As we all know, the media is less-than-perfect. We do not believe most of what we see and hear. Some of it is really, really bad and the rest is worse. We are just not completely trusting of the news anymore. In fact, the remaining BIG news outlets, in an effort to regain some lost credibility, now run ‘fact-checking’ segments.
We do not have faith in mainstream news media and we have virtually none in the internet ‘personality’ outlets (but some are definitely entertaining). The reason we even check in with any of them is simple: where else do you go for info? And some of it is basically, generally kinda true. Probably. Check in with enough sources and you might get some kind of ‘overall’ picture. Maybe.
For example: I know there is a war going on between Russia and Ukraine. I know Russia started it. I know the west has imposed sanctions on Russia and is half-supporting Ukraine. I know a lot of Ukranians had to leave the country. That much I know. After that, it gets a bit blurry.
I know extreme weather events are increasing and increasingly severe. I believe that is happening all over the world. But that is all that I really know for sure about the current state of the climate except that is changing.
And so it goes for some politics, some religion (i.e. pope visits, Dalai Lama, a rogue Islamic cleric, etc), and the economy. I say ‘some’ politics because 80% of the world is not reported on at all (I guess nothing ever happens in Mozambique, Montenegro and Mongolia). Ninety-nine percent of religious issues go unreported (which is a blessing) and, of course, the economy is a mystery at the best of times and especially so in at least 85% of the world. Our understanding of what’s up is still very, very limited and, tho I sense a renewed effort at some fact-finding, I still have much less faith in the media with very few exceptions.
Why is this? I assumed that my cynicism was the result of 74 years on the planet and having been involved in more than a normal person’s number of news stories. Every story I was intimately familiar with, the news got it wrong. After awhile, that inclination-to-error adds up. I started to have doubts on other stories based on virtually nothing…..well…there was one thing that assisted my suspicion and that was that so many stories in so many news outlets sounded so much alike.
And that is because there are only three main news aggregators or wire services that western media utilize. Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters. Basically, those three (all good, mind you) find, filter, edit, summarize and distribute NEWS from around the world to their news-distributor customers. They may be good but three is also very limiting. Only local news outlets escaped that giant wire-service filter primarily because the local fry was so small, they slipped through the larger netting.
But – and this is the point – local news was usually more factual on local stories. It has always had a bias that slanted towards the nearest big corporation or advertiser but the weather forecast was accurate, the quotes from the mayor were accurate, the local hockey game scores were right on. News on the local economy, on the other hand, was only so-so. That’s because news runs off of ad revenues and he who pays the piper calls the tune. Industry and business (Chamber of Commerce) pushed for discretion at the very least and suppression on many things (like pollution, gouging, fraud). Local news was good for local human interest, car accidents, plane crashes and police related stuff but noticeably absent from investigative stuff that involved politicians, corporations, government, institutions, and bigger social issues. The sometimes exception to that was the editorial and some special columnists (previously referred to as reporters).
But over the last thirty years or so all that has changed. Firstly, the vast majority (well over 50%) are no longer with us. They were bought up. The remaining have no reporters. There are no editorial opinions. These ‘news’ sources are now just two and three person, employee-run (owner elsewhere) weeklies that only print what is given to them and, of course, sell ads. The editorial is given to them.
Why? Well, it is cheaper that way. More money is made by simply regurgitating pap and PR. No staff required. Radio stations went that way, too (run by computers and robots). Even local television stations only hires pretty faces and simply delivers what their owner feeds them. NO reporters. Journalism is close to dead. Distrust and doubt results from that and distrust and doubt also results in a smaller audience.
News is corporate but we just aren’t buying it like we used to. Instead, we are shopping elsewhere. And the internet wannabes rushed in to fill that demand. Of course, the unqualified and unregulated knew that the audience wanted sensationalized stories, intrigue and expose’s but, not having the resources to do that, they just made crap up. That became so successful a model, Fox rose to the top of the heap and gave rise to second tier liars and fabricators (OAN, Epoch Times). They, in turn, grew a single-guy-with-camera-and-mike junior farm team complete with fake news desks just waiting for their big break. We now had a gutted ‘legitimate’ media supplemented by a cheaper-to-run, more profitable, lying media that is a succeeding rival and a growing group of opinionators like me just adding to the noise.
And it is does NOT stop there. How do the liars and the weakened legitimates get non wire service content? Seems they get that ‘content’ from PR firms issuing press releases. A press release is cheap (free), well-written and, of course, 100% favourable to the client issuing it. Corporate interests now owned the media and the content. Worse, the legitimate news providers also publish and broadcast PR originated pieces! Your ‘news’ is the corporate message ‘merchandised’ to suit your tastes.
There are now thousands and thousands of new PR firms. They are filling the role of the old, hard-drinking, street-crawling, investigative reporters of yesteryear whose stories too often cost too much, ended in dead-ends and caused lawsuits. So much better business using an ‘attributable’ source that gives up the content for free AND buys ads.
The only cost to your news business is that they lie.
PLEASE NOTE There are a few notable independent news gatherers at all levels from the NY Times (big) to the Tyee (small). And some little farm-team wannabes that have a truth conduit in some narrower field (Heather Cox-Richardson, Beau of the Fifth Column). These outlets mentioned are the exception but the exception includes many more unmentioned. One has to select.