I’ve blogged before about my issues with the state of 24 hour news. Not only is there simply not enough news to fill up 24 hours on the 5+ networks dedicated to this format, the level of sensationalism has reached an all time high as each network competes for viewers and, in turn, advertising dollars. We’ve now reached the point where if one simply wants a traditional news show outside of one of the “big three” networks it’s nowhere to be found. On a personal level, it’s that part that frustrates me the most, as I find television news a convenient way to have the day’s larger headlines broken down into a very easy to consume format.
A sign of the changing landscape in another form of media came this week as it was announced this week that the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News would discontinue home delivery of the newspaper except for the most popular three days of the week (Thursday, Friday and Sunday). As an alternative, the newspapers are moving home subscribers to the online version of the paper. While some may want to spin this as a sign of a troubled economy, that could not be further from the truth. The fact is that the Detroit newspapers are facing the exact same problem as every other newspaper in the nation – competition with the Internet.
Our world and our reality has changed greatly over the last 10 years. Information has become more pervasive than any time before in our history. People have more resources at their disposal than ever. And the Internet acts as a leveler for the playing field, allowing anyone with a computer to share their thoughts for all the world to see (i.e. – this blog). The fact of the matter is, people are turning towards other resources for their news.
All media outlets are businesses and must make money. As competition increases for customers these businesses must find other ways to turn a profit. Television has handled this by (on the whole) casting aside any level of journalistic integrity and sense of neutrality in search of ratings. Newspapers have a limited capability to do that due to the format of that medium. Some newspaper companies are beginning to succumb to the pressures - the parent company for the Chicago Tribune recently declared bankruptcy. Others, like the aforementioned Detroit newspapers, are trying to reshape themselves to Internet based media companies.
What worries me about all of this is the impact it will have on the general population. This is an age when someone can have a respected news site despite only scooping one more story in its history than I have (Matt Drudge), or another that has a very obvious agenda can be given credence in the main stream media (The Huffington Post). We seem to be losing all sight of journalism and neutrality, and the general populous seems to be losing its ability (if it ever had one to begin with) to filter out this bias.
FactCheck.org, a non-partisan organization dedicated to fishing out falsehoods in political ads and spin, posted an article recently about the electorate’s level of misinformation. As it turns out, about half of the population believed two falsehoods told about the two major candidates in the election (McCain making cuts to Medicare and Obama taxing small business owners). Clearly, the truth doesn’t appear to be getting out there in a fashion consumable by a sizeable chunk of the population.
Our population is receiving their information from talking heads on television and the Internet in blogs who are concerned more about their own opinions and advertising than anything resembling journalism. And as is human nature, when something’s in print or on television, our instinct is to give it some level of credence even when none is deserved.
I wonder if we will continue down this path, or if at some point there will be a societal correction as more people demand unbiased truth from media outlets.