In recent years, there has been a lot of handwringing about the state of the American press. Critics argue that corporate consolidation has led to a homogenization of the news, that "fake news" is on the rise, and that journalists are under assault like never before. While it's certainly true that the media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, it's important to remember that a free and independent press is essential to any functioning democracy. It's no secret that a handful of corporations own most of our press. In the 1970s, there were hundreds of independent radio stations. Today, not so many. We used to have the fairness doctrine, requiring that every opinion aired be balanced with an opposite opinion. The news used to be news, not entertainment. But what happened? In this blog post, we'll look at some of the challenges facing American journalism and what can be done to protect this vital institution.
The Answer is Two-Fold
The answer is two-fold. First, deregulation. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration began deregulating the media industry, paving the way for corporate consolidation. This allowed a few giant companies to buy up hundreds of smaller ones, resulting in the current situation where just a handful of corporations control the majority of our media outlets. Second, and more insidiously, is something called the "financialization" of the media.
In short, this is the transformation of media organizations from being primarily concerned with producing quality journalism to being primarily concerned with making money for their shareholders. This has led to major cutbacks in newsrooms across the country, as well as a race to the bottom in terms of both quality and accuracy. As a result, we are left with a situation where a small number of companies control most of our information sources, and where profit is prioritized over serving the public interest.
The Spread of Misinformation
Another problem facing the American press is the spread of misinformation. Thanks to social media, it's now easier than ever for false or misleading information to go viral. Once something gets shared enough times, it starts to take on a life of its own, even if it's not actually true. This can be incredibly damaging, especially when coupled with people's confirmation bias (the tendency to seek out information that confirms one's preexisting beliefs). One of the most common complaints leveled against the press is that "fake news" is on the rise. While it's true that there has been an increase in intentionally misleading or fabricated news stories in recent years, much of this can be attributed to the fact that anyone with a computer and an internet connection can now publish whatever they want, without having to go through any kind of editorial process. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as "the democratization of information." While this increased access to information is generally seen as a good thing, which I myself am taking advantage of, but it does have its downside.
The Decline of Local Journalism
In addition to all of this, there has been a decline in local journalism in recent years. As advertising revenues have declined, many local newspapers have been forced to cut back on their coverage or close their doors entirely. This is problematic because local journalists are often the only ones holding elected officials accountable and shining a light on what's really going on in our communities. When local newspapers disappear, we all suffer.
It's clear that American journalism is facing some significant challenges in the 21st century. However, it's also clear that a free and independent press is more important than ever before. In order to protect this vital institution, we need to support journalists and demand accountability from our elected officials. Only then can we hope to ensure that our democracy remains strong.
This is not a healthy situation for democracy. When just a few companies control what we see and hear, it leads to a situation where those companies can easily manipulate public opinion for their own benefit. This is why it's so important that we have a free and independent press. Unfortunately, thanks to deregulation and corporate greed, that is no longer the case.
It’s time to take our democracy back. We need to get active, write our elected officials, and demand change. The press is failing us miserably and it’s up to citizens like you and me to make sure we have a fair and unbiased fourth estate. Our country depends on it. Have you written your elected officials about the state of the press? The state of the press in our country is concerning. We need to take action and demand that our elected officials do something about it. Please make sure your voice is heard. Democracy depends on a free and fair press- without it, we are headed down a dark path. It’s time to break up the big cable companies, make information free, and get citizens more involved in the press. We need to bring back the fairness doctrine and elect officials who will fight for our right to have access to truthful information. The health of our democracy depends on it!by Mark Rose