In the almost 50 years since Edward R. Murrow died we’ve witnessed a slow decline in journalism. Perhaps this was inevitable given ever-shortening attention spans, increased appetite for sensationalism, and overall industry trends toward taking every shortcut possible in order to feed a growing demand for “info-tainment.”
Tony Ortega’s blogging, however, represents a new low. There was a time when opinion-laden schlock disguised as news was called what it was: Yellow Journalism. This colorful term was used to describe a particularly noxious strain of reportage at the turn of the 20th Century characterized by an attention seeking, exaggerated, unethical approach to selling “news”.
Have we once more sunk into the muck and sleaze that era of journalism spewed forth? Ortega’s blog, The Underground Bunker, would seem to suggest we have – and it’s a disgrace. Since Ortega is not a real journalist–real journalists offer legitimate and well-researched news–we have created a new category just for him, Yellow Blogging.
Ortega is headquartered in any location where he can place his laptop from his kitchen table to pick nick tables. He doubles down on his trademark method of “blogging”: seizing the ramblings of unreliable, disgruntled, illegitimate sources and spinning them into hot-linked sensation stories filed under smug headlines designed to generate hatred, because there is only one topic he can and will write about and nothing else.
That is the business model of Ortega’s Underground Bunker, pure and simple. Its goal is not to foster an informed public, not to further social engagement through broader understanding, not to tell the truth. His little online rag might proclaim “independent journalism” but the question has to be asked, what journalism? Independent from what? Reason? Ethical standards? Accountability?
Clearly the answers to those questions are “all of the above.”