That steaming gobbet of disinformation on the front page of yesterday's NYTimes—that is, the one about 5G and Russia—was something rather different from their usual spitballs of state/corporate propaganda, such as their epic tour of Syria's "secret torture prisons," their shrieking updates on the measles "threat," and their promotion of Juan Guaido as the "acting president" of Venezuela (a title that's more accurate than they want us to perceive).
What's different about the Times' 5G/Russia piece is that it's mainly driven not by some US state agency, but by plain old corruption, of the kind that used to be thenorm throughout the Fourth Estate, as exposed by Upton Sinclair in The Brass Check, published a century ago. Such criticism pushed the owners and managers of our free press (as it then partly was) to proclaim their commitment to what's known as journalistic ethics—which meant, among other things, not letting anymere financial interest, whether the advertisers' or the paper's owners', dictatethe news.
That noble prohibition sounds pretty quaint today, after decades of commercial interference with the news throughout (what we once called) the broadcast media—even CBS News, despite the venerable legacy ofEdward R. Murrow. (On the subversion of "60 Minutes" in particular, see Michael Mann's great movie The Insider.) The New York Times has longappeared to be exceptional in this regard, its journalistic mission always(seemingly) pursued "without fear or favor," including the financial interests of the paper's advertisers, or its owners.
However true that used to be, there's no truth to it now, as that slowlyfailing paper is, first of all, its advertisers' bitch, covering, or covering up, the news in perfect harmony with the financial interests of Big Pharma and the cell phone cartel (to name two frequent purchasers of full-page ads). And, as of yesterday, the Times made shockingly clear that ithas no compunction whatsoever about letting (what some of us still call) the truth get in the way of its own financial interest, even if thattruth is crucial to our health, and telling it, honestly and clearly, a matter of life and death for all of us.
The New York Times' is, obviously, pushing 5G on the rest of usin service to its top shareholder, Carlos Slim, who owns 17% ofthe Gray Lady, and who made his awesome fortune ("Mr. Slimand his family are billionaires 50 times over," the Times reported, with admirable candor, in 2016) in the cell phone business southof the border. He therefore stands to profit hugely off 5G, although he's rich enough already to live far from any of the cell phone towers that will have millions of us battling tumors, or dropping dead from heart attacks—about which "Mr. Slim" is also (obviously) rich enough already not to care.
Call me a "conspiracy theorist," but it seems more than likely thatit was Carlos Slim who urged the Times' other big shareholders—including (of course) the Sulzberger family—to approve a joint venture with Verizon to build a "5G journalism lab."This projectwas unveiled, to much applause, in January, at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, where Hans Vestberg, Verizon'sCEO, had Times CEO Mark Thompson join him at the podiumto rave euphorically about the journalistic wonders of 5G. (Theother of the two "iconic companies" that Vestberg invited there "to talk about how they use ... [and] view 5G" was Walt Disney Studios, personified in Disney CTO Jamie Voris.)
"The Times exists to tell stories. To tell the stories that the worldwants and needs to hear." (Scroll down for the unedited transcript.) Thus the New York Times' top manager erased the necessary civic function of the news: what citizens should know, for their own good, and for the good of their republic. In Thompson's view, the Times should do what Disney does—tell stories to "the world," as if that "world" (i.e., ourselves) were a drowsy multitude of children,and the Times were soothing us to sleep with bedtime "stories." Such "children" as envisioned by Mark Thompson, and keptunconscious by the Times' "story-tellers," can have no way of knowing, nor the wisdom to suspect, that those "stories" aren't just false, but dangerous, bringing on an electronic system that will make our children sick, along with all the rest of us.
Such wide-eyed "children" don't yet know that those who tell such "stories," while smearing others trying to tell the truth as Russian trolls, should not be walking free, and making handsome salaries as journalists, but—truth be told—on trial for crimes against humanity.
HANS VESTBERG: I asked two iconic American companies to talk about how they can use it and how they view 5G. Very different from thinking about that you can download quicker. Because this is how we need to challenge ourselves to use these currencies to actually create something very new and transformative in the world we live in today. So the first iconic American company we have is the New York Times. I have the pleasure of inviting to the stage Mark Thompson, the CEO of New York Times. Mark, please come up on the stage. (Applause).Hey Mark. Good seeing you. Excited to talk about 5G?
MARK THOMPSON: I am. We’re now going to move from a Swedish-English to British-English without latency.
HANS VESTBERG: Seamless translation.
MARK THOMPSON: So Hans thank you for inviting me to join you up here to talk about our shared plans for 5G this year. Pretty much every company nowadays claims they are in the business of storytelling. But in the case of the New York Times, it’s actually true. The Times exists to tell stories. To tell the stories the world wants and needs to hear. Once as you all know we did it with just paper and ink but today we try to use every any digital display every display new advance new piece of — to bring our stories to life, which is why we pioneered the use of VR, AR, and Smart Phone infographics for serious journalism.
Yes it’s why we launched the Daily which brings Times journalism to nearly 8,000 people a month. That’s why we’re about to launch our first major TV Consumer Electronics Show, the Weekly on cable and OTT. And also why we’re so excited about the storytelling potential of 5G and about the collaboration we’re announcing today between the Times and Verizon. This January with Verizon support we’re launching a new journalism 5G lab at the Times. This lab will be based in our main newsroom and it will work very closely with Times journalists in New York City across America and around the world and partner with Verizon’s open innovation group and get early access to 5G technology and equipment and we’ll use those resources to experiment not just in lab conditions but in the field with real reporters and live news.
We believe that the speed and lack of latency of 5G can spark a revolution in digital journalism in two ways. First by transforming the wade our journalists gather the news allowing them to capture richer more immersive media and deliver their stories with much greater immediacy and second by bringing that rich and more immediate journalism to audiences instantaneously and in the form they want and need it.
Previous revolutions in mobile networks and devices have led to many unexpected sometimes counterintuitive break-throughs and 5G will be no exception. That’s why the Times and Verizon have opted for the lab and the path of experimentation. So in a way the full fruit of this collaboration you’ll have to wait for next year’s CES. But let me give you a flavor of what we hope to achieve using stories we published this past fall in the 4G era. With this showing the aftermath after the wildfires in California you can see we weave text and photographs and AR together to put the user into the heart of the story. 5G will enable us to take this storytelling to the next level.
Remember while this piece took many, many hours of painstaking graphics production in New York, we’re aiming to deliver incredibly rich 5G journalism from the field as the news happens. So that’s the first gain we’re hoping to make, many I can’t say see. Fast reactions are critical in classical breaking news scenarios but speed is important to pretty much every story and opinion piece we publish.
Now, 5G should also enable us to bring rich multimedia to many more of our stories, more photos, more graphics, more video. More AR and VR more sound. And more innovation within each of those media. The best journalism has always tried to give the readers a sensation of witnessing the news themselves.
Being as close to the story as the story. 5G should bring that ambition a big step closer to reality. The lab will also combine 5G technology with machine learning to optimize story order and the expression of stories themselves to max the — to match the preferences and needs of individual end users.
Location, time of day, mood state, and prior consumption can all be used to make the experience more relevant and valuable. Potentially with much of this personal data remaining securely on the user’s device rather than disappearing who knows where. Times user tell us they never want to hand over ultimate user choices to machines but we recognize that 5G devices will be the most personal devices ever created. This new lab and our new partnership with Verizon should enable us to discover how to harness the personal power of 5G for news.
And finally, once widely adopted, 5G should also transform the potential for citizen journalism and the crowdsource reporting views of news. The new lab will help to unlock that potential and to solve the challenges of verification and authenticity that have dogged user generated content in the past. So as you can hear we believe we’re at the start of something really big the next chapter in the story of quality digital news. As we set out on this new journalistic adventure I can’t think of any company we would rather be partnering with than Verizon. So thank you, Hans, for a chance to join you up here on the stage today and thanks to all of you for listening. Thank you. (Applause).
HANS VESTBERG: Thank you, Mark. This is the type of thinking we need in 5G when we bring out this currency we need to think different to how we used to so we are really innovating and using it for the technology and for building.