One bright spot that came out of the mayhem and violence that has been occurring in Kenosha, Wisconsin last week is that we discovered when independent reporters dominate raw news collection, the coverage is more accurate, with less spin. A consequence of the dangerous reporting environment in Kenosha was that relatively few mainstream outlets had their reporters in the heart of the action. For example, CNN’s on the ground crew did “check-in” updates via their location but relied on the videotaped evidence of unfolding events from the five or six truly independent reporters on the scene. According to CNN’s Omar Jimenez, “My team and I heard the gunshots in the late-night hours a few blocks away. Next thing we know this is the story. Two people are dead, and a third person injured.”
Independent reporters from the Blaze, the Daily Caller, and non-affiliated ones like Richard McGinniss, Elijah Schaffer, Drew Hernandez, Julio Rosas, Kalen D’Almeida, and Shelby Talcott on the other hand, were in the thick of the action following their leads. Their reports included interviews with Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenage shooter amidst the violence. They had up-close video evidence of shooters, rioters, antagonists, and agitators. They captured videos detailing the destruction, burnt-out buildings, and car shells left in the wake of rioting. The reports and videos they made were so good that even Antifa released a message among their group, warning each other to stay away from these reporters lest they get caught on film and later identified by authorities.
I interviewed the alleged shooter before the violence started.
Full video coming soon: pic.twitter.com/G3dVOJozN7
— Richie????McG???? (@RichieMcGinniss) August 26, 2020
The superior nature of the independent reporters’ accounts ultimately meant that when the New York Times put together a timeline of how the events unfolded in Kenosha, they used footage from these reporters and collaborated with them to write their own piece.
This highlights the state of the legacy media today. In previous times, when we think of ground-breaking remarkable journalism, we think of people like John Hersey whose remarkable reporting detailed the stories of six people who were caught up in the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima in 1946. People like twenty-five-year-old Dr.Terufumi Sasaki, a Red Cross Hospital surgeon, who by chance had started out on an earlier train on the day of the bombing and fortuitously missed being in the exact point of impact as he customarily would have been for his normal connecting streetcar.
John Hersey captured the mood in the hospital where Sasaki worked: “heavy partitions and ceilings had fallen on patients, beds had overturned, windows had blown in and cut people, blood was spattered on the walls and floors, instruments were everywhere, many of the patients were running about screaming, many more lay dead.” But Dr.Sasaki did not perish, and John Hersey reported his story for everyone to hear.
Likewise, Peter Arnett, primarily a war reporter, known for his Vietnam and Gulf War coverage, was the only reporter to have live coverage directly from Baghdad, during the first 16 hours of the 1991 Gulf War. His dramatic reports contained the sound of air-raid sirens blaring and US bombs exploding in the background and detailed the civilian damage in Iraq in this first “TV war”.
His Vietnam reporting shed light on the shelling of Vietnamese towns regardless of whether there would be massive civilian casualties or not. A similar caliber of reporters have risked their lives through natural disasters, or in war-torn countries to report to the people what is going on. In fact, the legacy media used to compete with each other to attract such brave reporters to work for them. Increasingly, they are not following this news collection model, which means that when a story breaks, the legacy media frames a narrative instead of following the facts.
Look again at the Kenosha story. When it broke on “Twitter News”, the trend directed you first to Reuters, then the Washington Post, both of whom had no one on the ground and thus inaccurate reports. It was only through a groundswell sharing the independent reports that outlets like the New York Times, ABC, and Fox began to realize they didn’t have content detailing the substance of what went on, and so worked with independent journalists to produce their stories. This is a positive development; and it carries forward the point that when news reports rely on independent reporters who witnessed the events and collect the facts, the truth of what happened will emerge before anyone puts a spin on it.
Online independent reporters and outlets
Social media trends currently show that preference for news outside the legacy media is growing so much that it often tops viewership tables. For example, on Crowd Tangle, a Facebook-owned data-tool that records what topics, people, or news are popular on Facebook that day, it usually rates independent, or non-legacy outlets at the top of its leader board for comments, shares, and reactions on Facebook. Typically, Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire, Fox News’s Fox and Friends, Dan Bongino, and occasional non-legacy liberal outlets dominate the top ten. See the @FacebooksTop10 on twitter for an idea of this.
For August, Crowd Tangle recorded fifty-six million interactions with the Ben Shapiro Facebook page, which is more than the amount recorded with ABC News, NBC News, The Washington Post, New York Times, and NPR COMBINED. Data from a different company News Whip confirms this trend. Similarly, independent news commentator Tim Pool and his Timcast news channels on YouTube, have recorded a steady increase in views over the last three months with approximately seventy million views in June, eighty million in July, and skyrocketing to almost ninety million views through August twenty-eighth. The statistics can be found for his three channels here, here, and here.
Moreover, statistics from coverage of the conventions for the DNC and RNC respectively showed both had an overall decline in television viewership compared to conventions in previous years, but that online viewership has grown by a lot. For example, the traditional CBS network drew in 1.78 million views for its GOP convention coverage, while C-Span online coverage via their YouTube Channel was 1.9 million. This is a trend mirrored in the general growth of online political news commentators be they conservative, liberal, leftist, or independent. Channels which are currently reporting substantial online growth in views include, Kyle Kulinski, Tim Poole, Fleecas Talks, Elijah Schaffer, the Blaze, Jimmy Dore, David Pakman, and the People’s Pundit Daily.
The Trump Presidency is also the first truly internet Presidency. President Trump speaks to people online, often speaks via memes. In essence, he speaks to the people where they are paying attention outside the legacy media. He uses twitter as his first line in communication, which the legacy media hates, and they are dwindling as a consequence. Think of how the information and news environment might look going forward. Even by 2024, it is possible that independent reporters and news reporting outlets from all opinion perspectives will be the ones people now trust, as the corrupt legacy machine runs out of steam. If they aren’t prepared to do the legwork, they should not expect to receive loyalty from consumers of their product.
Carol King received a first-class BA (honors) in History and Politics from Stirling University, along with an exceptional commendation for a study on US public opinion and Foreign Policy. She also completed a year of study at the University of London before taking up a Graduate Proctor Fellowship at Princeton University. She further completed an MPhil in American Politics at Dundee University. Aspiring to be a writer/commentator on American politics, she now writes for UncoverDC.