The death of journalism: Slate becomes HuffPo

A friend referred me to a video on Slate about Trump, ISIS, and Islamophobia (you can watch it right below the “white undershirt” post on Slate’s front page reproduced below), but when I went to that page —for the first time in a long time—I was shocked.  Half of the page is in the screenshot below.

It seems that only about two years ago, Slate was a respectable website, though I may be misremembering. As opposed to Salon—always a bastion of Social Justice Warriorism and atheist-bashing—Slate was more reasonable, more sober, and had more gravitas

No more. Check out the front page (click on the screenshot to go there), which is apparently undergoing evolutionary convergence to PuffHo. This is evident not only from the obsessive articles about Trump and the endless worship of Hillary , but also from the presence of a cat-training post in big type (don’t get me wrong, I love cats, but I don’t want to see them on the front page of the New York Times), as well as other clickbait like articles on white undershirts, pizza, and personal problems. Further, there’s the use of annoying Generation Y-isms like “crushing it” (they mean that Domino’s revenues are up), and “70 Nobel Laureates who believe in science [seriously, “believe”?] endorse Clinton because, you know, she does too.” YOU KNOW?  And what, exactly, are the “sick burns” that Trump is collecting?

Slate is still a lot better than HuffPo (I don’t dare look at Salon), but give it time. All Left wing aggregator sites will, I predict, eventually converge to HuffPo, at which time Leftism will implode as, you know, a totally bogus ideology.


Are there any webdites besides those of major newspapers that aren’t slanted and rife with Regressive Leftism?


  1. GBJames
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink


  2. Dominic
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Too true, journalists are reduced to the infantile by the pressures of the world wide web & advertising revenue, but serious journalists do exist & are under attack – take the example of the Dakota ‘trespass’ case of Amy Goodman

  3. kirkwoll
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Mara Grunbaum, the author of WTF Evolution?!, is the author of that cat article. She’s a fine author and I see no reason one must go all elitist and turn their nose up at lighter articles.

    • Posted October 19, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      I didn’t turn up my nose at it, just at its prominence on the front page.

  4. Christopher
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Trump’s “sick burns” are clearly from eating his Dominos pizza before its cooled down, and as for “crushing it”, that’s an obvious reference to the treatment of said pizza by delivery drivers.

    • Devil's Advocate
      Posted November 29, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      That headline sounds like code, maybe a nod at #pizzagate

  5. jaxkayaker
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Your lawn. Slate is on it.

    • eric
      Posted October 19, 2016 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Yeah, my thought exactly. Young whippersnappers! Why’d they have to go and start using slang that annoys us, when they could’ve stuck to using the slang we invented to annoy our parents?

      • Taz
        Posted October 19, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        Slang expressions might find their way into mainstream discourse, but any publication that wants to be taken seriously should wait until they do. It won’t be too long before “crushing it” and “sick burn” look like “groovy” and “far out”.

    • jwthomas
      Posted October 19, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink


    • Posted October 19, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      OMG, THIS!

      (Just kidding. That annoys me, too. But you are right.)

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    It is all very depressing. The rise of the internet was in the middle of big problems with big city newspapers and journalism. The papers have either folded or be bought up by other media and corporations. When big business moves in they look to maximize profits and cut staff.

    As the years go by, most newspapers have lost most of their journalistic talent. At the same time, the internet, which had been living off of real news from the papers started to turn into Huff Post and all the others. Just a junk information center. This is all a pretty short history when we look at history standards because the internet has not been around that long. Newspapers, where we use to get real journalism is not so new but it is on the death bed with not much time to go.

    It is fine to always love the technology, but sometimes it has bad results.

  7. Todd J Morgan
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    as an atheist, I find csmonitor pretty even.

  8. Posted October 19, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    On my side of the pond there is:

  9. Posted October 19, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I continue to support NPR for this reason.

    Though sometimes I wonder with their craven osculation of religion and now as they change their style to try to appeal to the video game generation (gak!).

    Every time I hear some phony banter on NPR, my finger quivers towards the button to remove my sustaining membership …

  10. rickflick
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    You can almost see this level of “journalism” in the grocery store check-out. Maybe it needs a few more celebs to be on that level.

  11. Posted October 19, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    I’ve had the same thought. Slate has been going downhill ever since Michael Kinsley. Sad!

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    All Left wing aggregator sites … eventually converge to HuffPo[.]

    I’m feeling an eponymous law in the making here.

  13. Heather Hastie
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Stating the obvious: these sites succeed because people click on the click bait. Personally, I try not to and mostly succeed. I’ve managed not to look at Slate for a while, and haven’t now.

    I acknowledge that there is sometimes good stuff amongst the dross, but we’re (society as a whole) just as responsible for this as we are for Trump.

    After World War II was over, there were a lot of Germans, Austrians etc who put the blame on Hitler. Before he came to power he was generally mocked. People laughed at him and didn’t think he’d ever get anywhere. But he became chancellor of Germany because people kept on voting for him and his promise to make Germany great again.

    If no one had voted for Hitler, he would’ve been just another a**hole. If no one clicks on the bait but supports reputable sites instead, they will be the ones that succeed and good writers will continue to be supported. We need to continue to expose Trump for what he is, and not vote for him or any of the other fu*kwits that are popping up in politics all over the world.

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted October 19, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I agree with you, but Hitler was appointed by Hindenburg and never won a majority in any election until after 1933 when all the other parties in Germany were suppressed.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted October 19, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        That’s true, and he also employed all sorts of tactics so that he took on a greater importance than he should have in relation to the size of his vote before he became chancellor. But as you say, the point still stands – he wouldn’t be there if people hadn’t supported him.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 19, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      Just a reminder of what some of our founders said about the government they created over here. It was clearly stated that this form of governing required an educated and engaged population to succeed or last. It should therefore, be of no surprise when failure arrives.

      If the people look to their screens for all their worldly information and entertainment and no longer cherish serious, quality journalism or learning from books what will the result be?

      • mikeyc
        Posted October 19, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        I guarantee -without googling- that these exact sentiments (maybe not verbatim) have been said many times over the years. Every generation thinks the new one is deplorable, uninterested or unwiilling to do things in the way we’re used to and that our country is doomed, doomed, I say.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted October 19, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          Belief that you have heard something before is not much of an argument for anything. However, if you google for some time you will probably come up with some arguments to anything. I don’t recall using words like deplorable or to misinterpret what I said just above your comments. Perhaps your doom is already began.

          • mikeyc
            Posted October 19, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

            With respect, I am not sure what you are complaining about with my comment. Surly you must agree that your exact sentiments, if not exact words, have been said many times in the past whenever new generational mores and customs gain ascendancy.

            More to the point, your original comment; if that is what the holy founders wanted and intended, leaving aside the fact that they didn’t think more than half the population ought to be involved in government, irrespective of their education (which was denied to most of them anyway) they would have waited a very long time to see it come to fruition. I think (again without googling) that the first year a majority of Americans graduated high school was in the late 1950s. For most of its history this country had a voting population that was, by today’s standards, very poorly educated. The founders may have felt the country would be best served by white male property owners who had the same kind of education they had, but they designed a country that denied it to most of its citizens. It took future generations to correct that and to become more educated in their own ways.

            In short – if the country’s survival depended on an educated populace we’d have died a long time ago. It certainly helps, but the country has survived without one for most of its history. I too am getting older and find new cultural trends not to my taste, but I’m no chicken little.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted October 19, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

              I suppose my exact sentiments will remain a mystery as you happily continue to manufacture others you care to. Failure of form of government is not necessarily the destruction of mankind or a country. Also, the fact that voting rights were far ahead of the education of much of the voting population only verifies the case or statement I offered.

              By the way, they were not designing countries just forms of government. You never get too old to read up on your history.

      • Posted October 19, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        As Sam Harris said in his most recent blog post:

        The role that the media has played, rendering us all moths to the Trumpian flame, will be scrutinized for years to come. The truth about us is sobering: We have been playing with our smartphones while hurtling toward the abyss…

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted October 19, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I remember you telling me that about the founders. And actually, the quality education of the population is the best way to make any country succeed, even without quality political engagement.

        Unless it has huge quantities of oil, every country that doesn’t educate its people does poorly. It is much easier to engage a properly educated population too. Of course, some leaders prefer a population that isn’t capable of fully engaging, and judging by the leaders Trump admires, he’s one of them.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted October 19, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

          Absolutely. If a dictator or maybe fascist form of government is used, education is not as important. But this republic form requires and actually demands a well educated citizenry. At least those who are participating. Many of the ideas of the founders do not apply or carry forward certainly, but this one does.

          And when did the people ever demonstrate to demand the preservation of quality journalism? It was once called the fourth estate and is essential to good government and an informed public. Not to be replaced by face book or Huff Post as our source of information.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted October 19, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

            Yes. The existence of an effective media is essential to a strong democracy. There has to be an independent voice questioning the government.

            • rickflick
              Posted October 19, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

              No, not just questioning the government, although that is important, but questioning all comers. I’ve seen many instances where supposedly objective reporters have allowed Trump and his surrogates to get away with 4 Pinocchio statements. They are not governing yet, but that’s not responsible either.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted October 19, 2016 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

                But what you are eluding to is exactly what demand for good quality journalism prevents. I don’t expect all of it could be prevented but what we now have is a very poor and highly biased form that is nothing more than entertainment. This thing they call Debates is another prime example of going low and going for ratings instead of providing the people with information to make an educated decision. The League of Women’s Voters were the first to run and operate presidential debates in this country. But soon after the networks/media and the political parties took over and the results is what you now see.

                Newspaper Journalism was where the people once got their best information. They were the source and it was where all the best journalist worked and came from. Some of the giants in this field tried to bring it to television when it was young. They made an effort but it never replaced the news print. Now the internet has pretty well replace it for some, particularly the young. What passes for journalism today is often a joke and the people suffer.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted October 20, 2016 at 12:02 am | Permalink

                Yes, of course, excellent point.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted October 20, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        I’m late to this colloquy, and the comments in the thread below (above, actually!) are fascinating. As I read them, I couldn’t help but think of the phenomenal success of the musical ‘Hamilton,’ a show which in its contemporary idiom offers the contemporary generation lessons in the U. S.’s foundation. One thing it (probably) doesn’t feature, however, is this statement attributed to Alexander Hamilton himself: ‘Your people, sir, is a great beast.’

        The Federalists feared direct democracy and populism of any sort. Yes, they and the Democratic-Republicans both wanted an educated electorate, but at the same time allowed suffrage to extend only so far as white propertied manhood. He who voted would know how to vote. What is more, as political parties took hold in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, newspapers everywhere became organs of partisan politics. The notion of an independent ‘fourth estate’ consisting of objective news reporting has perhaps never been as real in practice as we hoped for and needed it to be.

        In my view, admittedly shaded by a life as a college professor, it is not so much the failure of journalism, which is endemically biased in the U. S., but of our public educational institutions. Especially in the area of so-called ‘social studies,’ we have failed to inculcate the deeper meaning of citizenship in a democratic polity, which is analogous to the Protestant Christian’s ‘priesthood of all believers,’ settling instead for a tawdry brand of patriotic triumphalism. Instead of learning the skills of active analysis of ‘god and country,’ students more frequently come away from grammar and high school with no sense of connection to their national past or public engagement with the ever-demanding present.

        Populism is a function of alienation. I myself am highly alienated. Had Bernie Sanders run a third-party race, I might well have voted for him (though remembering 2000 I suspect not). My alienation comes from having been an educator and seeing that education has failed the democracy of the United States. The agrarian populism of the 1880s and -90s was strong enough to force the Republican party into an anti-trust, pro-labor Progressivism. Something similar is needed now to push the Democrats back to a New Progressivism with similar goals. It has to start in the schools.

  14. Posted October 19, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    My favorite article below the fold was “It’s Revolting to Watch Donald Trump Try to Kiss a Little Girl as She Squirms Away”, it was revolting.
    As someone commented on the video itself, I don’t know if it was more revolting that he tried to kiss the girl, who obviously wanted none of it, twice, or that he chose that girls to show that a black family attended his rally.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 19, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      And when she’s ten years older a geriatric Trump will grope her.

      You have to admire his consistency.


  15. Pliny the in Between
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Click bait is at the top of a slippery slope that ends in mediocrity and mendacity. A problem which I will obviously never have to face.

  16. WT
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    “It seems that only about two years ago, Slate was a respectable website, though I may be misremembering. As opposed to Salon—always a bastion of Social Justice Warriorism and atheist-bashing,—Slate was more reasonable, more sober, and had more gravitas.”

    For a long, long time — maybe 2008-2014 or so? — Slate was notorious for publishing contrarianism for its own sake, often to the point of absurdity (also known on the Twitters as a #slatepitch). This contrarianism often came from a center-left position in opposition to more progressive/leftist ones, but not always. (One could argue that Hitchens was the godfather of the #slatepitch!) This contrarianism also extended into coverage of pop culture and technology, or even utter banalities of day-to-day life.

    I think this reputation for contrarianism has mostly given way to more conventionality, frivolity, and click-baity headlines. IMO, a lot of their more contrarian writers have migrated to other outlets (Yglesias to Vox, Weigel to Washington Post, etc.). Frivolity and click-bait headlines are where the market pressures are these days. Though honestly, I don’t think this reflects a shift in the interests of readership so much as that the internet makes reader interests more transparent to publishers and, more importantly, to advertisers. (The old joke-that-isn’t-a-joke in newspaper publishing? If you dropped the comics pages or the crossword, your paper would be toast within a month. Frivolity sells, and has always done so.)

    Slate has also had a center-left bent for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been reading it for a decade. Respectfully, I’m not seeing the “Regressive Leftism” PCC is decrying here, but I feel like that term has been getting used more and more loosely on this site as of late. When applied to specific anti-speech tactics by campus leftists, I saw value in the term because I agreed with PCC that those tactics are likely to be ineffective, prone to be used by conservatives as much as by liberals, and run counter to classic liberal values that I hold dear.

    But if the term has expanded such that Slate is now considered “rife with Regressive Leftism,” then it now encompasses basically any position or outlet left of center. If so, then ocunt me as a Regressive Leftist, I guess. The term becomes as useless and devoid of meaning as the term “political correctness” became in the late ’90s/early ’00s.

    • Historian
      Posted October 19, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      One can certainly complain about the quality of journalism at Slate, but I agree with you that I did not see any relationship to regressive leftism in the articles cited. I also agree with you that we should avoid “definition inflation.” I have taken regressive leftism to mean a certain type of political correctness as defined by Wikipedia:

      “The regressive left (also sometimes referred to as regressive liberals) is a political epithet used to negatively characterize a section of left-wing politics which is accused of paradoxically holding reactionary views due to its tolerance of illiberal principles and ideologies (such as extremist Islamism) for the sake of multiculturalism and cultural relativism.”

      In my view, frivolous articles or continual criticism of Trump does not constitute regressive leftism.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 19, 2016 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        I agree.

        If you went back to previous elections, and looked at news outlets of a couple of weeks before the election date, what would predominate on the front page? I’ll bet it would be campaign-related.

        And given the recent meltdown in the Trump campaign – to the point where Republicans are abandoning ship – I would expect most campaign-related articles to reflect that fact.


      • Tim Harris
        Posted October 19, 2016 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

        I am simply puzzled by the all these accusations of ‘regressive leftism’ being thrown surely rather indiscrimately around, as though the real enemy at a time when more and more chauvinists and near-fascists are gaining power throughout the world were the ‘regressive left’.

        I have small time for the ‘regressive left’, but instead of intimating that the whole of the left is ‘regressive’ why not address some of the issues raised by the late Tony Judt in ‘Ill Fares the Land’ or the late Pierre Bourdieu in ‘Acts of Resistance’ or look on the web to find responsible writing about politics – the writings of Josh Marshall and his team on Talking Points Memo are mostly responsible? (There was, incidentally, a recent article on TPM about anti-semitic attacks on journalists who are Jewish.)

        And it seems odd to complain so much about HuffPo & Slate when, over the years, there has been little criticism that I recall of Murdoch and Fox News and people like Limbaugh for running what amounts to a propaganda machine and degrading political discourse to quite an extraordinary degree. Why no complaints about the quite extraordinary number of lies that come out of the mouths of Trump’s spokespeople – Giuliani, for example? Or Newt Gingrich, who now in an effort to get out the Christian Right, is asserting that Hilary Clinton will change the opening words of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’? Why not criticise the ‘Breitbart’ website, a little hive of right-wing propaganda? I am puzzled.

        • Historian
          Posted October 19, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

          I totally agree with you. The proto-fascist far right in the United States and abroad are a many times greater threat to Western values than the regressive left. The latter is an irritating pimple. The former is a cancer.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted October 20, 2016 at 12:20 am | Permalink

            And in all honesty I cannot see what is meant by claiming that ‘Leftism’ (which is what?) will ‘implode’ as a ‘totally bogus ideology’ when it is written by someone who appeared to be a supporter of Bernie Sanders. There are serious political thinkers about, both on the ‘left’ and the ‘right’, people whose ideas are worth taking seriously – although generally political discourse has worsened largely, as Tony Judt has pointed out, because of the near relgious belief in the freedom of the maket, and the assumption that politics is a not very important epiphenomenon of economic mechanisms. Why not pay attention to them? And what is the ideology (to which ‘Leftism’ seems to be being compared) that is not bogus or ‘totally bogus’?

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted October 20, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink

              Apropos of nothing very much, but vaguely related to right-wing looniness, for some bizarre reason I get spammed with right-wing conspiracy theories. One just arrived in my inbox with a soggy thud –


              It looks like ISIS’ next move could make Obama president for life.

              Presidential candidate Ben Carson has proof that anarchy might be used to cancel the 2016 election.

              According to Ex CIA director Michael Morell “there are thousands of ISIS sympathizers in the United States” already creating a “global caliphate”.

              Obama may be right that ISIS can’t topple the U.S. government… but he might use the chaos, panic and fear from the terrorist threats to extend his presidency and postpone the 2016 elections.’

              and so on and so on…


              • Tim Harris
                Posted October 20, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

                David Niewert is a journalist who has written well about the American Right, its obsessions and the dangers it poses – both on blogs or websites and off them (he won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000). He has also written interestingly on killer whales. There is good journalism about if one is willing to look around a bit, and HuffPo is not powerful or influential enough or in any position at all to bring the death of journalism and ‘Leftism’ (whatever that is) about by means of some sort of nuclear implosion… What would bring it about is a nice authoritarian government, headed by someone like Herr Drumpf who admires Putin’s way with recalcitrant journalists (he kills them).

  17. Diane G.
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink


  18. jeffery
    Posted October 19, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always thought that Slate was just a slightly more intellectual version of HuffPo anyway.

  19. Diane G.
    Posted October 20, 2016 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    I’d like to put in a rec for the much-maligned MSM. Amazingly enough some of our traditional news organs still give at least give lip service to traditional journalistic values such as maintaining a separation between opinion pieces and straight journalism, or attempting to meet goals to cover “all the news that’s fit to print,” à la one famous motto.

    I actually subscribe to a fair number of such outlets–the NYT, WaPo, Wall Street Journal, Grauniad, etc.–far more than I could ever keep up with thoroughly, but most of which offer traditional coverage of a broad range of issues. One has to know their institutional biases (when was that ever NOT the case?) and read accordingly, but such traditional sources do still tend to uphold some of the time-honored credos of the storied free press.

    (I subscribe because I use an ad blocker, and I don’t expect to receive such an amazing amount of reportorial and editorial efforts gratis.)

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