How very dare the young whippersnappers compete with us? Credit, public domain

This is, of course, an unkind interpretation of what Mark Thompson, CEO of the New York Times, is saying here. But while unkind there’s a fairness to it as well. For what’s he’s saying is that the NYT has a reputation and it should be judged by that, rather than anything so pernicious as the actual content of what it publishes. Oh, and for good measure, perhaps Facebook should stop having a news feed, given how that enables the young whippersnappers to show up the NYT for what it is, an organisation living off its reputation, not content.

Mark Thompson says site’s attempts to rank news outlets sounds like ‘controlled society’

Mark Thompson said he was “terrified” by Facebook’s attempts to use algorithms to rank the quality of news outlets, warning that “a machine entirely behind closed doors is going to rank the world’s news sources” and that publications would be ranked at the top only for as long as they remained “in the good books of Facebook”.

As opposed to, say, a society in which bien pensant thinking decides what is the truth and who is publishing it?

“We want to create these environments where people have got a chance to make a critical judgment,” he said of Facebook’s attempt to fight disinformation on its platform. “If it can’t be done with something like the Facebook feed then don’t put news on it. If it’s not possible to do it in a way where it’s going to be contextually understood then just use cat videos. If it’s too hard a puzzle then don’t do it.”

Asked whether Facebook should stop promoting news altogether if it could not find a solution to the many problems facing the site, Thompson replied: “I don’t think that’s a crazy idea.”

That’s really what is annoying Thompson. He’s got a newsroom with 1,000 or more people turning out perhaps one, possibly two, pieces each a week. All to impeccable journalistic standards as to process and near no diversity of viewpoint nor thought at all. Then along come some bunch of teenage scribblers, some of them even without Masters degree in journalism, producing stuff that people actually want to read. How Very Dare They?

Don’t they know all should be listening to us and not to any others?

Sure, I’m being unkind, but there is a more than judicious dose of that sort of thinking going on there. Just as there was back when Thompson was at the BBC. We’re the bien pensant establishment, competition against us, why, it’s immoral!

And as we all know, lack of competition does tend to favour the incumbents, doesn’t it?

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We have active competition between social media, and a budding #DeleteFacebook campaign. Some want to boycott sites because they are styling themselves information gateways; some want to boycott because there are insufficient gates against the speech they dislike; and some want to boycott based on the partisan bias shown, such as against wisecracking conservative housewives Diamond & Silk or radio host Dennis Prager. To say that Facebook should not consider imposing an overall style to its website (even though it might repel some customers) is as absurd as saying that the Brothers Four nightclub should not take deliberate action to… Read more »