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Chapter 11: How to fix what’s wrong with Big Media

“All of journalism is a shrinking art. So much of it is hype. The O.J. Simpson story is a landmark in the decline of journalism.” —American sportswriter and broadcaster Dick Schaap

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” —George Orwell, English novelist and journalist

“I want the news delivered unbiased. I thought that was the whole point with journalism.” —Aaron McGruder, American artist

 

What’s wrong with Big Media

  • Too few voices. As big corporations have gained control of an increasing number of media outlets and driven smaller competitors under, there are fewer independent media sources.
  • Too much infotainment. Americans are addicted to entertainment. Media outlets are addicted to reach and ratings. It’s natural, then, that media outlets have become more concerned with entertaining people than informing and that the line between journalists and entertainers have been blurred. Straight news takes a backseat to entertainment as journalists turn themselves into clowns to attract a following.
  • Too much opinion. Most journalists tend to be liberal and too often allow their opinions to leak into news stories—especially in the broadcast media. Competition opens the door for diversity among stations (such Fox vs. MSNBC), but what good is diversity when each outlet is engaged in propaganda supporting a particular point of view?
  • Horse race coverage. More than a year prior to an election, journalists breathlessly report the latest opinion polls about candidates. This is ridiculous because opinion polls usually capture the latest knee-jerk reaction of voters who aren’t very interested in an election that far in the future. Opinions tend to change dramatically once voters finally get interested enough to start thinking about the issues. But by then some candidates have been forced out of the race because of the media’s fixation with premature horse race coverage.
  • Where’s the meat? Journalists pay so much attention to opinion polls and news-making “events” manufactured by public relations flacks that there isn’t much time, space, or airtime for meaningful reporting. There is far too little original reporting about serious issues. Many journalists spend too much time chasing “the breaking story of the day” no matter how trite or meaningless it may be.
  • Lazy citizenship. Too many voters would rather be entertained by others than put their own time and effort into meaningful participation in a free society—so Big Media gives them what they want: entertainment.

How to fix the problems with Big Media 

  • Progressive corporate income taxes. A graduated corporate income tax would encourage the voluntary breakup of huge media companies into smaller companies. For more details about this proposal, see the chapter titled “Taxes.”
  • Sharper citizens. The media wouldn’t keep feeding us so much celebrity news, horse race coverage, and other nonsense if people didn’t keep feasting on it. Shallow citizens result in shallow media.
  • Seek out serious journalism. Citizens who care need to recognize and appreciate meaningful journalism. We still have some excellent reporters who can be entertaining without sacrificing their journalistic principles. They are easy to recognize because they stay focused on real issues. They don’t cozy up to politicians. They aren’t part of “pack journalism.” They don’t shout down or poke fun at others, and they don’t engage in personal attacks, “gotcha” or celebrity journalism, or horse race coverage. They are able to keep their personal opinions out of their stories.
  • More grassroots journalism. Some of our best journalism going forward may come from individual citizens, foundations, universities, and civil groups. Journalism was never supposed to be a licensed profession. It has always been—and must always remain—open to anybody. America’s earliest journalists tended to be printers (because they owned a press), but everybody is now empowered because we all have access to the Internet. Do poor journalism, and people will ignore you; do good work, and you’ll find an audience.

“The lowest form of popular culture…has overrun real journalism. Today, ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage.” —Carl Bernstein, American investigative journalist

“If we’re going to live as we are in a world of supply and demand, then journalists had better find a way to create a demand for good journalism.” —Bill Kovach, author and

5 Comments
  1. Thank you for this Joe! I’m writing a paper on bias in cable news and this was really helpful. You had some really good ideas about how straighten out the media that were notsuggested in any other of the umpteen books, newspapers, or websites I referenced. Is your real name Joe Smyth, so I know who to credit?

    Like

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  2. Action Plan to Save America « Fixing America's Broken Politics
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