens (we’re trying to spoof that effect, not replicate), and learn how we can use all the graphic doo-dads in a way that’s more funny than annoying, i.e. self-consciously absurd. We also have to work through my steep learning curve as a newsreader. But if it works, we should be able to produce interesting content about how election coverage in particular works through the campaign season.

This first installment has an explainer video stuck into a larger essay, which will be the usual format. The subject is how cable stations (and newspapers) are monetizing the Trump phenomenon in exactly the same way they did last election, even as they pretend to be “calling out” Trump. They’re not – it’s just business as usual, but they do work hard to disguise what they’re up to.

In any case, please bear with me as we work to make this all look smoother in subsequent installments.

More to come soon.