Friday, December 30, 2016

Mixed Media Daily Year Two: Making Mixed Media Daily Again

Well, hello. I’m a little surprised we’re all meeting up again like this. I’m more than a little surprised to be launching a project called “Mixed Media Daily, Year Two.” And, to be honest, I’m a little disappointed that the subtitle isn’t “Electric Boogaloo.” But I’ll get over that. 

You know what I won’t get over?  The way 2016 came to a close. Like the darkness around a sputtering campfire. Like a venus flytrap around a hapless fly.

Back in 2011, when I did the first round of Mixed Media Daily, I thought of the project as an experiment in portraiture, an homage to a style of media that was slowly slipping out of daily life and into the history books. In some sense it felt a like an early obit; I imagined that the death of any newspaper would occur only when they actually (forgive the hackneyed phrase) stopped the presses. Simpler times!

The Los Angeles Times, and newspapers in general, I’m happy to report, are still alive. What seems to have kicked the bucket is the desire of a not inconsequential number of Americans to digest hard news, to do the minimal mental work required to be able to call oneself an informed voter. Which may be the same thing as the death of the newspaper industry, but with one hell of a twist.

How did we get here? How did so many of our fellow citizens mutate into a pack of political rageaholics who rely exclusively on easily debunked garbage journalism to justify their vote? Who have such a white-hot mistrust of mainstream media that they’ll happily believe anything thrown up on the web by any random, anonymous domestic or international opportunist over a well-researched piece from a credible news source? There’s no simple way to unpack this sad, confounding turn of events. Some things we know are worth considering: Since the election many journalists have written about the profusion of fake news outlets, sites set up to turn a quick profit by playing to the latent (or overt) biases of their readership. Traditional news outlets---cable and network television, and of course, print media---also received a measure of blame for what some saw as their unfair equivocation of two clearly unequal candidates. More recently, post apocalypse---sorry, I mean post election---there have been reports of conservative politicians appropriating the term “fake news” to describe stories published by legitimate news sources that do not jibe with their agendas. It all adds up to a campaign of misinformation (hi, Putin!) that is designed to erode our democracy. That, fellow citizens, is unacceptable.

The saddest thing might be that the truth was out there, and easily accessible. I read plenty of well-written, well-researched stories that laid out the truly damning details of our shifty President-Elect’s shifty behavior in his business and his personal life. After reading each piece, I would think, should the country be crazy enough to elect this clown, they cannot say that they weren’t warned. And then the country went ahead and elected this clown.

So here we are.  Our country is in serious crisis mode, but I’m not ready to give up on it. We need every weapon primed and ready for the coming four-year bar brawl. One of those weapons will most certainly be solid investigative journalism (Woodward and Bernstein, anyone?). Of course as much as we need good journalism, good journalism needs our attention. So I’m going to pay attention. Close attention, and with a critical eye. And since I’m going to be processing a lot of what will undoubtedly be fucked-up news, I’ll run it all through the old illustration filter, so it least it’ll be kind of fun to look at, and maybe I’ll be able to keep my blood below boiling point.

All of this adds up to a very different mission from the one I used to launch this project six years ago. The main focus will still be the Los Angeles Times, but in an effort to doodle a broader consensus of opinion, I’ll occasionally be working from other local papers (we publish a lot of daily papers here in the Golden State). If I go out of town, there might be an even farther-flung guest paper in the mix. That’s the plan for now. It’s sort of a loose plan, but we’re all just winging it at this point, aren’t we? We’re all stuck in the upside-down, where clowns become kings, homes become battlegrounds, and pens become swords. It’s a scary place, to be sure. Let’s not let it scare us into submission.

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