Is the Media Holding Us Back?

Jaci Clement CEO & Executive Director, Fair Media Council

Jaci Clement

photo by Bob Giglione

Now that we’ve all grown accustomed to living inside the one-dimensional news cycle, it’s increasingly easier to get trapped inside the border wall of the zeitgeist. Losing sight of the horizon, will the news of the day cost us our future?

It wasn’t all that long ago when you could turn to the news for stories on topics such as health and science, and actually get news on health and science topics. Today, it’s a full-court press of all politics, all the time. As we have now officially entered election season (if we can even still refer to it as a season), we find ourselves surrounded by more of the same. Convention politics. Pandemic politics. Post Office politics. Storm response politics.

In an interesting interpretation of how to diversify their portfolios and cater to the interests of the news consumer, media outlets are wildly working to churn out a plethora of new newsletters and podcasts devoted to filling smaller and narrower information niches. Net result of the news media’s fixation on exploiting the vertical? We now know much more about far less. But hey, we get all this nothing conveniently delivered to our personal digital space with simply one click, so that’s something.

With this in mind, it stands to reason that much of what the mainstream delivers us has little to do with what we really need to know. In its defense, the media gives the public what it craves. In the public’s defense, it takes what the media feeds them. It’s that whole chicken-and-egg thing, which I hesitate to mention, lest we spur coverage on the politics of nutrition, which may prove too much to bear. 

Here we are, in a world few recognize. Call it what you want, the “new normal” if you must. The setting calls for leadership unlike what we’ve ever known — and to think that’s limited to politics is selling humanity short. The leadership of business, media, education, philanthropy, and all the professions in between are now in need of change. But what does it look like? Where are we going and what skills do we need? Even the term “leadership” seems too small, too narrow, too pallid for what our future may demand. Where are the big questions and the stories to go with them?

The media has long touted youth over experience, influence over expertise, soundbite over substance. Could that be how we ended up here? 

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