A 20-Question Quiz for the Media

1680283We live in an era where the very foundations of journalism are increasingly under attack, where “fake news” is ascendent and the intellect and attention span of the public is on the decline.

In response, the editors of Pensito Review, in consultation with researchers at the Moscow Center for Media Studies, have crafted this 20-question quiz to help journalists clarify their mission and find their place in the cosmos during the current Trump administration.

1. Are you feeling depressed, demoralized, disgusted, disenfranchised or simply dissed by the state of the news media and its public perception today? (select one)

  • One of them
  • Two of them
  • Three of them
  • All of them
  • None of them

2. Is Donald Trump “at war” with media or is the media “at war” with Trump? (select one)

    • Trump is at war with the media
    • The media is at war with Trump
    • Both
    • Neither
    • I don’t understand what “at war” means in this context

3. When Trump refused to call on a CNN reporter during a White House press conference and subsequently ruled that his spokespeople would not appear on that cable network’s shows, it made me feel: (select one)

  • Somewhat embarrassed for my profession
  • Secretly glad because those jerks at CNN deserve it
  • Outwardly outraged at such treatment of a respected news organization
  • Inwardly outraged at such treatment of a respected news organization
  • Mostly bored
  • Glad I don’t work for CNN
  • Wish I worked for CNN

4. How would you describe your approach to covering the Trump administration in a word (select all that apply):

  • Adversarial
  • Collegial
  • Professional
  • Confessional
  • Reverential
  • Conspiratorial
  • Gladiatorial

5. In a 20-minute interview with Trump for national television, would you try to cover six or seven important topics, or would you instead choose one significant topic and hammer away as long as it took to force Trump to answer tough questions about policy? (select one)

  • Try to get through multiple topics, despite Trump’s obfuscations, evasions and outright lies
  • Stay on a single topic until I got a satisfactory answer from Trump, despite his obvious obfuscations, evasions and outright lies
  • Allow Trump to insult me for the entire 20 minutes
  • Insult Trump for five of the 20 minutes
  • Abandon all hope of getting a straight answer and just let the lies wash over me like a cool mountain stream on a summer’s day

6. Is it journalistically ethical to fact-check Trump and his spokespeople in real time during interviews or should fact-checking be a function of more thoughtful, reflective post-interview analysis? (select one)

  • Trump and his spokespeople should be spontaneously and relentlessly fact-checked at all times, even in their sleep
  • Fact-checking should be relegated to cool-headed post-interview analysis
  • Interviewers should have a search box open on a phone or tablet and interrupt the interviewee repeatedly, saying, “Let me just Google that ….”
  • Fact-checking will have no effect on the Trump team’s behavior or the public’s perception of the administration or journalism in general, so why bother
  • Yes

7. Is Sean Spicer a liar? (select one or more)

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe
  • Don’t know
  • Don’t care
  • It’s irrelevant whether Spicer is a liar or not because he is merely the dumb hammer wielded by a lying, vengeful and malevolent Trump

8. What do you think of the strategy of sending junior reporters to cover White House press conferences and briefings, thus setting free senior reporters to pursue more in-depth investigative stories? (select one)

  • It’s an excellent approach
  • It’s a dumb idea
  • It is one among several strategies contemporary newsrooms should explore to determine what works best in covering the Trump administration
  • It doesn’t matter what strategy you pursue, the Trump team’s lies and manipulations will undermine it
  • A news outlet would be better served by simply sacrificing a junior staffer on a stone altar and holding skyward her still-beating heart as an offering to Satan while chanting and praying for a news scoop

9. What do you make of the sudden increase in subscriptions to both print and digital versions of legacy news outlets following the election? (select one)

  • Consumers are seeking reliable alternatives to “fake news”
  • Consumers’ faith in journalism has been restored following the media’s excellent performance during the 2016 primaries, presidential campaign and election
  • Consumers are fighting feelings of utter despair and demoralization by taking some action — any action — no matter how trivial or futile
  • Newspapers and magazines have finally cracked the code for launching successful subscription advertising campaigns

10. How can media outlets regain the trust and respect of the American people? (select up to three)

  • Maintain the highest editorial integrity and ethical journalistic standards
  • Consistently call out the Trump team on blatant lies, exaggerations and inaccuracies
  • Report every outlandish Trump tweet, statement, rumor or assertion as quickly as possible without evaluation, research or context, in order to stay ahead of the competition and “rule” the news cycle
  • Get banned from White House press events and have Trump spokespersons refuse to appear on your programs or grant you interviews, which you will consider a stamp of editorial legitimacy and independence, and which you pray your colleagues view the same way, too, although you know they won’t
  • Rename your newspaper The Washington Times or your network Fox News

11. Is it OK to report on other news outlets’ shoddy reporting and inaccuracies? (select up to two)

  • Yes
  • No
  • Sometimes
  • It’s OK, if done in a professional, respectful manner
  • It’s OK, if it puts you ahead for a news cycle
  • It’s OK, if it really is demonstrably shoddy and inaccurate, or at least demonstrably shoddier and less accurate than your own organization’s demonstrably shoddy, inaccurate reporting during the previous news cycle

12. In an era where news organizations are striving to reclaim relevance in the public information exchange by cleaving to the lofty goal of absolute objectivity, should journalists be allowed to (select only two):

  • Attend a women’s rights or civil rights march or rally on their day off
  • Maintain a personal blog or Twitter feed completely separate from their work output, where they are free to share their personal and political thoughts, feelings and views
  • Write a letter to the editor of their local newspaper
  • Give a lecture at a college or high school on a topic related to their editorial “beat”
  • Vote in local, state or national elections
  • Hold highly partisan and possibly radical beliefs in their heart of hearts, yet never mention them at work or in public
  • Inculcate a specific religious, political and/or social orientation in their children
  • Be openly LGBTQ

13. What would you tell a high school senior with an outstanding academic record who is considering pursuing a journalism degree in college? (select one)

  • Journalism can be a personally fulfilling career
  • Journalism can be a personally fulfilling career with little to no social value, few professional opportunities and limited earning potential
  • Journalism can be a personally fulfilling career that will likely lead to an inability to maintain meaningful personal relationships, substance abuse and, ultimately, fiscal ruin
  • Journalism is a sucker’s game, kid, go into public relations instead
  • Get a law degree if you ever want to make any money
  • Journalism is a calling, not a vocation, if you hear that tiny voice in your heart of hearts, follow it (said while earnestly trying to keep straight face and not snicker)

14. When Donald’s Trump’s top adviser Steve Bannon said the media should “keep its mouth shut,” what he really meant was: (select one)

  • The media should just shut up
  • The media should just shut up — or else …
  • The media should just shut up because resistance is futile and we will assimilate you
  • The media should shut up because we already effectively own you, punk, so why are you still here making noise?
  • All of the above

15. In the contemporary era, how long is a “news cycle?” (select up to two)

  • 140 characters
  • The length of the internet reach plus the internet spread of a Donald Trump tweet, times two
  • The length of time devoted to thoughtful media analysis of the latest Donald Trump tweet, including … Oh, shiny!
  • A period of time that includes a Trump tweet, a Trump insult of a foreign political figure, a Trump insult of a current or former TV or beauty pageant celebrity, a Trump dismissal of a media outlet as irrelevant or sad, and a Melania Trump sighting
  • A Kardashian media measurement unit plus a Kanye West media measurement unit, times 10
  • The length of media coverage, in seconds, of the latest Democratic leader expressing outrage at the latest outrageous Trump tweet or comment, times 1,000

16. Is it journalistically ethical and/or appropriate to equate the relationship between Steven Bannon and Donald Trump with that of the character Master/Baster in “Mad Max: Thunderdome?” Hint: “Who run Bartertown!” (select one)

  • Yes, it’s a perfectly apt comparison
  • No, it is totally inappropriate to equate the man who lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College with the help of Russia and the FBI to a hybrid character from a dystopian, post-apocalyptic film where one-half of the character is the brain and the other half is the brawn
  • I’m a millennial and do not understand this obscure cultural reference from, like, history
  • No, it’s inappropriate to equate the man who lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College with the help of Russia and the FBI to a hybrid character from a dystopian, post-apocalyptic film — wait, he’s not really the legitimate president, so anything goes!
  • It is an effective metaphor as a description of a Svengali-like character who completely controls the mind of a subhuman or ignorant creature, e.g., Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein,” George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” or “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”

17. Following her “alternative facts” and “Bowling Green massacre” comments on national television, do you think Kellyanne Conway is an appropriate TV guest or print interview subject? (select one)

  • No, because she has absolutely no credibility and is a completely untrustworthy source
  • Yes, because allowing Conway to spout nonsense and accurately report it and then show it for the tissue of lies and obfuscation that it is, is the best way to re-establish journalism as the Fourth Estate and help the profession regain its rightful place as the watchdog of the public welfare
  • Yes, because the hoopla surrounding her next lie (and there will be both a lie and hoopla) will be good for ratings/readership/UVMs
  • Yes, because allowing Conway to spout nonsense and accurately reporting it is the best way to curry favor with Donald Trump’s supporters and recruit them as viewers/subscribers/visitors
  • Yes, because allowing Conway to spout nonsense and accurately report it is the best way to demonstrate to Donald Trump’s supporters that their leader and his surrogates are corrupt liars who should not be believed (Psych!)
  • No, because she’s just really creepy when she smiles wider with every lie she tells

18. If you were a network TV producer setting up an interview with Donald Trump, and you could select any living interviewer, regardless of network, outlet or political affiliation, who would you choose among the following (select one):

  • Megan Kelley
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Oprah
  • Chris Wallace
  • John Oliver
  • Dick Cavett
  • Jerry Springer
  • Dr. Oz

19. If you were a network TV producer setting up an interview with Donald Trump, and you could select any dead interviewer, regardless of network, outlet or political affiliation, who would you choose among the following (select one):

  • Walter Cronkite
  • Edward R. Murrow
  • Molly Ivins
  • Mike Wallace
  • Perry Mason
  • Joseph McCarthy
  • Clarence Darrow
  • I’m a millennial and don’t recognize any of those old dead people names
  • All of the above — but on a panel, like during the Inquisition, with the power to order torture to extract a confession

20. For media outlets operating during the Donald Trump administration, the future looks: (select one)

  • Like a new Golden Age of Journalism, where legacy news outlets like newspapers return to profitability, newsrooms expand instead of contract, where every house takes the daily newspaper and where news programs look less like celebrity reality shows and more like real newscasts
  • Like a new Golden Age of Investigative Journalism, the likes of which we have not seen since the Nixon administration and Watergate
  • Like a new Golden Age of Journalism, where news outlets like Breitbart, The Drudge Report, NewsMax, Fox News and the Media Research Center achieve record profitability, with newsrooms expanding and listenership, viewership and subscriptions growing as numerous and robust as mushrooms after a rain storm
  • A dystopian nightmare under an authoritarian ruler in a blasted wasteland where the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride across a desolate and depleted countryside sewing chaos, rapine and mayhem
  • Much like it has for the past 20 years — with newspapers in decline, TV networks and news organizations owned by entertainment companies, actors and celebrities rising to positions of power and authority, and an increasingly disinterested, disengaged, uninformed and idiotic public
  • I should have gone into public relations, like my mentor suggested

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