Monday, June 27, 2005

That Great Sucking Sound

That great sucking sound coming from your radio and TV is the deflation of American trust in the Fourth Estate. Increasingly obsessed with celebrity sensationalism and crime driven news, the mainstream media have created a vacuum into which is being dragged the credibility of the few remaining responsive and aggressive journalists -- people who provide the type of hard-hitting coverage this country desperately needs.

The Pew Research Center's latest survey on people and the press reveals a yawning gap between news credibility and its favorability, as growing numbers question the accuracy of the news they read, listen to and watch. These sentiments are echoed in the Project for Excellence in Journalism's annual report, "The State of the News Media."

"Credibility ratings for most major news outlets had reached a low ebb," the Pew reported in June 2004 (see News Audiences Increasingly Politicized). The latest survey adds to the decline and concludes that there is "a startling rise in the politicization of opinions on several measures" in the United States. The State of the News Media Report found that, from 1985 to 2002, the number of Americans who thought news organizations were highly professional declined from 72% to 49%.

Left in the lurch of media's downward turn is the hard-hitting news and investigative journalism that Americans need to shake up the powerful and challenge the status quo.

In a society where corporate and government priorities combine to control the political agenda, a forthright media is meant to serve as provocateur -- advocating for truth, speaking on behalf of disenfranchised, and using facts to shake undeserving elites from their higher perch.

Journalists who work on behalf of the public good, and against the blindly pro-corporate and government agenda of mainstream media, are being dragged down by a media system that has sold out good journalism to serve its bottom line.

Tom Fenton, in his 2005 book Bad News: The Decline of Reporting, the Business of News and the Danger to Us All, reports that the news industry – and in particular the networks – were once thought of as a public service.

Commercial news media have been commandeered by their corporate parents as a cash cow, argues Fenton. “None of the networks is talking about providing more international news, more context, or serving the American public better,” he writes. “Their vision is focused as always on the bottom line.”

Flushing Out Karl
This brand of news programming -- exemplified most recently by the proliferation of corporate- and government funded VNRs and “payola pundits” -- sends a message that the people who control the airwaves simply no longer understand their roles, not to mention their duty to the public.

Pew's report confirms the resulting public cynicism.

Karl Rove is chalking up another victory in the concerted campaign to dismantle and discredit dissenting views. The key to our response is to be both critical of the corporate news industry -- which has become a convenient if not undeserving target in the failure of public trust -- while fostering an empowered and independent news system to flush out Rove and his fellow rats, once and for all.


Anonymous said...

People are very worried that the same thing is happening here in Canada. Many Canadians are frustrated by it, but don't seem to have any idea how to deal with the phenomena. Perhaps if they were to make common cause with groups and organizations working to combat this problem in the United States, together they could accomplish more. A lot is said about anti-Americanism in Canada, but I don't believe there is really very much of it here. It's just that we, like many of you, are worried that freedom and democracy are under assault by ultra-conservatives in both countries, and find that troublig and unacceptable.

Guillermo said...

To have a well informed public requires a responsible press, which
does not publish pseudo news such as the disappearance of a bride before her wedding, and is not obsessed with celebrities.

To have a responsible press requires a public that does not love pseudo news.

Peggy Deras, CKD, CID said...

The buzz is becoming a chorus. Soon it will be as deafening as Niagara Falls.

The American people will not go much longer in the darkness of this pap they call broadcast news these days.

Soon everybody will know what we know. The news is bunk!