In a word, what’s happening right now in the media, and low key in this country, is a shitshow. It’s like this Fast Company piece from Joe Berkowitz said: “We are heading down a dark path, and laughing all the way about the shoddy paving.”
It’s ridiculous, but this is the reality. We are so bogged down with irrelevancy and drama, thanks to the widespread degradation of the media, society is like a snowball rolling downhill. Going faster and faster until that one little snowball starts an avalanche and buries the quaint town below.
As a group, the media has basically “taken the bait,” to quote a client. In the chase for clicks amid fading ad dollars and revenue streams, and fast declining reader attention, too many outlets have completely given up on the idea of objectivity in journalism.
That was hard enough to achieve even before this four-year American tragedy we’ve all lived through. Now there are so few outlets that consistently practice real journalism, you may not even need all of your fingers to count them. The media has willfully given itself over to coverage that is biased, unfairly weighted and offers a seriously pathetic array of diverse opinions.
That decline is not just sad, it’s dangerous.
I occasionally get into it on a Friday with my blog because I talk about diversity and current events, frequently some foolishness that has erupted about which I may have an opinion. But even as I point a crooked finger to call out some entity’s bad behavior, I make a point to play devil’s advocate where appropriate and at least acknowledge there is another side to the coin. It’s my little way of considering more than just my point of view, even if this is my blog.
Because let’s face it. Even before blogs and singular media voices rose to prominence above traditional media like newspapers and magazines, different media outlets have always had agendas. They’re always had opinions, leanings left, right, or wherever. But where there is an opportunity to share diverse opinions, to provide different information sources and points of view, now it’s nothing for the media to offer, one. One!
Further, news outlets are so unabashedly biased, when they do attempt to cover the news objectively, the cronies who’ve touted them as “the source for news” turn on them in a rage, and THAT becomes the news! That’s just not right.
Case in point, Fox News’ election night coverage reporting that Joe Biden would win Arizona’s electoral votes, which turned out to be true. This supposedly sent that person currently in the White House into a fit.
There was a time — I remember it, it wasn’t that long ago — when the news media would have scoffed at that kind of reaction, even from a prominent global leader, and went right on its merry way. Editors would have laughed, snappy quips at the ready, all “it’s freedom of the press,” “we report the facts,” and the like.
Things have changed. Now the media is busy trying not to offend leaders. Sigh.
Of course, there is no one thing responsible for the negative changes we’ve seen in the media. For instance, it would be convenient to say that it’s all social media’s fault. Or, that the age of the internet has hastened media degradation along quite handily. But that’s not entirely true. President Obama discussed it recently while making the rounds to promote his new book, “A Promised Land,” and I think he sums it up well with:
“I don’t hold the tech companies entirely responsible, because this predates social media. It was already there. But social media has turbocharged it. … The degree to which these companies are insisting that they are more like a phone company than they are like The Atlantic, I do not think is tenable. They are making editorial choices, whether they’ve buried them in algorithms or not. The First Amendment doesn’t require private companies to provide a platform for any view that is out there.”
It certainly doesn’t require publicizing one view to the exclusion of all others. That is not media, not as it should be anyway. That’s propaganda. And when a country is as polarized as the US is currently? That’s just not smart.
People look to the news to help them form opinions about what’s right and what’s wrong. People look to the media to identify the facts, to help them decide what to do and what not to do. If the media only offers siloed opinions as a rule — especially when those opinions carry divisive, violent narratives that are in direct opposition to collectively supportive constructs like democracy, safety, patriotism, diversity and inclusion — then we’re in trouble.