Sometimes the government will set up a new regulatory agency, like a Mine Safety and Health Administration or something to keep watch on the mining industry. And off they go, investigating the mining industry to make sure they’re being safe.

Only something funny happens. It turns out all the people they talk to all day are mining industry officials. And whenever they hold meetings to ask for advice, the only people who show up are mining industry officials. When they make proposals and ask for public comment, all the comments are from mining industry officials. And pretty soon, they start thinking like mining industry officials.

Academics call this regulatory capture — an office was put in place to regulate an industry, but it ended up just being a tool of the industry.

But what’s striking is that the problem isn’t just limited to regulation; the same thing happens to journalists as well. Call it journalistic capture.

Journalistic Capture and Fixing CNBC (Aaron Swartz’s Raw Thought)

I’ve heard this term mentioned in reference to tech journalism recently so I had to look it up. Specificity of the CNBC complaint aside, this seems like the most succinct explanation of the phenomenon on the web.

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