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How Farzad Mesbahi Plans to Combat Dishonest Media

“If you’re just depending on the legacy media companies to be neutral by default…and do their own research and go in and do the work, then you’re going to lose every time.”

Rick Schultz

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A photo of Farzad Mesbahi
(Photo: Farzad Mesbahi)

“Does the mainstream media hate Tesla?” That was the question asked by podcaster, Farzad Mesbahi, during a provocative recent episode of his YouTube program. The tech expert and former Tesla employee dove into the media’s coverage of the company, as well as their evolving opinion of its outspoken CEO, Elon Musk.

“Some of this was sort of brought up by some of the latest headlines that we’re seeing out of mainstream media, legacy media, as it pertains to Tesla specifically,” Farzad Mesbahi began, as he shared a recent X post by fellow Tesla expert, Sawyer Merritt. “He sort of highlighted this scene where legacy media, mainstream media companies, especially in the last 24 hours based on some news out of Tesla, are posting some pretty, let’s say, inflammatory bias toward the negative side toward Tesla.”

Farzad Mesbahi gave some examples. 

First, he highlighted a recent post, shared by Merritt, that insinuated that Tesla was lowering the mileage range of its battery electric vehicles. In fact, the change was an industry-wide adjustment to the range reporting methodology, enacted by the EPA.

“Of course, my response to this was, clickbait baby! Because it works,” Farzad said. 

He then read another article headline, titled Just as Tesla loses the EV crown, Elon Musk’s biggest market in Europe pulls the rug out from under him.

“What this is really talking about, if you look deeply, is that BYD sold more EVs than Tesla in the fourth quarter, however, Tesla still achieved a record quarterly delivery and production number,” Farzad pointed out. “So the company is still growing. But again, the headline and the story is crafted in a negative tone. Those that follow Tesla closely are not surprised by this at all.”

His next example was a headline that insinuated that the company’s new, blockbuster product – the Cybertruck – was coming up short in its achievable range-per-battery-charge. As the host noted after digging into the details of the article, however, the particular example was taken from more extreme conditions, which would lower the performance of any and all-electric vehicles. It was not specific to the Cybertruck.

To round out Merritt’s examples, Farzad shared another one that read, “Tesla is no longer the top electric vehicle maker, as China turns EVs into commodities. Has peak Tesla arrived?”

“Is Tesla slowing down? Is there an issue with Tesla here? What’s going on?” Farzad mocked. “For somebody who doesn’t follow the Tesla story closely, obviously these headlines are crafted in a way so that people can click on them.”

Farzad said he recently had a conversation with fellow Tesla analyst, Gary Black, during which the whole media picture finally made sense to him. He laid out a process that he believes media outlets go through to put forth a story to the public.

The first step is for the journalist to offer a thesis for a story, after which competitors are able to add their public relations spin on the thesis. This competing information then creates an overwhelming narrative.

“Now the reason why the journalist knows this is going to get clicks is because there’s a formula in media that has worked forever, and you can probably see this in this channel as well,” Farzad said. “What’s the title of this video? Why legacy media hates Tesla. Why did I pick that title? Because that title works better than, let’s say, X is going to change everything. That headline is going to get more views and more clicks in my story.”

Media companies know controversy sells. The traditional way of saying this is that, if it bleeds, it leads. Fear sells and maximizes eyeballs.

In Farzad’s framework, the next step of the typical story development process is where the journalist reaches out for comment from Tesla’s public relations department, of which there is none. So the company’s facts or input is omitted. That leaves it up to the journalist to uncover the Tesla side of the story on his own.

“What we find in this day and age is because of the incentive structures at legacy media companies. The fact that journalists unfortunately it’s not a super-well-paid profession, even though I’m sure those folks are trying their hardest to do a good job, those folks are going to try to get that piece out as quickly as possible,” he said.

“So what does that mean? Because Tesla does not have a PR department, what’s going to end up happening is you’re going to have a piece of journalism that’s going to go out to the public that’s not complete. Sometimes it’s biased. Not sometimes. Oftentimes it’s biased against Tesla because of the type of rhetoric that the journalist knows will get eyeballs to the publication.” 

He said his discussion with Black centered around the fact that Tesla doesn’t even field a team to combat the FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt.

This is where Farzad Mesbahi believes Elon Musk is making moves with his social media platform, X, in an effort to allow the truth to break through.

“What Elon Musk is trying to do, he’s trying to break this game that we just outlined. I think the game is rigged by default,” Fardad opined. “If you think about a journalist, what is a journalist’s job, really? In my opinion, it’s kind of loosely defined nowadays. But in my opinion, it’s to be a neutral player that helps the public understand what is going on. But what’s happening now, because of the incentive structure for media companies to generate views and generate money, by default these legacy companies and journalists will have a negative slant. Because that is what brings eyeballs to their publications, just by default.”

Left unsaid by Farzad Mesbahi is the large, indisputable elephant in the room – that the predominantly liberal media despises Musk’s recent bent toward freedom and traditional American values.

After being a darling of the worldwide Left in his early years, Musk has recently moved more toward the center of American thought, speaking out against illegal immigration, the disaster at America’s southern border, and today’s floods of illegal immigrants taking over domestic schools and hotels. He has railed against the American government continuing to run up mountains of national debt while failing to reduce spending. Musk has also been extremely vocal against what he calls the “woke mind virus,” which includes child mutilation, gender confusion, and child sex trafficking.

For much of the media, holding trendy, popular-culture views on these issues is sacrosanct. Dissent – even pro-child, truth-based dissent – will not be tolerated. The once-darling of the Left has been shunned. 

In a similar rant, the popular James from InvestAnswers blasted the media on his Friday program, highlighting their malicious deception, specifically across financial media. The measured and data-based host explained how and why certain media figures parrot anti-freedom narratives, simply because it helps their corporations pull one over on the public as well as stay in favor with liberal politicians.

“If you’re just depending on the legacy media companies to be neutral by default, let’s say, and do their own research and go in and do the work, then you’re going to lose every time,” Farzad said. “The legacy media companies will always, let’s say quote unquote, cater to the companies that invested in public relations.

“Because those are the companies that are actually out there working with the legacy media companies to get whatever story they want in front of the people. So by default – by default – the game is rigged against companies that don’t have PR departments.”

The host related that Black, and others, think Tesla should invest in a traditional public relations department to systematically ensure that their side of any story is getting out to the public.  

But he also feels there is another solution.

“I think this is where X, formerly known as Twitter, comes in,” Farzad offered. “I think the reason why Elon Musk bought X was to create his new game.”

He believes as the X platform evolves and grows – through financial services and other additive aspects of the network – it will draw in many more people. It all depends on X becoming the “everything app” that Musk has publicly envisioned.

“And while you do that, if you do that correctly, you are lowering your reliance on advertisers. And what that does is it allows X, the people on X, the owner of X, to not have to kowtow or to bend the knee to forces that would act in a similar way as legacy media does if you don’t have a PR department,” Farzad said. 

By leveraging and growing the X network, Farzad Mesbahi believes that Musk (as well as his companies and massive swaths of the population that thinks as he does) will ensure that their diverse opinions and worldviews will be heard. 

“If less than fifty percent of your revenue comes from advertisers, and the rest comes from financial services and it comes from AI tools, so on and so forth, you don’t really have to worry about saying the wrong thing, quote-unquote,” Farzad pointed out. “Or publishing your own set of facts, let’s say. Or whatever. Or saying the truth. Because you don’t have a fear of advertisers leaving your platform because you said the wrong thing.”

Farzad Mesbahi is an expert on Tesla, and he may indeed turn out to be an expert on how the company can protect and defend its brand in our new age of media.

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BNM Writers

What to Do When Your Fear Your Media Career is Headed to the Graveyard

If you think about career death so much that it detracts from being in the moment, maybe it really is time to move on.

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A photo of a graveyard

“Do you guys ever think about dying?”

If you saw the Barbie movie, you know the line. Barbie is living the perfect and perfectly plastic life, perfectly choreographed and full of perfect smiles.

But the movie turns on that one line, basically shattering Barbie’s world with a concept no one there would ever have considered.

Death.

Why would you consider it when everything seemed in perfect order?

Well, when it comes to broadcasting and media, a lot of you think about dying … a lot. I do, too.

Of course, it’s not the stop breathing and get buried type of death but rather, the death of a career in media.

The truth is, when it comes to our business, very few people get to choose when it ends. Take a minute and consider a major media personality who truly “retired” after a multi-decade career.

It happens, but percentage-wise, it’s rare.

Take a minute and think. Name some. Name one. It’s not easy.

More often than not, you will get laid off or fired before you want to leave, and after a certain age, getting that next opportunity may be a bridge too far.

Then, you are done done.

That’s as much a music stopper as Barbie admitting she has considered her own mortality in the middle of the dance floor. Here on planet Earth, at least from the people in my orbit, the death of a media career often leads to even better professional options and more balanced lifestyle choices.

I have friends doing a million different things: Public relations, crisis management, content creation for large companies, political communications, fundraising, and teaching. Almost all of them tell me that it was such a stress relief to have a “normal” life, to not be worried about every pending contract or new boss.

Their work is appreciated. Their job is stable. And their schedule? Normal. Never has “normal” sounded so lovely than when they talk about watching shows with spouses, going out for a drink on a Tuesday, or having a regular pickleball game (or insert any middle-aged recreational sport).

I believe them.

Sort of.

The “sort of” comes from me not being able to actually envision that for myself. As enticing as it would be to see people on a more accessible schedule or play a weekly game with buddies, nothing beats talking and writing for a living. Nothing. And I am going to hang on until the lights are out, and we can’t pay to get them turned back on.

For me, I’m in too deep. I’m an indoor cat, incapable of survival outside.

Meetings. Deadlines. Reliant on other people. Meetings.

I’d be dead in a week. It’s beyond no, thank you. It’s, “I can’t”.

Sure, I have three teenagers and three college tuitions to pay. And two dogs. Two cars. And a mortgage.

Here’s where I am supposed to tell you that you should not only have thoughts about (career) death but also have a survival plan – a professional media-career living will if you would.

I should tell you that because you should.

But I don’t have one. And I don’t want one.

Why?

Because I don’t want to think about death anymore. I mean, I’ve already died twice. It wasn’t fun, and the third time most likely would be the charm in terms of getting me out of the business for good.

Why so stubborn? I don’t know.

Several times, I’ve said to myself, I need to make sure I have a backup plan … just in case. Each time, I find a reason not to get one.

Ultimately, what’s my point? Get a backup plan. Think about death. But it can’t take away from the essential joy of having the privilege of talking for a living. In that vein, don’t take it for granted. Ever. Even if the pay stinks and the schedule stinks. If you think about career death so much that it detracts from being in the moment, maybe it really is time to move on.

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BNM Writers

Is the Fairness Doctrine Even Possible in Today’s Media Landscape?

Is it right for media consumers to judge what is “fair” and what is “unfair” news?

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A photo of an equal scale

As many media outlets shutter their doors, some have clamored for the return of the Fairness Doctrine. Newsweek released the results of their new way to connect with readers, by asking if its reporting is “fair.” Since September 2023, readers were asked to judge stories on the site, 78% said the outlet is “fair.” Another 22% found at least one story they read to be “unfair.”

AllSides Media has judged Newsweek to be center. However, let’s not forget they are the same outlet that wrongly claimed President Donald Trump was golfing on Thanksgiving in 2019. As Sheryl Attkisson noted on Full Measure this week, on Thanksgiving in 2019 President Trump was visiting troops in Iraq and the Newsweek story was fabricated.

While the reader assessment of Newsweek’s content is on par with AllSides Media, is it right for readers to judge what is “fair” and what is “unfair” news? If outlets like The Daily Caller (Right) or Vox (Left) would ask the same of their readers, would their echo chamber subscribers find them “fair?” While historically print (and later digital) outlets could (and still can) embrace the political leanings of their owner(s), from 1949 till 1987 TV news had guidelines they must adhere to: The Fairness Doctrine.

Long before Americans argued about bias in news, every TV outlet (there were only three major ones at the time) would follow “The Fairness Doctrine.” The Reagan Library notes the doctrine was “enforced by the Federal Communications Council, [and] was rooted in the media world of 1949. Lawmakers became concerned that the monopoly audience control of the three main networks, NBC, ABC, and CBS, could misuse their broadcast licenses to set a biased public agenda.”

To put it simply, the Fairness Doctrine made it so all sides of any story were presented. In 1985, under the Reagan Administration, the FCC found “the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” Two years later, a panel under FCC Chairman Dennis Patrick repealed the Fairness Doctrine unanimously.

Keep in mind, at this point in time, CNN was the first and only 24-hour news network in the United States (it launched on June 1, 1980). Fox News wouldn’t be launched until almost 10 years after the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, on October 7, 1996.

Also happening at this time, large corporations (with lobbying power) were buying media outlets. General Electric purchased NBC in 1986. Westinghouse acquired CBS in 1995. One year later, ABC was bought by Disney. These purchases did not go unnoticed. Saturday Night Live even mocked the acquisitions in a now-banned short called “Conspiracy Theory Rock!: Media-opoly.”

The unwillingness of news organizations to cover both sides of a story has led to the creation of biased outlets including: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, OAN, Newsmax, and others. None of these would be able to exist in their current form if the Fairness Doctrine wasn’t repealed.

News outlets that aren’t overtly biased use another trick to manipulate their viewers/readers, using emotionally charged verbiage. AllSides Media defines sensationalist words as presenting information in a way that gives a shock or makes a deep impression. This includes words like “shocking”, “heart-breaking”, “explosive”, “scathing”, “chaotic”, “desperate”, and “remarkable”… this list goes on but you’ve seen and heard these words from the news outlets daily. This is the media telling you how to react to a story instead of letting you determine how you actually feel after they present the facts of the story.

Today, what’s most concerning are outlets saying ‘fair and balanced’ news is a disservice to the public. An August 2023 NPR article explored just this, saying “Objectivity actually comes from an accurate examination of facts (actions, documentation, and even educated opinions) presented in transparent reports. Often, that coverage should also encourage audiences to examine supporting evidence for themselves.”

The problem with this is three-fold:

  • Selective fact presentation develops a one-sided narrative
  • An “educated opinion” is not a fact. It’s an opinion that is neither right nor wrong.
  • It is impossible for human beings to be completely unbiased (see January 31st column)

While it’s great Newsweek is asking readers if their reporting is ‘fair’ is the reader’s judgment neutral, or just as biased as the outlet they prefer to read? Sometimes when we are clicking to satisfy our own confirmation bias it’s hard to tell.

What the media and all Americans need to start recognizing is their own echo chamber. Knowing we all have some sort of bias is not a flaw but what makes us human. Our flaw is the inability to recognize our bias yet call out others for being biased just because they are on the other side of an issue.

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CNN Sees Biggest Viewership Jump During Super Bowl Parade Shooting Coverage

All news outlets spiked upon live breaking news coverage with Fox News — already the weekday afternoon leader in cable news — leading in total viewers.

Doug Pucci

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A photo of the CNN logo
(Photo: Getty Images)

The cable news outlets got increased viewership from two different news events during the week of Feb. 12, namely the shooting at the Super Bowl parade in Kansas City.

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, of the mass shooting at the Super Bowl celebration parade in Kansas City for the Chiefs football team. One person died and roughly two dozen others were injured.

All news outlets spiked upon live breaking news coverage with Fox News — already the weekday afternoon leader in cable news — leading in total viewers.

The following are what each network drew as the story unfolded on that Feb. 14 afternoon from Kansas City and how it grew from the same Wednesday time slots from Jan. 3 thru Feb. 7:

Fox News Channel

  • 3-4 p.m.: 1.656 million viewers (+18 percent)
  • 4-5 p.m.: 1.873 million viewers (+34 percent)
  • 5-6 p.m.: 3.175 million viewers (+7 percent)
  • 6-7 p.m.: 2.441 million viewers (+12 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 2.250 million viewers (+4 percent)

MSNBC

  • 3-4 p.m.: 1.008 million viewers (+10 percent)
  • 4-6 p.m.: 1.504 million viewers (+7 percent)
  • 6-7 p.m.: 1.763 million viewers (+17 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 1.474 million viewers (+13 percent)

CNN

  • 3-4 p.m.: 0.762 million viewers (+27 percent)
  • 4-5 p.m.: 0.913 million viewers (+35 percent)
  • 5-6 p.m.: 1.007 million viewers (+28 percent)
  • 6-7 p.m.: 0.985 million viewers (+43 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 0.960 million viewers (+29 percent)

Newsmax

  • 4-5 p.m.: 0.343 million viewers (+23 percent)
  • 5-6 p.m.: 0.354 million viewers (+16 percent)
  • 7-8 p.m.: 0.547 million viewers (+13 percent)

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, the results were announced for the special election race for New York’s third congressional district between its former representative Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican challenger Mazi Pilip. Suozzi left office in 2022 to run in the New York gubernatorial election but lost out to incumbent Kathy Hochul. Suozzi’s successor in Congress was the infamous George Santos who was officially expelled from office on Dec. 1, 2023 over charges of federal criminal laws including campaign finance fraud.

MSNBC and CNN were the only major national news outlets that provided live coverage of the special election results, stressing the significance of Suozzi’s eight-point win over Pilip as it reduced the GOP’s advantage in the House of Representatives by one.

From when the voting polls closed in New York at 9 p.m. ET, MSNBC easily topped CNN in total viewers at 9 p.m. (1.616 million viewers vs. CNN’s 0.847 million), 10 p.m. (1.903 million vs. CNN’s 0.879 million), 11 p.m. (1.112 million vs. CNN’s 0.541 million), and at midnight (774,000 viewers vs. CNN’s 299,000).

From 9-11 p.m. ET, though, both MSNBC and CNN scored the same performance among the key 25-54 demographic: a 0.15 rating at 9 p.m. and a 0.18 rating at 10 p.m. (Note: a 1.0 rating in 25-54 equates to 1.21 million viewers within the aforementioned age range.) 

For the 10-11 p.m. hour, when the New York candidate speeches had aired, CNN grew by 68 percent (in viewers) and by 80 percent (in 25-54) from its Tuesday 10-11 p.m. hour output from Jan. 2 thru Feb. 6 — a time period that included a Ron DeSantis town hall and New Hampshire primary results.

MSNBC was up as well at 10 p.m. hour — +16 percent in viewers, +33 percent in the 25-54 demo — using the same reference parameters.

Even though Fox News did not offer live coverage of New York’s special election results, Hannity at 9 p.m. (2.528 million viewers; 0.21 A25-54 demo rating) and Gutfeld! at 10 p. m. (2.357 million viewers; 0.31 A25-54 demo rating) still held the top spots in their respective hours on all of cable news.

Source: Nielsen Media Research

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