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What has happened to the ‘media’?

Do you remember the last time you could trust the nation’s media to be accurate and fair?

Media credibility became an issue in the U.S. following the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Press associations actually formed commissions to review the problem. But recent polls show that approval ratings for news organizations have not improved but have worsened.

Why?

Ironically, some of the great media organizations that prospered as champions of the vaunted freedom of the press in the United States have become monopolies and in the process have lost not only their competitive zeal but also respect for diverse points of view and a genuine relationship with their primary audience.

Replacing privately-owned news organizations that cultivated a relationship of trust and shared values with their communities are purely commercial enterprises that struggle to sustain their existence and are sometimes subsidized by wealthy interests with ideological agendas.

With the explosion of electronic media in the 20th Century and more recently the Internet revolution, advertising has become a foundation of shifting sand for the news business. The proliferation of new media platforms has diluted the advertising base. As a result, many once-great newspapers and news groups that were seen as in effect printing money on their printing presses have come to be seen as bad business propositions.

The 2016 presidential election in the United States became a spectacle when the winning candidate did an end-run around the establishment media with his own social media accounts and actually won.

Social media provide a wide spectrum and volume of information from a dizzying array of sources. Audiences make decisions on the veracity of such information based on faith in those they presume to be their friends or with whom they identify in other ways.

While entertainment news operations flourish, significant hard news beats go unstaffed by actual professional reporters paid to question authority and verify information.

Thus many educated and sophisticated readers look for authoritative content to corporate media giants such as the New York Times and the Washington Post which by their own admission have partisan political biases. Community newspapers increasingly defer to such monopolies for serious national and Washington coverage while focusing on local news.

In an era when foreign news is increasingly relevant to local communities and economies, Americans increasingly turn to state-controlled organizations such as RT, BBC or Al Jazeera with editorial policies that are sometimes in direct conflict with U.S. long term interests. Other foreign news bureaus are maintained primarily by British newspapers.

Is this the scenario that the American Founding Fathers envisioned?

 

 

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