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When did the media change?

By stewartj76 in Op-Ed
Tue Mar 13, 2001 at 03:32:35 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

When did our news agencies stop telling us the news and start showing us the news? By that, I don't mean spin, right-wing conspiracies, liberal-media bias or any of that. I mean constant commentary during reporting, analysis, and sensationalism. And, probably more important than when did media change, why did it change? I have heard an interesting theory, and have one of my own. I realize that there cannot be a "right" answer to this question because it is based on your personal perception of journalism, but I would still like to hear some opinions other than my own.

A few days ago, I was listening to the radio (I think it was Rush Limbaugh, but I'm not sure) and heard a theory that the media (t.v. and radio primarily) "changed" as a result of Woodward and Berstein. Before then, the news agencies just reported what had happened. But Woodward and Bernstein, in the process of reporting on the Watergate breakins, received media attention of their own. Now, reporters and journalists realized that they could receive attention for their story and not just receive attention to the story. This caused a shift away from traditional journalism to the investigative journalism that we continue to see today.

I had been thinking about this topic some on my own and had my own conclusion. I think that once news started worrying about getting ratings and not about reporting facts caused the media shift. This is more of a gradual shift, and I do not know when this began, but one may point to the expansion of cable t.v. as a cause. The increase in channels available meant that 24 hour news channels could run (and compete). However, there is just not enough new news for all the channels. So they have to attract viewers with something other than news. That something tends to be sensationalism (Dateline NBC, to pick one) or specific viewer targeting (Fox News Channel). This has caused less pure news to be reported and more of the "Protect Your Family" stories.

Now, as more of an anecdote, I will give evidence that good reporting does still happen. I happened to be in Denver during the Columbine shootings. I lived about 2 miles from the school and worked with people whose children attended the school. Before noon (less than an hour after the shootings started), we were all gathered either by the television or listening to the radio for information. And that's all we got: information. I remember listening to the traffic guy tell us what he could see and what he had heard from the police. No spin, no insight, just news.


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News Today is:
o fine as is 3%
o a left-wing conspiracy 3%
o controlled by the liberals 17%
o just too much 6%
o best ignored 43%
o out of control 26%

Votes: 88
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by stewartj76

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When did the media change? | 45 comments (25 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
From what I was taught (4.66 / 3) (#5)
by argent on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 12:28:34 PM EST

Back in high school, during my journalism class, we were taught that a newspaper could take one of two stances on news. It could be a mirror, or a candle.

A candle stance would allow them to be more opinionated, to "light a candle in the darkness" to show what they thought was right, wrong, or show a solution to something.
A Mirror stance would have them just reporting back the facts of a story with little, or no opinion/spin on it.

It seems to me that there's been a third angle added as of late. The big honking spotlight with bells and whistles stance. These journalists point out what you should be paying attention to and make sure you are looking at it when they want you to.

Now I realize that the candle/mirror outlook is a bit old and dated, but, at least to me, it seems that it still makes the most sense.


cd /pub more Beer
Vaudeville promoters (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by jabber on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 01:06:45 PM EST

With the exception of NPR and PBS (Fresh Air and Frontline are brilliant candles) most media today is commercial. They depend on advertisement for their existence, just as Soap Operas do.

Soap Operas gave us the moments of suspense, seedy intrigue and the obligatory end-of-episode cliff-hanger to keep their blasse audience watching more detergent adverts.

Today's news shows do pretty much the same thing. They string their viewers along with "coming next, news that could save you life", and at the end of the show they remind you to hold the handrail on an escalator or something equally assinine.

Then of course we have to keep in mind that most news systems are owned by vertical near-monopolies, and peddle their owners products while keeping the audience on a hook.. Just like a vaudeville barker waving his hands around and yelling "Look at the freaks!", just so he can get paid.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Mirrors and candles (none / 0) (#45)
by driptray on Tue Mar 13, 2001 at 09:04:14 PM EST

A candle stance would allow them to be more opinionated, to "light a candle in the darkness" to show what they thought was right, wrong, or show a solution to something.
A Mirror stance would have them just reporting back the facts of a story with little, or no opinion/spin on it.

With all due respect to your high school journalism teacher, this is a fairly lousy analysis. It suggests that there are two types of journalism - the biased (candle) and the unbiased (mirror). It completely misses the point that no journalistic mirror is free from the candle bias.

As others have noted here, just what facts should the "mirror" report? It is this decision - what to report - that is the really contentious issue in journalism. The spin/opinion/bias occurs when this decision is made, even if the subsequent selection of facts appears to have been reported (mirrored) in an unbiased way.

'Twas always thus, although news sources used to be a lot more diverse. In Australia there are large cities with only one newspaper owner (Murdoch), who, as you can imagine, reports only on "news items" that are beneficial to his business interests. There are a couple of other media owners (Kerry Packer and Kerry Stokes - Big Kerry and Little Kerry) that control the TV stations and magazines, and their business interests mostly coincide with Murdoch's, except in a few areas (sport, media laws). A hundred years ago there were a lot more newspapers from a lot more owners, and the news was a lot more diverse. Now everything is syndicated and I end up reading the same article in four different places.

We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]
A corporate "liberal" conspiracy???? (3.80 / 5) (#7)
by maynard on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 12:37:09 PM EST

I'm responding to the poll options here: Do you honestly believe that the five or so global communications companies, which own and produce the vast majority of news broadcast and in print worldwide, present a "liberal" bias? Are you kidding me?

Do you consider CNN (CNN/Time/Warner/AOL) "Liberal"? How about the major networks, owned by ABC (Disney), NBC (General Electric), CBS (ViaCOM), Fox (obvious). Certainly, a small publication like Motherjones has a liberal slant, but nowhere among the major news outlets do I see anything but a pro-corporate bias. Right/Left be damned (hell, right/wrong be damned), the only thing that matters to these folks is ratings and advertising revenue.

Interesting thing to note: how many people have noticed the STRONG backlash against the media by the residents of Santee, California? On each major news network last night where interviews were taking place, citizens attempted to hold up signs into the camera telling the media to leave or asking drivers to honk if they want to media to leave. Giraldo Rivera called these citizens "assholes" on MSNBC.

Here we have a town trying to deal with the aftermath of murder in its schools, as members of the mass media (ironically while debating the effects of teasing on children), call these citizens names because they want some peace from media exploitation of the situation. That's not right or left wing, it's plain offensive.


Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.

CORRECTION: (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by stewartj76 on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 01:16:45 PM EST

oops on the poll: make that 'right-wing conspiracy' (not left-wing conspiracy)and 'controlled by the liberals.' I get my wings confused. Teach me to proofread.

[ Parent ]
Late 80's (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by sugarman on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 12:44:33 PM EST

The change happened in the late 80's with the rise of the half-hour "tabloid-news" shows like 'Inside Edition' and 'A Current Affair'. They were cutting into the networks with high ratings and minimal production costs, and forced the networks to change. The end result is the 'Datelines' and '48 hours' that are still on the air.

Now, the genesis for these events may have started earlier, but the late 80's is when things changed.


Objective Journalism (5.00 / 5) (#10)
by Ludwig on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 12:59:57 PM EST

Here I was thinking that the myth of Objective Journalism had finally been laid to rest.

I think you're making a mistake in conflating ratings-grubbing sensationalism and investigative journalism which may develop an implied slant or P.O.V. The problem with the "just the facts" approach to reporting is that it usually takes far too narrow a view of what is to be considered a salient fact.

Think about it: how often do you hear/read something like "Republican leaders claim that x would lead to y, while Democrats maintain that x has historically led to z," with no supporting information? "Just the facts." Well, part of a journalist's job is supposed to be to investigate -- go look up past instances of x and see if they have historically led to z, and if so, to go ask Republican leaders exactly what they think is different about today's x that would run counter to experience.
Or take another example: You may hear that the budget includes $400 million for the new X-37 advanced fighter plane. You may even hear that the item was included by Rep. Plentybottom. But when it's pointed out that the Pentagon didn't even ask for the X-37, and that the X-37 happens to be manufactured in Rep. Plentybottom's own district, it's suddenly "biased" journalism.

Point is, reporting the facts doesn't mean reporting just the facts that happen to fall into your lap, or the facts that are visible from a helicopter. That kind of reporting is a lot more pernicious than any perceived media bias, because it gives the false impression of having real information. What did that traffic guy really have to convey about Columbine besides police press releases? That people were milling about and crying? That ambulances were on the scene? Was he asking penetrating insightful questions of the victims' families like "How does this make you feel?" If that's what you think good journalism is, please explain what purpose you think journalism is supposed to serve.

A quote I once heard.. (5.00 / 3) (#21)
by gblues on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 04:25:10 PM EST

"When I was 16 I was shocked by how ignorant my father was, how little he knew. By the time I had reached 21, I was amazed how much he had learned in five years."

--Mark Twain

Sometimes you are the one who changes, but to you it seems like the thing you observe (the news) changes. If you watched some of the broadcasts from your youth, you'd probably notice the same thing you notice now.


... although in retrospect, having sex to the news was probably doomed to fail from the get-go. --squinky
Why should they change? (2.00 / 1) (#22)
by RangerBob on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 04:48:58 PM EST

The media is a business just like any other. They have to pull a profit just like any other business. The public doesn't want objective news, they want sensationalism. That's what sells and that's what the media will cater to. If some news agency just reported facts and didn't do any commentary, they'd more than likely go out of business.

If the public wanted honest, objective news reporting, they'd demand it. While you might be demanding it, most of the country isn't (he mentioned Limbaugh so I'm assuming America). People aren't interested in the every day, they're interested in the abhorrent. If you want to change how things are reported, you'll have to change the public.

How much news is there? (2.00 / 1) (#23)
by MrSpey on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 04:55:59 PM EST

Reporters may seem to add lots of their own commentary, but I feel that's mainly to fill the time that's alotted for news. If you pay attention there's still salient facts in in vews stories. But since the amount of media time devoted to reporting the news has grown faster than the amount of news to report on has, more commentary has shown up. As long as there are multiple 24 hour news channels and hundreds of internet news sites popping up, there will be extra commentary in the news that is reported.

Mr. Spey
Cover your butt. Bernard is watching.

funny (2.00 / 1) (#25)
by rebelcool on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 05:58:50 PM EST

just recently i was thinking the same thing, how school shootings lately can probably be attributed more to the media than anything. Rather than reporting it as news, they sensationalize it with "non-stop coverage" and "how to tell if your child is a time bomb" among other stories which tells things that should be common sense.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Liberal? I think not.... (3.66 / 3) (#26)
by anthrem on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 07:51:43 PM EST

Try reading this book, The Media Monopoly. Then ask and see if we are in a liberal media. The media was bought and sold, thank you Ronald Reagan, may you suffer...

Disclaimer: I am a Buddhist. I am a Social Worker. Filter all written above throught that.
The First Wave, The Second Wave (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by Bluesee on Thu Mar 08, 2001 at 11:16:59 PM EST

I agree. That was the First Wave. Journalists suddenly became motivated by ratings then. I believe that the Second Wave was the OJ trial. In 1994-5, I can't account for it, but I bet media budgets soared. Since then, there is very little news reporting that is not revenue-driven. The other side to this, and the side that I feel deplorable is the marginalization of real news. By real news I mean the erosion of rights civil and human in our country and others (as an example). I wouldn't mind so much, I suppose if I felt that there was some credible source that because of its credibility and topicality, would become the pre-eminent channel that all people tuned into every day. What is really news is not reported, and what is reported (Monica comes to mind) is not really news.

Given that he knows that he is reporting on 'cats living with dogs' when Real News is happening, how can Tom Brokaw maintain a straight face?

Fox News Channel (4.42 / 7) (#30)
by gbd on Fri Mar 09, 2001 at 12:12:27 AM EST

I agree with many of the posters here who claim that a sustained "liberal bias" in the news media is a fairly baseless charge. It's also worth pointing out that the news network that claims to be the most "fair and balanced" is by far the most biased; I am talking about, of course, the Fox News Channel. Fox News shamelessly panders to conservatives, and it seems to me that over the course of the past few months they've given up on even attempting to be balanced.

Case in point: a week or so ago, CNN's nightly talk show (Larry King Live) featured two guests. The first was the lawyer for Marc Rich, the recipient of a controversial pardon from former President Clinton. This guest attempted to defend the pardon. The second was Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), who is heading up the Senate's investigation of the Clinton pardons. So in the course of the program's hour, you got a balanced view from both sides of the issue.

On the Fox News Channel's "The Edge With Paula Zahn" that same night, the guest lineup was ultra-conservative former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Republican House Speaker nominee Bob Livingston, and Pat Robertson (!), the extreme-right-wing founder of the Christian Coalition. Okay, Mr. Murdoch, I'll bite .. how exactly is this "fair and balanced?" This is only one example, of course, but the trend is pretty pervasive. Fox News used to have a few token liberals (such as former Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro) that they would trot out in front of the camera for their image's sake. But recently, their appearances have been few and far between. Their flagship political program, "Special Report With Brit Hume", is a constant stream of conservative guests accompanied by a "let's see what The Democrats did today" agenda.

But in some cases, it's not just the commentary .. it's the news content itself. A while back, there was a case where a 14 year-old boy was murdered by two homosexual men. Fox News caught wind of the story and ran with it, and followed up by devoting entire program segments to asking why the "liberal media" was not reporting this story and suggested that it was because of a rampant pro-homosexual bias. Of course, they did not mention the fact that if the major networks covered every prominent local murder in the country, they would have no time for anything else. In fact, there was a case in my local area in that same week where a young girl was murdered under appalling circumstances (involving dismemberment) by a man while she was delivering newspapers. This wasn't covered on Fox News (or anywhere else nationally, for that matter.)

Why not?

After all, if the murder of one child is noteworthy enough to be national news, why not another? Why didn't Fox News consider this to be newsworthy? The answer, of course, is obvious: the murder of a young girl by a heterosexual man is politically useless. It cannot be used to make blanket generalizations about an entire minority (as many Fox commentators did that week) so it was not worth Fox's airtime.

I want to be clear on this: as far as I'm concerned, the freedom of the press is absolute. So if Rupert Murdoch wants to operate a news channel that is heavily slanted to the right, then fine! My only objection is when such a channel is promoted as "biasless" and "fair and balanced." As a politically moderate American, I have to say that for every bit of "liberal bias" displayed by the major networks, Fox News makes up for it tenfold in the other direction.

So what to do? Personally, I think the best way to get informed about the news is to get it from as many sources as possible, and then formulate your conclusions from there. Ideally, these sources should include obviously right-wing organizations (i.e., Fox News), obviously left-wing organizations (i.e., Salon), and everything in between. Do your homework. Gather your information and make of it what you will. But don't trust one single source for all of your news, unless you specifically want your news coverage to be biased. Many people do. And keeping that in mind, organizations like Fox News have a very definite niche audience.

Gunter glieben glauchen globen.

Can't judge Fox News based on one show (none / 0) (#42)
by kger on Tue Mar 13, 2001 at 09:19:40 AM EST

Well, I don't want to start a flame war over politics here, but you cannot judge the Fox News Channel based on one show or one guest lineup. I don't often watch Paula Zahn's show. But I do watch "The O'Reilly Factor" and "Hannity & Colmes" quite often, and I can tell you that those venues almost always have guests from both sides of a story.

With O'Reilly, there's no doubt where he stands, but he makes a point of including people from both sides in his coverage of a topic, and often gives the guest the last word in a segment. And he's not simply pro-Republican or coddling of the political conservative powers. He goes after whoever he thinks is not doing the right thing in our (US) government. He has recently criticized the new Bush administration for inaction in several areas.

As for Hannity and Colmes, there is also no doubt where each of them stands o nthe issues. But they have guests of opposing viewpoints on at the same time, or each grill the guest opposing their own viewpoint. Can you get much more fair and balanced than that?

[ Parent ]

Not just one show (none / 0) (#44)
by gbd on Tue Mar 13, 2001 at 03:22:14 PM EST

Well, I thought I said that my one example was just that .. one example. :)

There is no doubt where O'Reilly stands on most issues; for a confirmation of this, all you have to do is see who his guest hosts are when he's on vacation. I have seen Alan Keyes, Michael Reagan, and Bob Dornan .. not exactly the most balanced lineup I've ever seen. I'm not suggesting that O'Reilly is obligated to let a liberal guest host his program, but the least he could do is find some more moderate hosts .. the afore-mentioned three gentlemen are so far to the right that they're just inches from falling off the proverbial turnip truck. O'Reilly is a bit of an enigma, though, inasmuch as he has come out in support of nationalized health care and handgun registration .. two stances that earned him a slew of hate mail from enraged Fox viewers. He also opposes the death penalty, a position that earned him a similar response.

I find O'Reilly's interviewing style to be off-putting, however. You're right that he often gives his guests the last word, but it is more common to see him put words into his guest's mouth and then move on to another issue without giving them a chance to respond. For example: "Yeah, but Counselor, most of the American people believe (blah blah blah), so when you say (yadda yadda yadda) you part company with them. Okay. Now, let's talk about .." O'Reilly often does this, and in many cases, "yadda yadda yadda" does not necessarily reflect what the guest actually believes or has said. And because the topic of conversion has been forcibly changed, the guest has little or no chance to defend him or herself.

As far as Hannity and Colmes is concerned, I have to say that I think Colmes is a pretty weak debater. Hannity, though I disagree with virtually everything he says, is strong, articulate, and forceful. Colmes is not; he seems to be tentative and has problems expressing himself. So right off the bat, you've got a mismatch. Similar programs, such as CNN's "Crossfire", are more even-handed (liberal Bill Press and conservative Robert Novak are on pretty much equal ground when it comes to debate prowess.)

Getting back to Hannity and Colmes, another complaint I have about the program is that the show's producers often recruit "liberal guests" that seem to be purposely outlandish. For example, on a show about race relations, the guest that Colmes was "paired with" was a militant black radical whose agenda included "getting rid of the white man." Colmes actually came out and complained on the air: "I guess I'm supposed to be on your side? Let me be clear that I don't agree with your viewpoints." (Paraphrasing.) Another "liberal guest" that has been on the program is American Atheists spokesman Ron Barrier. Now, I'm an atheist, but I feel that Barrier is a positively dreadful spokesperson. He is belligerent, self-righteous, intolerant, and downright rude to Christians or people of other faiths. It seems to me that the Fox producers go out of their way to put "liberals" on the show that are so out to lunch that they end up portraying anything non-conservative as completely ridiculous.

In the end, I don't think anybody can reasonably claim that Fox News Channel doesn't have a distinct bias to the right. Aside from the examples that I've already mentioned, they run hour-long specials on the evils of the federal government, dedicate entire program segments to fringe Creationist theories, and have a guest on their morning program that routinely refers to Bill Clinton as "The Rapist." That may or may not be true, but it's not the sort of accusation that's bandied about by an objective news organization. They gave Matt Drudge a TV program, for crying out loud.

But like I said, freedom of the press is freedom of the press. There's nothing wrong with running a news organization like FNC, so long as you're honest about your intentions. They do try, from time to time, to at least give the appearance of being balanced, but more often than not it's just for show. I would only reiterate my opinion that it is dishonest to refer to the network as "fair and balanced."

Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
[ Parent ]

Started with CNN (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by mami on Fri Mar 09, 2001 at 12:42:02 AM EST

I think you are right. It might have started with the success of CNN, which became a serious rival for news wire services and for ABC, NBC and CBS. You got almost the accuracy of a wire service but with live pictures and extremely fast, they were the first to broadcast 24h/7d and expanded internationally. Just a big threat to news reporting on the ABC, NBC and CBS .

In order for the network broadcasters to compete they had to sensationalize more and more and search for ever more extreme stories to cover, thus being boring when reporting the same news you had better covered already on CNN, and being less professional when covering the rest of the local scandalous news.

It also is the reason that all other competing 24h/7d news channels either get specialized or much more biased and sensationalized than CNN. (except BBC and NTV).

The more things change the more they stay the same (5.00 / 4) (#33)
by anewc2 on Fri Mar 09, 2001 at 10:37:21 AM EST

What I read here between the lines says, "the news started changing when I first started paying attention to it." For myself, I remember Spiro Agnew complaining about "instant analysis" in the media, well before Woodward and Bernstein.

In the early days of the USA (and before), newspapers were founded explicitly to put forward a point of view and frequently tied to a particular party. That was back when even small towns could support two or more papers. But the late 19th century become the age of monopoly, and newspapers were no exception. Hearst and Pulitzer, owning chains of papers, were able to create the Spanish-American War out of whole cloth simply to boost circulation. When people woke up from this frenzy, this kind of yellow journalism came into disrepute, and Objective Journalism was born.

The problem with objectivity is, you can't publish everything, so you have to select, and on what basis? Selection is subjective, eyewitnesses are subjective, deciding what is a fact, is subjective. When events are breaking fast, you want to know what is happening. But journalists also need to provide a context and a broader perspective. This will inevitably be subjective. Deal with it. Find a source that matches your prejudice. Better yet, get your news from a variety of sources, with a variety of points of view.

To answer your question: the media is always changing, always mirroring a changing society. When there is a broad philosophical consensus across society, as there was in the US from maybe the early forties to the mid sixties, the media will go along with that and call it "objectivity". When society fragments the media will fragment too, and some will pursue a niche audience with subjective analysis and sensationalism.

The world's biggest fool can say the sun is shining, but that doesn't make it dark out. -- Robert Pirsig

News personalities in the US (3.33 / 3) (#34)
by SIGFPE on Fri Mar 09, 2001 at 11:43:16 AM EST

I couldn't help noticing, on moving to the US from the UK, that the name of the presenter is an important part of the name of many news related programmes in the US - eg. Larry King Live (there are many more examples but I can't remember them because I make a point of not watching such programmes). There does seem to be an obsession with personalities that I think is unhealthy and gets in the way of real reporting.
Maybe not exactly. (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by cameldrv on Fri Mar 09, 2001 at 05:32:16 PM EST

Charlie Rose is another interview show (and interviewer). I think he deserves the celebrity he's got since he has such a huge breadth of knowledge, and is an extremely thoughtful interviewer. Charlie Rose is one of the best programs on television.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for the tip (none / 0) (#37)
by SIGFPE on Fri Mar 09, 2001 at 06:35:26 PM EST

I'll keep a lookout for him.
[ Parent ]
What's up with CNN HN Anyways? (3.50 / 2) (#35)
by Mantrid on Fri Mar 09, 2001 at 01:55:36 PM EST

I watch it sometimes in the morning, there seems to be an inordinate amount of stories about stupid crap (can't remember them specifically, but you know the type...dogs that wear dresses or something equally inane).

I guess it must be because they have to fill 24 hours with something!

Good topic, a couple of problems. (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by kellan on Sun Mar 11, 2001 at 08:44:17 PM EST

I agree w/ the general sentiment that its a nice topic, but not done. And I've got one nitpick.

The phrase "This caused a shift (towards) investigative journalism that we continue to see today.", absolutely floored me. What media are you reading/watching/listening to that you are seeing investigative journalism? Investigative journalism is the white elephant of the modern news room. Its expensive, its controversial, and its hard. Republishing PR swill is much more cost effecient, doesn't offend any advertisers, and avoids accusations of "having an axe to grind."

I think I understand what you're getting at but "investigative journalism" is a phrase that already taken, and it means something else. Performance Journalism? Game Show Journalism?

Also, "No spin, no insight, just news.", doesn't exist. Objective news has never existed, the whole concept is false. There is no single objective truth, the only honest form of journalism is to be upfront about your biases.

For example I was reading the NYTimes the other day, and I noticed how a man in the Dominican Republic "died in police custoday", while a man in NYC "died in a fall in the police station." You see how the same event is spun differently with just a slight change of words?

Okay, I'm not taking the time to be clear, but maybe if this story gets resubmitted I'll write a better critique.


Is there an answer? (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by kger on Tue Mar 13, 2001 at 09:09:25 AM EST

I'm not sure there is. With numerous causes behind this media shift, what could possibly change it?

On the few occasions I actually have the late local news on, I am often wondering, "This is news? There was nothing more important they could report that that?" Then there is the endless stream of "everyday things that could kill you" type stories that just leave me shaking my head in disgust.

I think with the growing consolidation in media ownership, and relentless pursuit of big profits in an ever-fractured market, we're stuck with media outlets forced to resort to anything to gain viewership, while having fewer and fewer resources left to actually do any real news reporting.

Think of the phrase "spin doctor" (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by rilke on Tue Mar 13, 2001 at 10:58:27 AM EST

The main change in the media happened both during and in the aftermath of the Reagan presidency. There were three major causes of the change.

Reagan was the first president to really understand television, and he used it brilliantly. This is where the phrases "photo-op" and "spin doctor" first originated, and the media found themselves totally unable to get any news across. Reagan understood that to the TV media, the picture was more important than the story and created many events that were almost entirely without substance. The media understood that they were failing to deliver any real news, and the proliferation of commentary was one of the attempted reactions to that.

Also, the media found themselves somewhat unable to tell the conservative story. People forget just how unusual the Reagan victory was, the right-wing of the Republican party hadn't been competitive since the 20s. The mainstream media had no real idea what was going on, and in their attempt to describe the administration fully they made media stars out of people who wouldn't have been taken seriously just a few years before. People like George Will, Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak were nothing more than political flacks who just repeated the talking points of the administration, but in the confusion of the 80s they got a lot of airtime as the networks tried to understand where America was headed.

And, of course, when reporters saw how commentators were making big money, they demanded more airtime for their own views. It became an avalanche. In most newsrooms today, the major concern isn't over the accuracy or completeness of the story, the big fights are over airtime. That's why we got all those stupid 'on-the-scene' reports during the election when 7 seconds of the candidate was followed by 2 minutes of the reporter: the reporter doesn't want to report the news, the reporter just wants to get on the air as much as possible.

When did the media change? | 45 comments (25 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
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