I think it only right that I begin my journey into discussing/debating current issues with the topic of media. Contemporary media has become so much more than mere distribution of factual events and schedules. Media in our day is a multi-billion dollar business; a weapon of choice, even a suckled teat to some. With all of the rhetoric, banter, and finger pointing running rampant throughout our society, it is easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of discerning realities.

In setting the parameters for this discussion, I realize how wide stretching the term “media” may be. For this reason, I am limiting it to the Merriam Webster definition for students: “the system and organizations of communication through which information is spread to a large number of people”. Further refining this, I will limit this to include only information that is considered “news”, which sets our threshold for discussion at news in print form, radio and television broadcasts, and Internet news sites. From this I will pose my questions, and state opinion.

What do you see as the role of contemporary media? Is it limited to purely mass dissemination of events that affect a given peoples, or is it possible that media has evolved to take on more roles in society? As a youth, the news media to me was the all-knowing outlet from which the majority of my decisions were made (or made for me). Fewer stations (both radio and television) meant choices were limited to which one portrayed life better/more realistic, and which anchors or hosts emoted more closely to the way I did. I wasn’t concerned about an outlet that was considered “left-leaning” or otherwise. Hell, I didn’t truly grasp that concept, as it was taught to us that the news was the news. Period. Not until my career in the military did I begin to realize how subtle nuances clearly displayed such biases. Media, to me, went from the omnipotent yogi on high who provided me with all of life’s vital information, to the man on the alley fast-talking you as he peddles his knock-off or stolen wares. Evening news and morning papers as the staples of education became twisted into 24 hour news stations claiming everything as “Breaking News” or “Alert” and print outlets pushing over the boundaries of all ethical guidelines just to say “you heard it here first” for ratings. Education was replaced by the businesses bottom lines.bill_of_rights_630

Ethical line jumping is nothing new, it’s just more prevalent now due to technology. Lack of responsibility in media appears to be the new norm. This begs the question, what responsibility does media have to the populace? Now that media outlets are gigantic conglomerates with worldwide reach, and potentially endless coffers, what holds them to any modicum of ethical standards? When we witness daily bouts of contradictory reports about the same incident, and endless streams of “photo shopped “ snippets from all portions of society, what are we to believe? How do we delineate the legitimate publishers of factual information from those mouthpieces selling their airtime and soul to the highest bidder? Are we even allowed to question the validity of any of them? At what point does what they consider news become them expressing their right of free speech? With the recent “Fake News” drama being touted at every turn, why is it that all of these media outlets continue to draw ever-increasing numbers of followers? We as a society are recognizing CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and others heavily spin their brand of information in order to fulfill their investors desires, yet we continue to mindlessly hang on their every syllable as if it were our lifeblood. Having said that, do we now have a responsibility to ourselves, the “greater good”, or even to the media to speak up and set the record straight? How does this all fit in to functioning of the supposed greatest country in the world?

9 thoughts

  1. Spot on. I’ve been expessing this sentiment for years, albeit, not as eloquently and well structured as you. We first have to look at who is controlling the majority of it, then try to discern their motives. Is it to steer people into a group collective that mimics the controllers own, or is it purely fiscal? Either way, I think the amendment governing the right to free press needs revision. Certain conglomerates hide under freedom of press, with no accountability posed against them. Yet, we are supposed to believe them, because we are supposedly protected from said guise. It has become so intrinsic in our media relations that we are compelled to fact check what we used to assume are reputable sources. There is a devious group, sheltered by their wealth and power, that is controlling all media, not just news media. Its time people start adjudicating every thing that is displayed to them. We all know who that group is, the name that shall now be mentioned.

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  2. The modern media has strayed extremely far from their predecessors, at least those operating within America. Actions once seen as an societal obligation to be performed for the betterment the nation, are now among the largest revenue generating systems in the world.

    A reputable news anchor (his name slips my mind at the moment) once stated that the news world would never be the same once his station realized a news program could turn a profit. But why should that be? It’s simple enough if you really think about it. A story is much more interesting when told by a great story teller. Embellishments, sensationalism, and feigned empathy only further engage us as an audience. That is why Charlie Rose (let’s ignore his character for the moment) never received the ratings that Bill O’Reilly or Heather Maddow do. Unfortunately, the truth gets lost along the way. So muddied by conjecture and opinion, that individual details are lost in the wave of partisan peer pressure. This is why we identify a news outlet by a broad spectrum political leaning tendency. The facts are so lost that all we can discern from their blathering is which direction to accusingly point our finger.

    Mike, you make a great point about accountability. The media has journalistic protections which are vital to their ability to investigate and inform. Unfortunately, there is no true and effective measure of accountability. Writing a retraction statement on page six of next month’s paper does not count. For these reasons, we place our trust in the journalistic integrity and morals of our media personnel. I truly believe that each journalist begins their career with the morals and integrity to meet the needs of informing that nation. However, once they are signed by a major media outlet they learn how the game is truly played and either choose to go along or find a new line of work.

    We as individuals are just as accountable for the nation’s decline in journalistic integrity. People tend to gravitate towards like minded individuals and groups. On a small scale, this provides comfort, reassurance in ourselves, and confidence knowing that we are not alone. The people in our group will influence us in a slow and subtle fashion over the duration of our time spent with them. Britt Hume, Anderson Cooper, and the rest have slowly become inner circle friends with millions of Americans. Influencing the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions of everyone who allows them into their home each night.

    This partisan, for profit, media gerrymandering breeds division, anger, spite, and desperation while contributing next to nothing in actual insight of the current state of our society. Once a reporting outlet for “Notable Events, Weather and Sports”, the news now creates notable events through breeding the discontent necessary for them to occur. Popular media personalities monologue about their audiences worst fears, creating a festering sense of paranoia and anger. After sowing the seeds of violence, they turn around and say how it would not surprise them if another tragic event were to occur. Once it occurs, they act appalled at the derangement of society, claiming they have the cure. Just strip this freedom, stop this injustice, make these people change, do whatever it takes; by any means necessary.

    Thus creating the next day’s story and ensuring their audience will return for more.

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  3. So what is the answer here so far? Mike, your point about reforming the First Amendment is understandable, but I personally don’t see that gaining any traction. That is a huge freedom that our citizens enjoy that many others don’t. Unfortunately, and to your point, there are those that use this as their own personal “get out of jail free card” (figuratively and literally). Journalists such as Jayson Blair, who fabricated the majority of his columns for the New York Times; Janet Cooke, who practically fabricated her own achievements, as well as the majority of her journalistic works; and even the lovable monotone himself, Dan Rather. Are we to just accept that they are able to hold the moniker “Artist”, and therefore are endowed with the freedom to create at will? If so, then shouldn’t they be fiction authors and not journalists whose soul responsibility to the public is to provide accurate and timely information about our world? What is worse is that, as Mike posited, ever-increasing numbers of these reporters are being bankrolled by non-media entities who have completely separate and ulterior motives. What are we to do then? Surely we could boycott a given media outlet, but what would that accomplish? Look across the world and you will find that all forms of news media are really only controlled by a handful of companies, with that list getting smaller and smaller. Monopolization laws will eventually come in to place, I hope, but no time soon.

    Now we chose which outlet we prefer, or at least dislike the least, and stick with it. Even this is perpetuating the issue, as we eventually become numb to the ingratiating host who acts like the good uncle, and teaches us new words, or who even reminds us how important we are as his/her sign off. This brings up Tanner’s point; we allow those providing the news to not be held accountable, while we lose our personal accountability, as well as our accountability to the masses, without any second thought. What is there to do about this? From what we see, furthering Tanner’s point, anyone who speaks up is alienated, ostracized, and labeled, left to barely tread the waters of public opinion. Even when like-minded citizens band together, we as a society can’t remember our moral long enough to have simple, civil discourse for the betterment of all. Cycle perpetuating.

    Apart from a State-run media, or (re)structuring of laws governing accountable media practices, what options do we have? The machine continues to grow, as we as a people become more and more numb/blind/deaf to the truth…

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  4. Interesting. I would differ in that I believe we’re in the golden age of journalism (with obvious and blatant exceptions) and that the ideological polarity within the populace is the real culprit for the proliferation of “fake news”.

    Twitter and Facebook timelines are one’s own customizable and individualized version of the antiquated front page of a newspaper. Online News outlets base success on the number of clicks an article recieves. The industry is shaping itself in the image of its consumer. As the polarity increases, the demand for information that validates and supports one’s own beliefs increases with it. It’s also my opinon that its much more prevalant on one side of the ideological spectrum but perhaps that’s a seperate topic

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  5. Steve, I’m not sure about what would constitute this as the “Golden Age of Journalism”, especially given the disparity shown on any given incident that the media as a whole reports on. As far as the populace dictating the news/media industry, I would have to disagree, especially with the recent reports concerning the Cambridge Analytics fiasco. I am actually glad that you brought this up. I was speaking to another friend of mine that reminded me of a noteworthy piece of information; Yellow Journalism. Both the Cambridge Analytics fiasco and Yellow Journalism go to prove my point; media businesses (on either side of the aisle) seize any and all opportunities to mold a given event to fit their needs. Moreover, they take such wide liberties with the processing/presentation of the facts in order to diminish their opposition. Think about this: why are cable news outlets reporting on what the other outlets are reporting, much akin to a sibling tattling on you to a parent?

    NPR, through BBC, reported just this morning that Cambridge Analytics admitted that they employed an engineer who developed a program which emulated one of those “random”, seemingly innocuous polls on Facebook. This program in turn utilizes an algorithm which targets a preset respondent and fills their various feeds with ads and other media for their given client. Tell me this isn’t the media dictating society. Indoctrination and assimilation can easily begin simply by inundating an individual’s environment with images supporting your entity’s point of view….

    Yellow Journalism was/is the epitome of mudslinging, and easily paved the way for the coffer-backed, lobbyist-style, far-whatever side reporting we currently witness. Check out the link below for more information about Yellow Journalism’s history and let me know what y’all think. Is society to blame for the media’s actions, or is it the other way around? Who is responsible to who at this point?

    Thanks to Doctrine Man and Kevin Suber for the reminder:
    https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/yellow-journalism

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  6. The answer for ensuring that the media is upholding a standardized level of integrity is to create a journalistic governing body comprised of experienced personnel elected by their peers. Much like the National board of Realtors, this journalistic governing body would create certification requirements for an individual to earn the label “journalist”. The education, certification process, continuing education requirements, standards of job performance would all be regulated and evaluated annually. During this annual re-certification process, the board would review the performance of the ‘Journalist’ over the previous year. Their ability to maintain their certification would depend on their adherence to the standards set forth by the governing board. A ‘Journalist’ who loses their certification can no longer refer to themselves as such; forcing them to use alternative titles such as news anchor, talk show host, media personality, or pontificating windbag as appropriate. The results of these evaluations, though maybe not the specific details they contain, would be public information to ensure a necessary level of transparency. Since the system would be self-governing, it would retain the freedoms secured by the 1st Amendment. There would be an unbelieveable amount of resistance to implementing this system. However, should the current state of the media remain unchanged, it is only a matter of time before the public demands accountability and the government gives the media the option to govern themselves or be governed by a Congressional committee.

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    1. Say we implement a department or organization as you describe. Will this be a federal establishment, falling under more bureaucratic red tape, or will it be more of an independent consortium with more levity for self regulation? Moreover, which is worse, allowing Congress (many of whom are the very same that are tied to media impropriety) to regulate these outlets, or giving those reins over to a quasi-independent grouping of “trusted” media leaders (whom would no doubt require thorough vetting by “someone”…)? I think that this is a good start to reestablishing legitimacy in journalism, but it might not be enough. The public record is definitely a motivating factor to this proposal too.

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