The Oxygen of Amplification analyses the dangers of highlighting negative agendas in the news and the adverse effects that online news has on the journalists who report it. Phillips interviews various journalists and industry professionals to get a rounded perspective of the situation. As a whole, the report reads like a guide for incoming reporters and a collection of works that build on and illuminate the “common knowledge” that seasoned journalists have developed. Phillips agrees with her colleagues that have touched on the subjects before and strives to push the conversation even further. Part one lays out the risks of amplification as well as the risks that come with not amplifying harmful information in the news. Part two uses four categories to show how the digital news culture aids the agendas of extremist groups that it is trying to condemn.
Part One provides nine common statements that journalists give when speaking out against amplification. These comments range from claiming that amplification only gives people attention they do not deserve, to implicating that responding to the outrageous behavior justifies it in the process. Part One goes on to give seven statements that frequently come up in tandem with the first set, explaining the dangers of not amplifying the groups in question. The arguments include the fear of another reporter portraying the story in a worse way and letting the public be educated by those who are meant to be silenced. Both segments point out a negative stream of thought when referencing the debate of "to amplify or not to amplify."(3) Phillips does not provide either side with a sense of positivity, instead showing that this is not a list of pros and cons, but rather an aid in the decision between two evils.
Part Two explains how digital newscasting has adverse effects on stories about extremist groups and ultimately puts the journalist in harm's way. The Tyranny of Analytics lays out the demand for reporters to get as much information on the internet as possible. The information is not expected to be good reporting; it is expected to generate popularity. This concept slides into the information imperative section which explains how reporting on stories that are known to already be doing well helps generate revenue. Shock factor is a tactic used to gather more views and Phillips worries that "the question in newsrooms tends to be whether or not someone can say something, not whether or not they should." (13) The labor issues section describes problems that go far beyond the newsroom. Unreasonable demand to publicize on social media causes many journalists to receive severe backlash from the digital community. Phillips provides evidence of this when talking to a former freelance writer who, “was subjected to a devastating, violently racist, weeks-long social media assault.” (18) By leaving the theoretical and providing a specific example she shows that these attacks are greater than a distaste for the article and extends to an attack on the journalist. This problem is generally faced by non-straight white males and therefore not taken seriously by the higher-ups who fit the aforementioned demographic. The final section, Homogeneity of (Imagined) Audiences and Hegemony of Newsrooms, describes the balance of giving the readers what they want and assuming the knowledge of the reader as being a straight white male. Because the imaginary audience is not the same as the real one, the majority of readers cannot connect with the way in which the story is told.
This article is a solid start to generating awareness, however, it lacks a critical plan to eradicate future problems. An obstacle of this magnitude requires a precise plan of action, not politically correct answers that will be read and pushed aside. Sexism, unsafe working conditions, and overworking are workplace problems that have plagued many fields. Although it is interesting to hear how it affects journalists specifically, the common reader will simply add it to the vast pile of “unfixable” problems in our society. Real change will only begin to happen when people create organization and movements that bring people together. The newsrooms must come together to decide on the standards of reporting and the safety protocols for their journalists. It is unrealistic to believe that the straight white male perspective will create significant change any time soon. Until there is a consensus, online news will continue to slip down the slope that is the internet, constantly trying to outshine each other to the detriment of the outlets as well as the readers.
Whitney Phillips, (2018). The Oxygen of Amplification. Data & Society