PRELUDE: Fredo Ratto, Former National News Correspondent at the Ostrich News Network (ONN)
Excerpt from "COVIDsteria: An Oral History of America's Great Reset" - see https://covidsteria.substack.com/p/covidsteria-table-of-contents
The Great Die-Off was a mass extinction event for the national corporate media as few journalists managed to survive - let alone survive with any credibility intact. However, most independent journalists, now known as citizen journalists or CJs, not only survived but are now thriving in the corporate media vacuum.
As the nightly face of the COVIDsteria years, former National Correspondent Fredo Ratto would only agree to meet me in private and in the undisclosed location where he now lives. I was more than happy to accommodate his wishes to have a chance to chat with him about the media.
When we met, I was shocked by Fredo's appearance without any TV makeup on. He looked at least 15 to 20 years older since I last saw him on TV during the Capitol Siege. He also had a bad cough and was sometimes out-of-breath during our conversation. More oddly and something I had never noticed before when I had seen him on TV: He waddled very much like a penguin when he walked and seemed to be uncomfortable when seated.
Nevertheless, Fredo was surprisingly chatty between his coughing fits about his media days. It was as if I was the first person to listen to him since his last broadcasts during that fateful Capitol Seige. However, he was adamant before we met about not wanting to talk about the Great Die-Off, the purges, and especially what might have happened to him at the end of COVID Spring...
I was born to be in media! Even my teachers and parents said the same! When I was in grammar school and inside the classroom, I always acted as the hall monitor. My teachers knew they could always rely on me to tell them who was doing what when they had their backs turned or left the classroom!
And I was a terror out on the schoolyard playground! At the beginning of recess, I could also start a rumor at the monkey bars. And by the time recess ended, there would be fighting going on all over the playground! With any luck, at least one kid and not me would get suspended! [He laughs and starts coughing and breathing heavily.]
Seriously speaking, journalism was so much different in the days before that stupid Fake News Executive Order and all the changes in libel laws! 1 2 And now we got you so-called citizen journalists running around without any direction reporting largely uncoordinated narratives! [He smirks and coughs heavily.]
Back in my day, editors, producers, and story sponsors often did not have the time to give us journalists full directions. It meant we had to know or have a good instinct on what direction the media herd was heading. And if you could not keep up with or if you kept misjudging where the media herd was stampeding to a few too many times, you did not last long in the media business!
We journalists always faced and were hunted by the tyranny of a 24-hour news cycle driven by social media. Our closest and dearest friends were the copy and paste keyboard commands and the Internet search engines and social media platforms where we looked for quotes from our sources.
In those days, a typical news story was written or produced like this: I was given a brief by my editor, producer, or story sponsor that was often vague or incomplete. Then I went on the Internet or social media to figure out where the media herd was or the direction they appeared to be heading on the story, topics, news, or issues. I also had to ensure that I got all the framing and labeling correct.
Then I had to think like a millennial to find a way to insert myself into the story – especially if the story was for millennials. Inserting myself in as if I was a millennial was the only way we journalists could ever get their damn attention!
Then all I needed to do was find the necessary sources or quotes either on or off social media. If I could not find some good sources or quotes, I could always make one up. I mean…! [He pauses to shift uncomfortably in his seat while letting out a hearty laugh and a lengthy cough while breathing heavily.] I could always say the source was anonymous! [He smiles.]
In the good old days of journalism, we always had this saying around every newsroom or news studio, “What difference does it make?” No one ever questioned our sources or our reporting! So long as everything advanced the correct narratives, our attitude in the media business was, “What difference does it make!”
Even for search and destroy pieces about someone or some group deemed socially or politically repugnant who might fight back – they could never sue us and win! American courts had long ruled that journalist sources are sacred or at least protected under the First Amendment, or the US Constitution, or some other old piece of paper. So again, what difference does it make?!!
I am not saying there were no landmines or booby traps you could still step on in the media business. Using the wrong pronouns to address somebody or accidentally tripping up someone on your side into revealing something that could not be easily edited out, especially on live TV, were the usual pitfalls. Those got you immediately shit-canned!
If that happened, you went into exile from the national mainstream media. You either had to grovel for a job in the news division at Coyote News, or worst: You had to move to some shitty flyover city that could not be located on a map to cover county fairs, mayor, or city council races, and the local sports scene! [He laughs.]
The real trick to being a good journalist in those days was to ensure your readers or viewers never had to do any thinking on their own. It was your job as a journalist to tell them what to think through the selected use of language, images, and videos. 3 And if your readers or viewers chose to do any heavy thinking on their own, it better not be them questioning anything you just told them! [He pauses to catch his breath and then coughs into his handkerchief and shifts uncomfortably in his seat.]
So long as you always kept up with the media herd, used the correct labels and framing, repeated all the right facts and opinions, and avoided stepping on any landmines – the media world was your oyster! It was the golden age of journalism and to be a national correspondent in Washington DC! 4 5 6 7 8
As a national correspondent in Washington DC, when did you first hear about COVIDsteria?
I first heard about COVIDsteria in early January of the first year of the pandemic. There had been a post and a discussion about it in our private social media group.
Private social media group?
Yes. During those days, most national correspondents and media people on the same team politically and not working for or exiled at the Coyote News Network had full access to a private social media group. 9 10 11
In the olden days of journalism, journalists got together bars at the end of the day or behind closed doors in private rooms after press conferences or news events. They would collectively decide what words or labels to use for the proper framing of the story. Because our editors or producers could not be in every bar or private room after every press conference or news event listening or contributing to our discussion, the labels and framing would often get muddled by them during the editing process.