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It's Not News, It's Fark 229

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-spin-zone dept.
"In It's Not News, It's Fark, Drew Curtis takes a critical look at the mass media. He promises to examine why the news is often not news at all, to look at the fear mongering, the cyclical nature of the news and the fluff that is passed off as important. Drew breaks down these not-news stories into 8 separate categories and gives examples, along with user comments from Fark. Unfortunately, 230 of the books 278 pages (including the index) are used for these examples. What time is spent talking about the media and the advertisement model it is built on, is insightful a bit cynical and very brief." Read below for the rest of the review.
It's Not News, It's Fark How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap as News
author Drew Curtis
pages 278
publisher Gotham Books
rating 6
reviewer Robert Rozeboom
ISBN 978-1-592-40291-5
summary A look at why the mass media puts out so many stories that aren't really news.
The book starts off with a brief Fark history lesson. What Drew did before Fark. Its first incarnation and how it got to be what it is today. The author then gives us an outline of the different types of news stories that he considers not newsworthy. Drew points out that since most news is brought to you by an entity that makes its money selling ads, the more eyes watching those ads the better. History has shown that nothing attracts eyes like fluff, fear and stretching the truth. There is a reason why there are so many tabloids in the checkout lane.

The first type of news story Drew covers is what he calls, 'Media Fearmongering'. Everything from finding bacteria on your keyboard, terrorists in your home town to animal attacks. This is the most easily recognized type of non-story.

We then move on to, 'Unpaid Placement Masquerading as Actual Article'. This includes most surveys, new words in the dictionary and all things publicity stunt related. Everything you'd read in the 'Lifestyles' section of the newspaper.

Next is, 'Headline Contradicted by Actual Article'. Misleading headlines to outright lies are addressed. Drew makes the point here that the people who run these stories often realize that they are misleading at best but know that they will generate traffic.

'Equal Time for Nutjobs' covers Noah's ark being discovered, conspiracy theories and a guy who thinks the garden of Eden and Atlantis are in Florida. The crazier the claim the better.

Then we have 'The Out-of-context Celebrity Comment'. Why do we care what someone who pretends to be someone else for a living, has to say about Nuclear proliferation? Who knows but we sure do.

Drew next looks at 'Seasonal Articles' . The amount of money lost due to a fall in productivity because of the Super Bowl, inspecting your Halloween candy, and traffic spikes during holiday weekends. All of these stories should look familiar.

The next chapter is, 'Media Fatigue'. How do you know when a big story has just about run its course? Wait for the stories about whether or not the media has given it enough attention or if they've gone too far.

'Lesser Media Space Fillers' covers everything that couldn't fit into one of the other categories as well as some of Drew's personal observations of what type of stories tend to get the most coverage.

Each one of the chapters has a collection of Fark comments after every example story. The comments seem to be chosen at random and are frankly extraneous. The only reason I can think of to include them is that someone in marketing wanted to tie the book more closely to Fark.

The final chapter of the book is by far the most interesting to read and only 14 pages long. This is the wrap up of the problem as Drew sees it and what he thinks the mass media should be doing instead. His ideas are well reasoned and in my opinion spot on. As long as the media is driven by advertising they will walk the line of responsible, informative journalism and outrageousness as close to outrageousness as they can and still be taken seriously by a majority of consumers.

My criticism of this book is that almost the whole thing is just a list of Fark stories. If you've read Fark you've read 90% of this book. It would have been more interesting if the book was an actual discussion of the shortcomings of the mass media, why it is in the place it's in and what could be done to change it. Those topics are covered but in such a brief way that they almost seem like an afterthought.

If you like reading Fark and for some reason you want to read a collection of Fark stories and a few comments in a non-computer screen format you will love this book. If you want to read about how the mass media works and some thoughts on how it could be better you'll love 50 pages of this book.


You can purchase It's Not News, It's Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap as News from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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It's Not News, It's Fark

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:30PM (#19325115)
    It's a trap!
  • It's not news... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TWX (665546) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:31PM (#19325117)
    ...it's a revenue stream.

    I like Fark and all, but it's getting a little ridiculous lately, especially with the changing away from the old days of naughtiness that alas, are gone...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Very true. After the site changes Fark stinks like rotten dog breath.

      The redesign is ugly. Load times are (still) twice as long as before the site change (back-end fixes my rear end!). Fark isn't what it was 1 year ago, and that's a bad thing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Fallingcow (213461)
        My first thought when I saw the redesign was that they were trying to look like Digg.

        My main reason for not reading Digg is that it is goddamn ugly.

        Good job there, Fark.

        Every single change that they've made in the past 1.5-2 years has been for the worse.

        / Has not gotten over it.
        // Can I use Slashies on /.?
        • by oni (41625)
          my first thought when I saw the redesign was that the programmers there don't really grok XHTML. They totally went about it the wrong way. You are supposed to think about data streams and then later use css to style it. But Fark's programmers clearly thought about presentaion only, and tried to make the data stream fit the layout they wanted. Along the way, they ended up with inline styles, extra useless divs, etc. The whole thing is just very awkward. They obviously aren't geeks.

          And no, that isn't mea
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oneiros27 (46144)
      The old days of naughtiness?

      You forget then, about the days pre-naughtiness.

      I haven't seen the book, so I don't know what history is presented in it, but the increased levels of naughtiness didn't start 'til mid/late 2000, when Fark got mentioned in Playboy.

      Disclaimer : I used to be an admin (Joe) on Fark from 1999 'till about May 2000.
    • by Knara (9377)
      I agree, as Fark has gone from unknown, to underground, and now to internet-mainstream, it really has been watered down significantly. I was a TFer for a while, but I find myself looking at it less and less due its relatively inane banter these days.
    • by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:57PM (#19325533)
      You'll get over it.

      [insert a cleverly-captioned cat picture here]
    • by blincoln (592401) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @03:20PM (#19325873) Homepage Journal
      Yes, it is pretty insulting. Fark's owner publishes a book that essentially criticizes the mass media for watering down their content in order to make the most money, then almost immediately afterwards changes the rules of his site to get rid of user-posted content that isn't advertiser-friendly.
    • Re:It's not news... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @03:26PM (#19325947) Homepage Journal

      I like Fark and all, but it's getting a little ridiculous lately

      That's OK, people are allowed to grow and change.

      And from what I can tell, it's a dead-on take on the mass media.

      If we can finally break some of the spell that the media has on nearly everyone in this country, we might be able to actually make some changes and avoid the disaster that's surely ahead for us the way we're going. We might even be able to demonstrate why the whole "Liberal Media" meme is pure bullshit.

      If you look at the last 5 years, and investigate the way this fucked-up administration has used the media to advance the worst possible agenda for this country, it makes your hair stand on end. All the times, for example, that the administration would leak a bogus story, which the media would run, then Dick Cheney would go on TV and say "see, the media agrees with us" because they ran the bogus story that Cheney himself leaked in the first place, and the way they've "played the refs" by convincing everyone that the entire media is part of a vast liberal conspiracy in order to get people to stop believing in facts.

      "A War on Truth" is the best way I've seen it put.

      The people behind Fark are more insightful than most, so they stand a good chance of being part of the solution by exposing what's going on. So the jokes aren't quite as dirty any more... Oh well.
      • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @04:17PM (#19326783)
        >The people behind Fark are more insightful than most

        Obviously, you've never read the fark forums.

        I dont see how fark suddenly has this reputation for being media savvy. They were the biggest supporters of the Iraq war, linking to all these right wing op-ed pieces supporting and casting a blind eye to any naysayers (if not outright calling them cowards). While the rest of us were hearing the dissent and how painfully obvious there werent going to be any WMs foundD in Iraq from NPR, the farkers were going crazy over MSNBC and Foxnews and LGF and Rush Limbaugh. Yeah, when i think of media-savvy, I dont think fark.
        • by metamatic (202216) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @06:00PM (#19328569) Homepage Journal

          I dont see how fark suddenly has this reputation for being media savvy. They were the biggest supporters of the Iraq war, linking to all these right wing op-ed pieces supporting and casting a blind eye to any naysayers (if not outright calling them cowards).

          Damn, where are my mod points?

          The endless pro-war crap was sickening. Then there was a thread of jokes about killing Iraqis. I posted a photo that had been on the front page of the newspapers (even in the US), showing an injured Iraqi child, to try and point out the reality they were joking about. Result: I got banned.

          Fark is not insightful. Fark is not a free speech zone; it's heavily censored by anonymous moderators with no accountability, which is always a recipe for abuse. No, Fark is simply a way for Drew to make money out of content supplied by other people, and it sounds as though this book is exactly the same.

          (I still read it for the links, but via a scraper which turns it into headline plus link to story, bypassing the discussion threads and the rest of the site entirely.)

    • by grahamsz (150076) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @03:33PM (#19326089) Homepage Journal
      We formed bannination.com where we can have lots of naughtiness and moderate ourselves instead of having someone making all the calls.
  • >"it would have been more interesting if the book was an actual discussion of the shortcomings of the mass media, why it is in the place it's in and what could be done to change it. Those topics are covered but in such a brief way that they almost seem like an afterthought."

    Then again, if you were really looking for an insightful analysis of centralized media, maybe your time would have been better spent reading Marshall McLuhan [barnesandnoble.com] or Noam Chomsky [barnesandnoble.com] than Drew Curtis.

    Just a passing thought...
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)
      Yeah, but Drew's appeal is that he's right-wing and "cyber" (whatever that means). Old dusty media and not so easy reading arent going to appeal to the crowd that wants a 200+ pages on "out of context celebrity moments," "boobies," and "squirrel nuts." Especially chomsky. There's no shortage of "liberal media" comments at fark. Those people wouldnt touch chomsky with a 100 foot pole.

      I wouldnt mind reading about how much money he makes from posting all those rightwingnews and newsmax articles and how he f
      • Ah, but it isn't all that right-wing. Or wasn't, last I checked. The user base grew to the point where all sorts of links get thrown in the mix, with appropriate calling-out for bias (from simple "ahem" to all-out flamewar) in the user posting areas.
  • by Megaweapon (25185) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:35PM (#19325181) Homepage
    is that almost the whole thing is just a list of Fark stories. "

    You'll get over it.
  • by CanSpice (300894) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:36PM (#19325195) Homepage
    Does anybody actually edit or proof these book "reviews", or do the "editors" just copy and paste it from their inbox? Seriously, the opening three lines are so stilted and crap that no proper editor would accept this review. Couple that with the traditional "it's" screwup and I didn't want to read any further.

    But I did. And lo and behold it's a typical Slashdot "review", consisting of ten paragraphs summarizing each chapter individually followed with "I thought this book sucked/ruled because...". My criticism of this "review" is that almost the whole thing is just a list of the chapters.

    If this was a book review for an elementary class you might slide by with a B, but otherwise you get a D.
    • by Scareduck (177470)
      No kidding. Terribly written with bad grammar and weak punctuation, a simply uninteresting non-review of a book that could have been worthwhile. Pity.
    • by Dirtside (91468) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @04:01PM (#19326539) Journal
      Does anyone ever actually read these "book review" "comments", or just copy and paste it from the last book review article? Seriously, the whole comment is so unoriginal that no proper moderator would give it +1 insightful. Couple that with the traditional sarcasm and I didn't want to read any further.

      But I did. And lo and behold it's a typical "Slashdot 'review'" "comment", consisting of three paragraphs (if you can call them that!) criticizing the article generally, then specifically criticizing it, then summarizing with a snarky grade-school analogy.

      If this was a comment on Fark, you might slide by with a "You suck," but otherwise you get a "goatse.cx link".
    • Couple that with the traditional "it's" screwup

      What screwup are you talking about? The title seems to have used the "it is" contraction correctly. Have the rules changed and I didn't get the memo? Or did the editors edit the story title after your comment was posted?

      • by CanSpice (300894)
        Read the review, paying specific attention to this line:

        It's first incarnation and how it got to be what it is today.


        The title got it right, but I wasn't talking about the title, I was talking about the first paragraph.
  • Quick! We must continue the cycle. Someone Digg this article, then get that as a link on the main page of Fark. Or add reddit into the mix as well.
  • Necessary Illusions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by subl33t (739983) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:38PM (#19325219)
    Noam Chomsky's "Necessary Illusions" has a very good look at why US news media is practically useless.

    Short version: the media companies have trained themselves to avoid conflict with the powers that be. The powers that be hardly need to come down on media anymore. These days if you see a news story regarding the powers that be coming down on the media - it's fluff.

    Long version: it's Chomsky - you'll have to read it for yourself. Unless anyone else wants to elaborate...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by notque (636838)
      What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream

      From a talk at Z Media Institute June 1997

      By Noam Chomsky

      Part of the reason why I write about the media is because I am interested in the whole intellectual culture, and the part of it that is easiest to study is the media. It comes out every day. You can do a systematic investigation. You can compare yesterday's version to today's version. There is a lot of evidence about what's played up and what isn't and the way things are structured.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:39PM (#19325227) Homepage

    All else is publicity.

    It's a big issue, ignoring this commercial for "Fark" (which I hadn't heard mentioned in years). There are very few US newspapers left with much news. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are about it.

    The San Jose Mercury News used to be one of the last remaining local papers with real reporting, but since Knight-Ridder sold it to some suburban throwaway publisher, it's had very little real content. Most of the reporters are gone.

    The real test is this: did the story originate with a press release or a press conference? If it did, it's publicity. Take a printed newspaper and mark the non-wire-service ads for which this is not the case. There won't be many such stories. In some papers, there won't be any.


    • You're forgetting about all the "human interest" stories that they churn out to help sell newspapers and airtime.

      Those are stories without a press release or a press conference. They mostly originate from police reports. Every local paper has a crew ("reporters" is too complimentary) whose job it is to fashion police reports into stories (if it bleeds, it leads).

      The other source that I'm seen is stories that get picked up by to local newspapers that first appeared in school newspapers or club newsletters.
  • by anthonyclark (17109) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:39PM (#19325229)
    I stopped reading Fark after they started censoring *that* special number. Plus they took away boobies links and seemed to start removing any image that showed more than an inch of female cleavage.

    It used to be a fun low IQ flamewar filled insight into the minds of folks who would argue the relative hotness and sharp-kneed attributes of any female media celebrity. Some of the threads were freaking hilarious and definitely made my difficult work days a little easier.

    In my opinion Fark has made some terrible decisions lately: Fark "TV", terrible redesign without any user feedback, increasing censorship and more paid links. I hated the decision, but it's gone from my bookmarks.

    Makes me remember my love for /.
    • by Rosyna (80334)
      Plus they took away boobies links and seemed to start removing any image that showed more than an inch of female cleavage.

      There's a special site dedicated for fark porn. foobies.com [foobies.com]. All the news that's fit to masturbate to.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Boobies links were often the best threads. Now only TFers can comment on the threads. Once a day there would be a good thread "She's too fat" "She needs a sammich" going back and forth with everyone posting photos (or links to photos) of someone who they thought was hotter.

        I still read fark daily for news, but lately it has felt completely sold out.
        1) Censoring of a NUMBER. I even posted a huge base-10 number created by me pounding the keypad... it was deleted.
        2) Censoring of boobies in threads. There was a
        • 1) Censoring of a NUMBER. I even posted a huge base-10 number created by me pounding the keypad... it was deleted.

          Did you read Drew's post about why they were censoring it? Drew reacted to it early, before there was awareness that there was no way they could put the kibbosh on public availability of the key. This is why the DMCA is bad folks -- Drew made the best choice in a system designed to produce that choice. Don't hate Fark or Drew, hate the DMCA. Faced between the choice of paying hundreds of tho

    • You're right, fark sucks now. But what else are you going to do? It's still the best place to get "weird" news.
    • My and a couple of friends set up bannination.com - it's less than a month old but coming along nicely.
  • What with the new look that everyone hates, moderation up the wazoo, ever oppressive naughty word filters and sponsored links. Looks to be like ol Drunk Drew is getting ready to sell out, cash in, and drink up.
  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:41PM (#19325285) Homepage
    I work for Drew Curtis Presents Fark.com, so I am really getting a kick out of most of these replies.
    Some of you guys are very good at making it sound like you know what you are talking about. But trust me.... You don't. I think you just want to make yourself sound smart, when in reality you don't know what you are talking about. This is how bad info gets passed around. If you don't know about the topic....Don't make yourself sound like you do. Cuz some slashdotters believe anything they hear.
    • by Goaway (82658)
      Actually, if the earlier posters were trying to imply that Fark is run by idiots, I think you just served up some solid confirmation of that. GJ!
  • Is this book a clever ruse for the internet predators to sneak in and rape your children? The answer may surprise you. Buy this book and find out.
  • I recommend that you examine some of the books in this "So you want to..." Amazon blurb [amazon.com] if you're looking into further insight into how mass media manipulates the news to their own ends.

    In the meantime, I'll be avoiding clicking on Rugbyjock's entries.

  • ...and someone would spend good money on this because?

    I'm thinking of just blocking out the SlashDot reviews; I've been on here for the better part of a decade and still haven't been moved to read, much less buy, any of the crappy, non-searchable dead tree products SlashDot shills for in this category.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by russotto (537200)
      If the Slashdot reviews are convincing you NOT to buy the crappy, non-searchable dead-tree products featured, they're valuable as well.

      It sounds like this book could be included within its own subject matter.
  • It's not Fark (Score:4, Interesting)

    by selfabuse (681350) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:50PM (#19325447)
    It's BanniNation [bannination.com] Formed by a number of posters from fark who had finally had it with the way Drew runs Fark. It's a user-moderated fark-ish site, and IMO, has a much better community feel than fark does. It's nice being able to discuss a topic without worrying about the banstick coming down on your head.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:50PM (#19325455)
    I was an avid Fark user since 2001. I will no longer even hit the front page, as they have neutered Fark and alienated many of their loyal readers by instituting a new ban system without informing people what it was. Pictures that were *always* considered "safe for work" (such as the attention whore girl, are now deemed NSFW, and posters are banned without explanation. As one poster here has already mentioned the whole "you'll get over it" redesign was a bit of an odd approach, but I could live with that, what I cannot live with is the extra crappy censorship they have rolled out. I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, as I loved visiting the site because it was a small bastion of free speech. Now they have chosen to eliminate that, fuck 'em.......
  • Good subject (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chaymus (697182) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:56PM (#19325523)
    I like the topic, too bad the book doesn't seem worth anything. I started out as a Journalism major and after 2 years of that I realized how I was rewarded (straight A's) for writing BS papers 30 minutes before class that I knew were completely wrong and morally disagreeable. (I switched to CS after I realized what a joke the journalism field was.) As long as you are citing someone else for reference you can selectively choose anything to make such a bias "news" piece that it will be publically acceptable. General media isn't geared to inform objectively anymore. Capping newspapers to 8th grade reading level, selectively chosing sources, and lazy investigations about one side of the story because it's more accessible is a serious downfall. Don't even get me started on television news, somehow 30 minutes of random sound clips and bad b-roll keeps me informed? I don't think so.
    The problem that I see in the media, that hits home to most /.ers, is a combination of zero accountability (mods), and crappy moderators when they are in place. I have a choice in which bias opinion I watch, I don't have a location to form my own opinion without a lot more work. Add to that the network ratings are counted in thousands and a single letter coming in to the news station from a field expert telling them they don't know jack... there doesn't seem to be any insentive to even make a correction these days. Does anyone know of accountability actions for bad/misinformed/misleading journalism?
    • General media isn't geared to inform objectively anymore. Capping newspapers to 8th grade reading level, selectively chosing sources, and lazy investigations about one side of the story because it's more accessible is a serious downfall.

      The sad part is this ignorant nonsense gets modded "insightful". When it comes to mass media newspapers nothing significant has changed in well over a century.

      Your complaints about the media show you to be no better than Joe Sixpack - the only significant differenc

      • Hell, things were worse in 1900. The newspapers invented stories outright back then--Remember the Maine; remember how people are led to war.
      • by Knara (9377)
        So, because journalism has always sucked, people who complain about it are morons? Look, the mainstream news reporting is lackluster, at best. If it bothers you so much, change "modern" to mean "since the invention of the printing press", and we'll all agree.
        • No, the people who are morons are the people that imply that is is something new - rather than something very old. (As well as people who suggest redefining terms into something that in no way resembles their actual meanings.)
  • But Al Gore's "Assault On Reason" explores this in the first chapter. The rest of his book is, of course, a political piece on the Bush administration. But, to be fair, he doesn't give them any criticism they don't deserve. Anyway, the first chapter explores why the current news media has gotten the country in the mess it is in and the last chapter provides some hope for the future.
    • by Bearpaw (13080) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @03:44PM (#19326267)

      But Al Gore's "Assault On Reason" explores this in the first chapter. The rest of his book is, of course, a political piece on the Bush administration. But, to be fair, he doesn't give them any criticism they don't deserve.
      To be even more fair, it'd be tough these days to write a book called "The Assault on Reason" [powells.com] without writing a lot about the Bush Administration. It'd be sort of like writing about elephants without mentioning the one in everyone's living room.
  • anyone with an above average IQ can spot the bias and non-news items pretending to be the news.

    At Uncyclopedia, we bring you UnNews [uncyclopedia.org] that parodies real news to show how fake the real news companies have become. UnNews is your up to the minute source of news misinformation.
  • So when, exactly, did Fark jump the shark? Was it the first time the site was picked up by the mainstream media? Or the second time? Now that there is a "book" (and I use the term only because of its physical prescence, not its actual usefullness as a piece of reference) about Fark and what Drew did before and what he thinks about the rest of the mainstream media (because he is now part of it), the shark has been truly jumped and gone.... So what is the next site? Any predictions?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fontkick (788075)
      I'd been on Fark for a long time, and I think it jumped after the second election of Bush (around early 2005). Before that, comments were basically a bunch of people trying to say the funniest thing possible or derail the thread with an inappropriate pic. Boobies ruled (the NextDoorNikki thread was legendary). There was a balance of left wing and right wing views, and the flamewars were hate filled diatribes with no real point except to flame the previous poster or prove the existence of God, usually by the

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