« HEADED TO AUSTIN, TX AGAIN | Main | KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD »

WHY THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS FUCKED

GreedyGo where the money is. Give the people what they want, or at least what gives us more eyeballs and more ad revenue. Lowest common denominator. Forget the public interest. Forget journalism. Don't worry about the blogs, nobody has heard of them. People like weather, why not start a weather blog? And oh yeah - go where the money is.

This was the attitude at the end of today's International Symposium on Online Journalism. Specifically, this was the message I got from a nice fellow named Rusty on a panel called Business Model: Online Advertising is Breaking Records. But Is It Enough to Finance Journalism? And I'm afraid it made my stomach turn.

Rusty is a brilliant businessman. He's as witty and nice a guy as I'll ever meet. I like Rusty. But his "go where the money is" approach to journalism is dropping a heavy brick on the gas pedal driving mainstream media off a cliff. My question to Rusty: If you want to go where the money is, and where the eyeballs are, why don't you work in porn? I woke up in my hotel this morning listening to Howard Stern talk about how much he wants to bang a chick on Survivor because after 9 days of starving, she's really skinny and sexy. No comment as to whether I laughed. Crass is funny, sex sells, and that's why Howard is huge (ahem). But he's not exactly a shining beacon of journalism.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with the business side of media trying to maximize profits. That's what makes the whole thing go 'round. And from what I've heard at this conference, it's getting harder and harder to finance big media journalism. What I have a problem with is dumbing down journalism in order to "save" journalism. What I have a problem with is profit pressure making journalists into glorified sandwich artists. What I have a problem with is fucking weather blogs.

EXHIBIT A: THE PUBLIC HAS LOST TRUST IN THE MEDIA
Mediatrust
Gallup poll on media trust, screenshots from Blogumentary

The public's trust in the media has taken a dramatic decline. Why? Try the leadup to Iraq. WMD. A series of fake journalists, culminating in Jayson Blair and the resignation of Howell Raines. And how about "spin alley"? How about, lowest-common-denominator, fluffy pack journalism? Please note, this study was done before Rathergate.

EXHIBIT B: THE MEDIA HAS FAILED THE PUBLIC
Pre911
New York City, circa 1960

Journalism followed consumer whims pre-9/11, and it resulted in a drastic reduction in foreign news coverage. Middle East? Who cares, I don't live there. So when we were attacked, Americans didn't know by whom. And they still don't. As Dan Gillmor says, most Americans still falsely believe "Saddam basically patted the 9/11 terrorists on the back" on the way to their hideous mission. This is a failure of media.

Yeah, so let's start a weather blog. Let's have a wacky contest. Let's have a profit orgy and writhe in the casualties of war. So much for little things like, oh I don't know... democracy, and the fourth estate. At least we gave the people what they wanted!

Too dramatic? Maybe, but I'll tell you what, it's because I care. I care what happens to this country. I care about civic discourse. I care about hearing what every single person thinks. I care about telling the truth.

I think Rusty would refer to this as "medicinal journalism." Unfortunately, I think Rusty is correct that many Americans don't want to take their "medicine." Still, we have to insist that our journalism strive to ensure a healthy democracy. A well-balanced diet of public service and sustainability, rather than an Atkins-binge diet of all profit and no nourishment.

Is that even possible?

April 9, 2005 at 11:05 AM in Blogumentary, Media, Symposium on Online Journalism, Weblogs | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341d0f1153ef00d83471f4c869e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference WHY THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS FUCKED:

Comments

Go Chuck! I like your style my friend. Here's hoping the movement get the steam it needs.

Posted by: jmj at Apr 10, 2005 8:47:18 AM

Right on James.

(Oh... I should clarify, Rusty never said "lowest common denominator" or "forget journalism." That's me getting worked up. But it seemed implicit in his overall message.)

Posted by: Chuck at Apr 10, 2005 3:19:37 PM