Before The Show yesterday, I conversed with one of the artists at The Stutz Building---excellent place for artists and small businesses, and I really, really want an Auburn Boat-tail Speedster---about the nature of news media today. We discussed the absence of focus for the much greater amount of information available, thanks to the internet, compared to three decades ago. I mentioned that in the 1970s-1980s, national news primarily came through the three major networks. As the artist pointed out, no one would have questioned Walter Cronkite's journalistic integrity. I added David Huntley and Chet Brinkley to the group.
There is irony in the history of television. The CEO of CBS, William Paley,cooperated with the Central Intelligence Agency. When Heywood Broun was asked, "Why are the media biased toward big business?" Broun replied, "The media ARE big business."
Today the narrators for the news have less sway, in some respects. With so much information available, and the three networks with little of the control they once had, the focus is less controlled by the people who would narrate events (the news), than by the viewers who hold a particular view, and choose the source of information that panders to their views. Fox or MSNBC or whatever source one would choose has less to do with the corporation's ability to create views and more to do with ability to solidify prejudices. Ratings in "news" become a test of how well a particular corporation panders to the tastes of the set of demographics the corporation has chosen as a market for its advertisers.
In "Network," a great 1976 movie, laid out the path network news (in that movie, taken over by the entertainment division of the network) has taken. No longer do journalists, with the guidance of ethical standards, perform the function of gatekeepers and determine what incidents of "news" should be a headline or lead story. Of course, in the so-called Golden Age of television in the 1950s, large corporations held sway, and medical doctors made commercials advocating a particular brand of cigarette for its health benefits.
As national news has gone, worse has happened to local news. Each morning, until about four years ago, I read the newspaper. I disagreed with the political views of the Pulliams, but The Star was the local source of information upon which one, generally, could rely as accurate. Then the Pulliam heirs' lawyers, quite shrewdly (seriously, my hat is off to whomever figured this out) found a way around the trust that held The Star, unloaded it at top price to Gannett and today we have a paper that consists largely of USA Today (and curses to those shrewd lawyers). Local coverage, in large part, has been replaced by cheer leading for local government. National coverage comes from a feed (USA Today). Fewer people read the paper and so budgets for news coverage get cut.
Many of us look to the internet for coverage of news. At least with so many sources of information, ostensibly we have the ability to weed out and choose that which we wish to believe is true---or what more greatly panders to our prejudices.
I greatly took to heart the criticism leveled at my blog by one person, in particular, several months ago. Nicolas Martin, with whom I disagree on several matters (probably a lot more, but I will keep the number small for purposes of this topic), sharply pointed out I had made arguments and asserted matters as fact without citation to authority or sources for those things I stated or assumed were "facts." He as right. He also was right to demand that I provide such authority. When I want to read what is happening in local government, I read Gary Welsh's "Advance Indiana," Sheila Kennedy's blog, Masson's Blog, Jon Easter's Indy Democrat, Matt Stone's (also Senior Contributor to Civil Discourse Now) "Indy Student" and, if I want to look at pictures and dodge a minefield of grammatical and typographical errors to extract some facts "Ogden on Politics."
We have a responsibility to provide information as accurately as possible. I am not a journalist. That is a matter for an entirely separate column. (If it is "separate," is it necessary that I describe it as "entirely" separate?) The last couple of blogs I have addressed TIFs---Tax Increment Finance districts. This is a topic that is too important to screw up by tossing out unattributed statements or statements unsupported by citation to authority.
We are in a new age. The same can be said each day when we awaken. Next week we shall do The Show on the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Please tune into The Show. And I shall be careful about statements I make here. I want to see if I can enter a field of play in the same league as the people to whom I look for information each day. And I do not want to run afoul of Nic Martin. T do so on an ideological basis, I can handle. I do not want him to criticize me, and be right, for failure to support my arguments with proper authority.