Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The News Media's Massive Failure

" ...There is little happening in the mainstream news that has any real connection to news integrity today. Maybe it’s time to consider that it’s gone from watchdog to lapdog." --Penn State professor Sophia McClennen in Salon (here

This is a growing complaint from all sides of the political spectrum and it has increasing validity. Corporate news is a failure, a complete and utter failure. The news business has always depended on advertising revenue to survive and that is still true, but it is true on steroids today. Corporate ownership of our major outlets (six corporations own more than 90 percent of them) has bent the game, distorted the news, created new truths and discarded legitimate neutral reporting.

It is a failure at every level. Would you, for example, expect the Berkshire-Hathaway-owned Roanoke Times to give you more and better news than the old Fishburn family-owned Roanoke Times & World News?

The Fishburns lived here, played a crucial role in the development of Western Virginia and cared about us. Berkshire Hathaway, which has a policy of not giving raises (at least in the Roanoke Valley, though I believe it is corporate) is not in the business of going to the Lion's Club, coaching Little League, holding a chili festival or supporting our community in any way that doesn't result in company profits. It is not unusual among latter-day news outlets. Profit first, last and always.

The Times and its corporate brothers and sisters across Virginia share news stories, rather than having their own representatives in, say Richmond or Charlottesville. It's cheaper. OK, so it's more like Clear Channel radio than it is responsible journalism, but, hey, Clear Channel pays.

Nationally, as Ms. McClennen strongly points out, the media has influenced this primary election season in ways that are new. It created Donald Trump and clearly dismissed Bernie Sanders, until it couldn't. It crowned Hillary Clinton long before she won and probably influenced the voting in doing so.

My thought is that locally, newspapers (and The Times is but one of a host of local papers, most weekly) don't cover politics except on the surface. We have two highly controversial House members in this region (Goodlatte and Griffith) who receive almost no coverage that they don't want or don't generate. Neither belongs in congress, but neither is regularly covered as to why that is the case.

Like so many of you, I am fed up. I don't watch TV news and I don't subscribe to the local paper. I would do both or either if there were a reason to. But there is not.


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