There’s another risk factor among the outlets that consider themselves to be “quality” journalism – that writers become more concerned with the opinion of other journalists than with the audience. This is a concern that dates back at least to the 1970s. “Journalists write for other journalists, the people they have lunch with rather than the reader,” an unnamed journalist said at the time, leading one academic to conclude: “Their image of the audience is hazy and unimportant… they care primarily about the reaction of the editor and their fellow-reporters.”
This tendency is exacerbated in US award culture, where the most prestigious prizes favour journalism written in great length – often 10,000 words or more and presented in a dense, discursive fashion. These pieces are often, for a journalist like me, a joy to read and are often produced over the course of months. They are often the very best articles their outlets produce – but it’s not hard to argue that they’re not as accessible or impactful as they could be.
No professionals suffer more from the confirmation bias than business journalists. Often, they formulate an easy theory, pad it out with two or three pieces of ‘evidence’ and call it a day. For example: “Google is so successful because the company nurtures a culture of creativity.” Once the idea is on paper, the journalist corroborates it by mentioning a few other prosperous companies that foster ingenuity. Rarely does the writer seek out disconfirming evidence, which in this instance would be struggling businesses that live and breathe creativity or, conversely, flourishing firms that are utterly uncreative. Both groups have plenty of members, but the journalist simply ignores them. If he or she were to mention just one, the storyline would be ruined.
Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli