Losing America in Shifting Sands

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Losing America in Shifting Sands

By Jaci Clement, jaci@fairmediacouncil.org

Has the American news media killed the two-party system, and with it, democracy? 

That’s a question sure to get more than a fair share of newsies rolling their eyes and uttering aloud, to no one in particular, “She doesn’t get it.”


Now here’s the only logical follow-up question: When was the last time you woke up excited and determined to shed light on a problem or bring comfort to the afflicted and went to bed feeling as if you succeeded?

Can’t remember, can you?

What I get is the difference between journalists who show up for work and those who do their jobs. The latter still do exist, they’ve just become harder to find in a media landscape littered with junk news. 

Somewhere in the timeline of modern news, a major shift happened. Catering to a news outlet’s audience morphed from telling the public what they need to know to simply giving them what they want to hear. When you think about it, it’s quite a cowardly interpretation and one that insults both the intelligence and spirit of Americans. The business argument for this? Those outlets that are giving their audiences what they want, not what they need, are more successful than those not playing the game. The thing is, no media outlet is actually doing well. They all are wrestling with declining revenues and diminishing audience shares. All of which means, the winners are simply the best losers in the bunch.   
But you need to be looking across the news media on the macro level to see that. Those who are actively engaged in the process haven’t such a luxury. They’re struggling to make it through another day. Unfortunately, the product they put out often reveals the strain. 

People wonder what happened. They know the news media isn’t what it used to be, and what it has become is, at times, unrecognizable. The truth is, a lot has happened. Things like the raising of the ownership cap, the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine, the creation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the advent of the internet, among others– they all moved the needle a little bit to eventually create our current landscape.

Over the years, the arguments by media outlets have basically focused on how regulations are hurting the business. Therefore, regulations have been curtailed and, at times, eliminated, Yet, year over year, the news media has grown weaker. Now, there’s a movement on to eliminate all regulation, so every media outlet may compete on equal footing against the Internet. 

History tells us we’re going in the wrong direction. Let’s not take America down with it.