Sunday, February 25, 2007

What's the matter with the media?

By Libby Spencer

Jesus' General has a thought provoking post on how our media is failing in their time honored mission of informing Americans and Joe Gandelman expands on that theme. Both are must read posts if you're interested in media issues.

Meanwhile, James Joyner disagrees and says the fluff pays the bills. He goes on to say there's "no dearth of good reporting on matters of war, international affairs, and domestic public policy. Indeed, there’s more of it than most of us can keep up with." But he misses the point.

Those stories get short shrift when the focus is on Anna Nicole 24/7 for days on end and they don't sink into the public consciousness with a two minute news item tucked into endless speculation about who the father of Smith's baby is. It's well established that the average person needs three repetitions to retain information. For those of us who actively seek out the news, we can still find it in the dregs of the coverage but the average Jake isn't getting it. All they have to work with is badly skewed Limbaugh style soundbites designed to promote disinfo.

I gave up on televised news years ago. I get my info almost solely from the internet and the odd print source. But the taxpayer is subsidizing the media industry with billions of dollars worth of free access to the airwaves and deserves a better product. They're never going to get one while the competition is limited to five or six major corporations. It's time to break up the monopolies and bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

Joyner points out that megacorps can absorb losses better than small operators but the losses were only initally incurred because the independent news sources were forced to compete with deep pocket corps who offered a dumbed down product that was more palatable to the public's purient interests and could contain costs with consolidation. If we leveled the playing field, and opened it back up to more players, we could restore some honesty to journalism and limit the ability of the spin machine to drive the news cycle.

The only downside I see in that is to the profit margins of the media mega-corps. I'm all for capitalism, but sometimes what's good for business isn't necessarily good for America. This is one of those times.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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