What 'The Media' Does Wrong

People place their trust in people, not institutions.


For the general public, one of the most maddening aspects of media is “the media.” In fact, when someone starts a sentence with the words “the media,” you know what’s about to be said won’t be good.

It used to be a bit easier to separate out what was reported in newspapers, seen on television or heard on the radio. But now that all the different news formats have taken up residence in the digital realm, what we have is the world at our fingertips, brought to us in a manner where it really, truly, pretty much all looks the same.

About ‘the media’

The old formats gave us a definitive start and end to the news: For television, your local news started at 5 p.m., followed by national at 6 p.m. A printed newspaper had only so many pages, and when you flipped to the back cover, you knew you were done and it was time to get on with your day.

Today? News continuously loads on your screen, follows you around, and never stops filling your head with the white noise of the day’s events.

The frustration is so understandable, it’s palpable.

Yet, “the media” is not a valid term. And it’s certainly not a worthwhile endeavor to expend energy blaming “the media” for anything, whether it’s what is being reported or how you feel about the subject in the news. That’s not to say there aren’t incidences where what’s being reported is wrong — we just insist on actually naming who did what wrong, which is much more beneficial in the end, for all of us. For instance, the FCC just slapped Sinclair Broadcasting with a richly-deserved, record-setting fine of $48 million — $13 million of which was for not disclosing paid programming, a big no-no in the business. What happened at Sinclair was not the work of “the media.” Rather, it’s the failings of one company that happens to own 294 stations in 89 markets, so it seems like “the media” at large. 

To lump other news organizations into such a mess is patently unfair. It’s like saying all real estate agents are bad, all politicians are corrupt or all teachers are overpaid. (For those dealing with homeschooling issues, we’re betting you have now discovered how valuable teachers are, if not for society then for your own mental health.) Sweeping generalizations are simply never true, are they?

Powered by people

Which brings us to the main point: Professions are made up of people. Real estate is powered by people, as is our education system. But, when it comes to the profession of media, it’s somehow regarded only as an institution, instead of the work of people.

People come in all manner of smarts, skills, talents, motivations and ambitions. A news story is only as solid as the people working on it, just as a news outlet, like every other business, is only as strong as the people who work there. Yet, one weak link — such as a reporter failing to ask an important question — doesn’t diminish a particular news outlet. Nope, instead, in the public’s mind, it craters an entire industry. 

The irony behind all of this is how the news media insists on transparency in the industries it covers, whether it be government, real estate or education. But up until now, it placed little-to-no emphasis on enabling transparency into its own inner workings. This has started to change but is nowhere near a news industry norm.

People place their trust in people, not institutions. “The media” is a daily and constant reminder of that fact. 

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