This ruction over “Fake News” is fascinating. There are so many angles and interests.
I won’t say much here (tonight, at least) about some of the more widely discussed angles on this story — freedom of speech, the struggle for power, or the general deliquescence of the very idea of Truth, of which this latest tussle is just another of a thousand symptoms. What I will comment on is seeing an powerful guild losing its grip on production, because I know a thing or two about that myself.
It all reminds me, you see, of what happened in the recording industry when music went digital. Not only was file-sharing eating into record sales, which put terrible pressure on record budgets, but cheap samplers and sequencers were making it possible for people to make records at home without ever setting foot in a recording studio. For those of us in the priesthood — recording engineers and studio owners — this was not only a threat to our livelihood, but also an affront to our craft. Those early “outsider” records, made with eight-bit equipment, cheesy-sounding loops, and stolen snippets of recordings that we had made, sounded horrible — but that was part of their appeal. They thumbed their nose at the sonic Establishment, and suddenly beautifully crafted soundscapes, sculpted by highly trained professionals using expensive German microphones and million-dollar consoles in magnificent acoustic spaces (this was the one I used to work in every day), seemed stuffy and bourgeois. Having spent tens of thousands of hours honing my skills, suddenly I was being told by clients “now don’t make it sound too good!” Can you imagine?
It wasn’t just that we hated losing our monopoly — which we did, for all the obvious reasons — it was that those records just sounded so amateurish. How could anyone really prefer that? But of course an awful lot of people did; it was what you might call a “populist movement”. It was certainly “leveling”: all of our hard-won expertise, disciplined craftsmanship, and professional standards suddenly meant pretty much nothing, and no longer gave us any competitive advantage. People already at ground level always enjoy leveling, but those being leveled seldom do, and we certainly didn’t.
So, having gone through this myself a while back, I have to say I do feel a twinge of sympathy for old-school journalists these days.
Just a twinge, mind you. More on that later.