I have written several articles on postings related to Big Tech, Social Media and Corporations. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on these Industries.
Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on current events based on facts and supported with proof or evidence. The word journalism applies to the occupation, as well as citizen journalists who gather and publish information based on facts and supported with proof or evidence. Journalistic media include print, television, radio, Internet, and, in the past, newsreels.
Concepts of the appropriate role for journalism vary between countries. In some nations, the news media are controlled by government intervention and are not fully independent. In others, the news media are independent of the government but instead operate as private industry. In addition to the varying nature of how media organizations are run and funded, countries may have differing implementations of laws handling the freedom of speech and libel cases.
The proliferation of the Internet and smartphones has brought significant changes to the media landscape since the turn of the 21st century. This has created a shift in the consumption of print media channels, as people increasingly consume news through e-readers, smartphones, and other personal electronic devices, as opposed to the more traditional formats of newspapers, magazines, or television news channels. News organizations are challenged to fully monetize their digital wing, as well as improvise on the context in which they publish in print. Newspapers have seen print revenues sink at a faster pace than the rate of growth for digital revenues.
There are several forms of journalism with diverse audiences. Thus, journalism is said to serve the role of a “fourth estate“, acting as a watchdog on the workings of the government. A single publication (such as a newspaper) contains many forms of journalism, each of which may be presented in different formats. Each section of a newspaper, magazine, or website may cater to a different audience. Photojournalists photographing President Barack Obama of the US in November 2013.Photo and broadcast journalists interviewing a government official after a building collapse in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. March 2013.
Some forms include:
- Access journalism – journalists who self-censor and voluntarily cease speaking about issues that might embarrass their hosts, guests, or powerful politicians or businesspersons.
- Advocacy journalism – writing to advocate particular viewpoints or influence the opinions of the audience.
- Broadcast journalism – written or spoken journalism for radio or television.
- Citizen journalism – participatory journalism.
- Data journalism – the practice of finding stories in numbers, and using numbers to tell stories. Data journalists may use data to support their reporting. They may also report about uses and misuses of data. The US news organization ProPublica is known as a pioneer of data journalism.
- Drone journalism – use of drones to capture journalistic footage.
- Gonzo journalism – first championed by Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism is a “highly personal style of reporting”.
- Interactive journalism – a type of online journalism that is presented on the web
- Investigative journalism – in-depth reporting that uncovers social problems. Often leads to major social problems being resolved.
- Photojournalism – the practice of telling true stories through images
- Sensor journalism – the use of sensors to support journalistic inquiry.
- Tabloid journalism – writing that is light-hearted and entertaining. Considered less legitimate than mainstream journalism.
- Yellow journalism (or sensationalism) – writing which emphasizes exaggerated claims or rumors.
- Global journalism – journalism that encompasses a global outlook focusing on intercontinental issues.
The rise of social media has drastically changed the nature of journalistic reporting, giving rise to so-called citizen journalists. In a 2014 study of journalists in the United States, 40% of participants claimed they rely on social media as a source, with over 20% depending on microblogs to collect facts. From this, the conclusion can be drawn that breaking news nowadays often stems from user-generated content, including videos and pictures posted online in social media. However, though 69.2% of the surveyed journalists agreed that social media allowed them to connect to their audience, only 30% thought it had a positive influence on news credibility.
Consequently, this has resulted in arguments to reconsider journalism as a process distributed among many authors, including the socially mediating public, rather than as individual products and articles written by dedicated journalists.
Because of these changes, the credibility ratings of news outlets has reached an all-time low. A 2014 study revealed that only 22% of Americans reported a “great deal” or “quite a lot of confidence” in either television news or newspapers.
It is often published to intentionally mislead readers to ultimately benefit a cause, organization or an individual. A glaring example was the proliferation of fake news in social media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and lies have been circulated under the guise of news reports to benefit specific candidates. One example is a fabricated report of Hillary Clinton‘s email which was published by a non-existent newspaper called The Denver Guardian. Many critics blamed Facebook for the spread of such material. Its news feed algorithm, in particular, was identified by Vox as the platform where the social media giant exercise billions of editorial decisions every day. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok are distributors of disinformation or “fake news”. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has acknowledged the company’s role in this problem: in a testimony before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing on 20 April 2018, he said:
It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.
Readers can often evaluate credibility of news by examining the credibility of the underlying news organization.
In some countries, including Turkey, Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Somalia, journalists have been threatened or arrested for allegedly spreading fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Propaganda compared with fake news
The definition of ‘fake news’ above, could also be applied to the general category of ‘Propaganda’ when it is applied to the field of political reporting. Because a large part of political journalism involves analysis, and not simple reporting of what is said, or presented, writers and journalists have the opportunity to present specific kinds of analysis which can favor one ideological or political position over another; it can also be used to represent personalities in favorable/unfavorable ways. If the definition of propaganda includes misrepresentation of facts, and deliberate distortions of narrative, or applied emphasis not necessarily contained in the original, then Fake News falls squarely inside the parameters of Propaganda also. It could be argued that true objectivity is not really possible to produce when it comes to presenting an analysis of political activity, any individual observer and journalist is going to perceive what they experience through the lens of their own political bias, this, of course, is the case with entire organizations also.
The history of journalism spans the growth of technology and trade, marked by the advent of specialized techniques for gathering and disseminating information on a regular basis that has caused, as one history of journalism surmises, the steady increase of “the scope of news available to us and the speed with which it is transmitted. Before the printing press was invented, word of mouth was the primary source of news. Returning merchants, sailors and travelers brought news back to the mainland, and this was then picked up by peddlers and travelling players and spread from town to town. Ancient scribes often wrote this information down. This transmission of news was highly unreliable, and died out with the invention of the printing press. Newspapers (and to a lesser extent magazines) have always been the primary medium of journalists since the 18th century, radio and television in the 20th century, and the Internet in the 21st century.
Early and basic journalism
In 1556, the government of Venice first published the monthly Notizie scritte (“Written notices”) which cost one gazzetta, a Venetian coin of the time, the name of which eventually came to mean “newspaper”. These avvisi were handwritten newsletters and used to convey political, military, and economic news quickly and efficiently throughout Europe, more specifically Italy, during the early modern era (1500-1800)—sharing some characteristics of newspapers though usually not considered true newspapers.
However, none of these publications fully met the modern criteria for proper newspapers, as they were typically not intended for the general public and restricted to a certain range of topics. Early publications played into the development of what would today be recognized as the newspaper, which came about around 1601. Around the 15th and 16th centuries, in England and France, long news accounts called “relations” were published; in Spain they were called “relaciones”. Single event news publications were printed in the broadsheet format, which was often posted. These publications also appeared as pamphlets and small booklets (for longer narratives, often written in a letter format), often containing woodcut illustrations. Literacy rates were low in comparison to today, and these news publications were often read aloud (literacy and oral culture were, in a sense, existing side by side in this scenario).Title page of Carolus’ Relation from 1609, the earliest newspaper
By 1400, businessmen in Italian and German cities were compiling hand written chronicles of important news events, and circulating them to their business connections. The idea of using a printing press for this material first appeared in Germany around 1600. Early precursors were the so-called Messrelationen (“trade fair reports”) which were semi-annual news compilations for the large book fairs at Frankfurt and Leipzig, starting in the 1580s. The first true newspaper was the weekly Relation aller Fuernemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien (“Collection of all distinguished and memorable news”), started in Strasbourg in 1605. The Avisa Relation oder Zeitung was published in Wolfenbüttel from 1609, and gazettes soon were established in Frankfurt (1615), Berlin (1617) and Hamburg (1618). By 1650, 30 German cities had active gazettes. A semi-yearly news chronicle, in Latin, the Mercurius Gallobelgicus, was published at Cologne between 1594 and 1635, but it was not the model for other publications.
The news circulated between newsletters through well-established channels in 17th century Europe. Antwerp was the hub of two networks, one linking France, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands; the other linking Italy, Spain and Portugal. Favorite topics included wars, military affairs, diplomacy, and court business and gossip.
After 1600 the national governments in France and England began printing official newsletters. In 1622 the first English-language weekly magazine, “A current of General News” was published and distributed in England in an 8- to 24-page quarto format.
Revolutionary changes in the 19th century
Newspapers in all major countries became much more important in the 19th century because of a series of technical, business, political, and cultural changes. High-speed presses and cheap wood-based newsprint made large circulations possible. The rapid expansion of elementary education meant a vast increase in the number of potential readers. Political parties sponsored newspapers at the local and national level. Toward the end of the century, advertising became well-established and became the main source of revenue for newspaper owners. This led to a race to obtain the largest possible circulation, often followed by downplaying partisanship so that members of all parties would buy a paper. The number of newspapers in Europe in the 1860s and 1870s was steady at about 6,000; then it doubled to 12,000 in 1900. In the 1860s and 1870s, most newspapers were four pages of editorials, reprinted speeches, excerpts from novels and poetry and a few small local ads. They were expensive, and most readers went to a café to look over the latest issue. There were major national papers in each capital city, such as the London Times, the London Post, the Paris Temps and so on. They were expensive and directed to the National political elite. Every decade the presses became faster, and the invention of automatic typesetting in the 1880s made feasible the overnight printing of a large morning newspaper. Cheap wood pulp replaced the much more expensive rag paper. A major cultural innovation was the professionalization of news gathering, handled by specialist reporters. Liberalism led to freedom of the press, and ended newspaper taxes, along with a sharp reduction to government censorship. Entrepreneurs interested in profit increasingly replaced politicians interested in shaping party positions, so there was dramatic outreach to a larger subscription base. The price fell to a penny. In New York, “Yellow Journalism” used sensationalism, comics (they were colored yellow), a strong emphasis on team sports, reduced coverage of political details and speeches, a new emphasis on crime, and a vastly expanded advertising section featuring especially major department stores. Women had previously been ignored, but now they were given multiple advice columns on family and household and fashion issues, and the advertising was increasingly pitched to them.
History of American journalism
Journalism in America began as a “humble” affair and became a political force in the campaign for American independence. Following independence, the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed freedom of the press and speech and the American press grew rapidly following the American Revolution. The press became a key support element to the country’s political parties but also organized religious institutions.Journalist Marguerite Martyn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch made this sketch of herself interviewing a Methodist minister in 1908 for his views on marriage.
During the 19th century, newspapers began to expand and appear outside eastern U.S. cities. From the 1830s onward the penny press began to play a major role in American journalism and technological advancements such as the telegraph and faster printing presses in the 1840s helped expand the press of the nation as it experienced rapid economic and demographic growth.
By 1900 major newspapers had become profitable powerhouses of advocacy, muckraking and sensationalism, along with serious, and objective news-gathering. In the early 20th century, before television, the average American read several newspapers per day. Starting in the 1920s changes in technology again morphed the nature of American journalism as radio and later, television, began to play increasingly important roles.
In the decades following the Second World War, a healthy debate about culture and society took place in the United States–albeit within limits– between conservative and liberals, and even Marxists. In contrast to the brazen propaganda of the Soviet Union and Fascist regimes, the U.S. news media embraced an ideal, though not always followed in practice, of impartiality and respect for the validity of numerous viewpoints.
Today the news media are increasingly inclined to promote a single orthodoxy. One reason for this change in the composition of the journalistic profession: working-class reporters, many with ties to local communities, have been replaced by a more cosmopolitan breed with college degrees, typically in journalism. These reporters tilt overwhelmingly to the progressive side of politics. At the same time, as a 2019 Rand report shows, journalism is steadily moving away from a fact-based model to one dominated by opinion. The Rand study suggests that the result for society is a “truth decay.”
In the late 20th century, much of American journalism merged into big media conglomerates (principally owned by media moguls like Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch). With the coming of digital journalism in the 21st Century, newspapers faced a business crisis as readers turned to the internet for news and advertisers followed them.
The history of American journalism began in 1690, when Benjamin Harris published the first edition of “Public Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestic” in Boston. Harris had strong trans-Atlantic connections and intended to publish a regular weekly newspaper along the lines of those in London, but he did not get prior approval and his paper was suppressed after a single edition. The first successful newspaper, The Boston News-Letter, was launched in 1704. This time, the founder was John Campbell, the local postmaster, and his paper proclaimed that it was “published by authority.”
As the colonies grew rapidly in the 18th century, newspapers appeared in port cities along the East Coast, usually started by master printers seeking a sideline. Among them was James Franklin, founder of The New England Courant (1721-1727), where he employed his younger brother, Benjamin Franklin, as a printer’s apprentice. Like many other colonial newspapers, it was aligned with party interests. Ben Franklin was first published in his brother’s newspaper, under the pseudonym Silence Dogood in 1722, and even his brother did not know his identity at first. Pseudonymous publishing, a common practice of that time, protected writers from retribution from government officials and others they criticized, often to the point of what today would be considered libel. The content included advertising of newly landed products, and locally produced news items, usually based on commercial and political events. Editors exchanged their papers and frequently reprinted news from other cities. Essays and letters to the editor, often anonymous, provided opinions on current issues. While the religious news was thin, writers typically interpreted good news in terms of God’s favor, and bad news as evidence of His wrath. The fate of criminals was often cast as cautionary tales warning of the punishment for sin.
Ben Franklin moved to Philadelphia in 1728 and took over the Pennsylvania Gazette the following year. Ben Franklin expanded his business by essentially franchising other printers in other cities, who published their own newspapers. By 1750, 14 weekly newspapers were published in the six largest colonies. The largest and most successful of these could be published up to three times per week.
The Stamp Act of 1765 taxed paper, and the burden of the tax fell on printers, who led a successful fight to repeal the tax. By the early 1770s, most newspapers supported the Patriot cause; Loyalist newspapers were often forced to shut down or move to Loyalist strongholds, especially New York City. Publishers up and down the colonies widely reprinted the pamphlets by Thomas Paine, especially “Common Sense” (1776). His Crisis essays first appeared in the newspaper press starting in December, 1776, when he warned: These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Anne Catherine Hoof Green, publisher of the Maryland Gazette, 1767–1775.
When the war for independence began in 1775, 37 weekly newspapers were in operation; 20 survived the war, and 33 new ones started up. The British blockade sharply curtailed imports of paper, ink, and new equipment; causing thinner newspapers and publication delays. When the war ended in 1782, there were 35 newspapers with a combined circulation of about 40,000 copies per week, and an actual readership in the hundreds of thousands. These newspapers played a major role in defining the grievances of the colonists against the British government in the 1765-1775 era, and in supporting the American Revolution.
Every week the Maryland Gazette of Annapolis promoted the Patriot cause and also reflected informed Patriot viewpoints. From the time of the Stamp Act, publisher Jonas Green vigorously protested British actions. When he died in 1767, his widow Anne Catherine Hoof Green became the first woman to hold a top job at an American newspaper. A strong supporter of colonial rights, she published the newspapers as well as many pamphlets with the help of two sons; She died in 1775.
During the war, contributors debated disestablishment of the Anglican church in several states, use of coercion against neutrals and Loyalists, the meaning of Paine’s “Common Sense”, and the confiscation of Loyalist property. Much attention was devoted to the details of military campaigns, typically with an upbeat optimistic tone. Patriot editors often sharply criticized government action or inaction. In peacetime, criticism might lead to a loss of valuable printing contract, but in wartime, the government needed the newspapers. Furthermore, there were enough different state governments and political factions that editors could be protected by their friends. When Thomas Paine lost his patronage job with Congress because of a letter he published, the state government soon hired him.
First Party System
Newspapers flourished in the new republic — by 1800, there were about 234 being published — and tended to be very partisan about the form of the new federal government, which was shaped by successive Federalist or Republican presidencies. Newspapers directed much abuse toward various politicians, and the eventual duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr was fueled by controversy in newspaper pages.Federalist poster about 1800. Washington (in heaven) tells partisans to keep the pillars of Federalism, Republicanism, and Democracy
By 1796, both parties sponsored national networks of weekly newspapers, which attacked each other vehemently. The Federalist and Republican newspapers of the 1790s traded vicious barbs against their enemies.
The most heated rhetoric came in debates over the French Revolution, especially the Jacobin Terror of 1793–94 when the guillotine was used daily. Nationalism was a high priority, and the editors fostered an intellectual nationalism typified by the Federalist effort to stimulate a national literary culture through their clubs and publications in New York and Philadelphia, and Noah Webster‘s efforts to simplify and Americanize the language.
Penny press, telegraph, and party politics
As American cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington grew, so did newspapers. Larger printing presses, the telegraph, and other technological innovations allowed newspapers to print thousands of copies, boost circulation, and increase revenue. In the largest cities, some papers were politically independent. But most, especially in smaller cities, had close ties to political parties, who used them for communication and campaigning. Their editorials explained the party position on current issues, and condemned the opposition.
The first newspaper to fit the 20th century style of a newspaper was the New York Herald, founded in 1835 and published by James Gordon Bennett, Sr. It was politically independent, and became the first newspaper to have city staff covering regular beats and spot news, along with regular business and Wall Street coverage. In 1838 Bennett also organized the first foreign correspondent staff of six men in Europe and assigned domestic correspondents to key cities, including the first reporter to regularly cover Congress.
The leading partisan newspaper was the New York Tribune, which began publishing in 1841 and was edited by Horace Greeley. It was the first newspaper to gain national prominence; by 1861, it shipped thousands of copies of its daily and weekly editions to subscribers. Greeley also organized a professional news staff and embarked on frequent publishing crusades for causes he believed in. The Tribune was the first newspaper, in 1886, to use the linotype machine, invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler, which rapidly increased the speed and accuracy with which type could be set. it allowed a newspaper to publish multiple editions the same day, updating the front page with the latest business and sports news.
The New York Times, now one of the best-known newspapers in the world, was founded in 1851 by George Jones and Henry Raymond. It established the principle of balanced reporting in high-quality writing. Its prominence emerged in the 20th century.
The parties created an internal communications system designed to keep in close touch with the voters.
The critical communications system was a national network of partisan newspapers. Nearly all weekly and daily papers were party organs until the early 20th century. Thanks to the invention of high-speed presses for city papers, and free postage for rural sheets, newspapers proliferated. In 1850, the Census counted 1,630 party newspapers (with a circulation of about one per voter), and only 83 “independent” papers. The party line was behind every line of news copy, not to mention the authoritative editorials, which exposed the “stupidity” of the enemy and the “triumphs” of the party in every issue. Editors were senior party leaders and often were rewarded with lucrative postmasterships. Top publishers, such as Schuyler Colfax in 1868, Horace Greeley in 1872, Whitelaw Reid in 1892, Warren Harding in 1920 and James Cox also in 1920, were nominated on the national ticket.
Kaplan outlines the systematic methods by which newspapers expressed their partisanship. Paid advertising was unnecessary, as the party encouraged all its loyal supporters to subscribe:
- Editorials explained in detail the strengths of the party platform, and the weaknesses and fallacies of the opposition.
- As the election neared, there were lists of approved candidates.
- Party meetings, parades, and rallies were publicized ahead of time and reported in depth afterward. Excitement and enthusiasm were exaggerated, while the dispirited enemy rallies were ridiculed.
- Speeches were often transcribed in full detail, even long ones that ran thousands of words.
- Woodcut illustrations celebrated the party symbols and portray the candidates.
- Editorial cartoons ridiculed the opposition and promoted the party ticket.
- As the election neared, predictions and informal polls guaranteed victory.
- The newspapers printed filled-out ballots which party workers distributed on election day so voters could drop them directly into the boxes. Everyone could see who the person voted for.
- The first news reports the next day, often claimed victory – sometimes it was days or weeks before the editor admitted defeat.
By the time of the Civil War, many moderately sized cities had at least two newspapers, often with very different political perspectives. As the South began the task of seceding from the Union, some papers in the North recommended that the South should be allowed to secede. The government, however, was not willing to allow sedition to masquerade in its opinion as freedom of the press. Several newspapers were closed by government action. After the massive Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run, angry mobs in the North destroyed substantial property owned by remaining secessionist newspapers. Those still in publication quickly came to support the war, both to avoid mob action and to retain their audience.
After 1900, William Randolph Hearst, Joseph Pulitzer and other big city politician-publishers discovered they could make far more profit through advertising, at so many dollars per thousand readers. By becoming non-partisan they expanded their base to include the opposition party and the fast-growing number of consumers who read the ads but were less and less interested in politics. There was less political news after 1900, apparently because citizens became more apathetic, and shared their partisan loyalties with the new professional sports teams that attracted growing audiences.
Whitelaw Reid, the powerful long-time editor of the Republican New York Tribune, emphasized the importance of partisan newspapers in 1879: The true statesman and the really influential editor are those who are able to control and guide parties…There is an old question as to whether a newspaper controls public opinion or public opinion controls the newspaper. This at least is true: that editor best succeeds who best interprets the prevailing and the better tendencies of public opinion, and, who, whatever his personal views concerning it, does not get himself too far out of relations to it. He will understand that a party is not an end, but a means; will use it if it leads to his end, — will use some other if that serve better, but will never commit the folly of attempting to reach the end without the means…Of all the puerile follies that have masqueraded before High Heaven in the guise of Reform, the most childish has been the idea that the editor could vindicate his independence only by sitting on the fence and throwing stones with impartial vigor alike at friend and foe.
Newspapers expand west
As the country and its inhabitants explored and settled further west the American landscape changed. In order to supply these new pioneers of western territories with information, publishing was forced to expand past the major presses of Washington D.C. and New York. Most frontier newspapers were creations of the influx of people and wherever a new town sprang up a newspaper was sure to follow. However other times a printer was hired by a town settler to move to the location and set up a newspaper in order to legitimize the town and draw other settlers. Many of the newspapers and journals published in these Midwestern developments were weekly papers. Homesteaders would watch their cattle or farms during the week and then on their weekend journey readers would collect their papers while they did their business in town. One reason that so many newspapers were started during the conquest of the West was that homesteaders were required to publish notices of their land claims in local newspapers. Some of these papers died out after the land rushes ended, or when the railroad bypassed the town.
The rise of the wire services
The American Civil War had a profound effect on American journalism. Large newspapers hired war correspondents to cover the battlefields, with more freedom than correspondents today enjoy. These reporters used the new telegraph and expanding railways to move news reports faster to their newspapers. The cost of sending telegraphs helped create a new concise or “tight” style of writing which became the standard for journalism through the next century.
The ever-growing demand for urban newspapers to provide more news led to the organization of the first of the wire services, a cooperative between six large New York City-based newspapers led by David Hale, the publisher of the Journal of Commerce, and James Gordon Bennett, to provide coverage of Europe for all of the papers together. What became the Associated Press received the first cable transmission ever of European news through the trans-Atlantic cable in 1858.
New forms of journalism
The New York dailies continued to redefine journalism. James Bennett’s Herald, for example, didn’t just write about the disappearance of David Livingstone in Africa; they sent Henry Stanley to find him, which he did, in Uganda. The success of Stanley’s stories prompted Bennett to hire more of what would turn out to be investigative journalists. He also was the first American publisher to bring an American newspaper to Europe by founding the Paris Herald, which was the precursor of the International Herald Tribune. Charles Anderson Dana of the New York Sun developed the idea of the human interest story and a better definition of news value, including uniqueness of a story.
William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer both owned newspapers in the American West, and both established papers in New York City: Hearst’s New York Journal in 1883 and Pulitzer’s New York World in 1896. Their stated mission to defend the public interest, their circulation wars and sensational reporting spread to many other newspapers and became known as “yellow journalism.” The public may have initially benefited as “muckraking” journalism exposed corruption, but its often excessively sensational coverage of a few juicy stories alienated many readers.
More generally, newspapers in large cities in the 1890s began using large-font multi-column headlines to attract passers-by to buy the paper. Previously headlines had seldom been more than one column wide, although multicolumn-width headlines were possible on the presses then in use. The change required typesetters to break with tradition and many small-town papers were reluctant to change.
The Progressive Era saw a strong middle class demand for reform, which the leading newspapers and magazines supported with editorial crusades.
During this time minority women voices flourished with a new outlet and demand for women in journalism. The diverse women generally Native American, African American, and Jewish American worked through journalism to further their political activism. Many of the women writing during this time period were a part of or formed highly influential organizations such as the NAACP, National Council of American Indians, Women’s Christian temperance Union and the federation of Jewish Philanthropists. Some of these women allowed for discussions and debates through their writing or through their organizational connections. With the emergence of diverse voices an equally diverse description of women’s lives became apparent as they were able to incorporate domestic fictions and non-fiction into the journals for a vast majority of Americans to see and newly be exposed to. This new multicultural narrative allowed literature to reflect the writers and become more diverse in stories and normalized reception of these domestic accounts
Building on President McKinley’s effective use of the press, President Theodore Roosevelt made his White House the center of news every day, providing interviews and photo opportunities. After noticing the White House reporters huddled outside in the rain one day, he gave them their own room inside, effectively inventing the presidential press briefing. The grateful press, with unprecedented access to the White House, rewarded Roosevelt with intense favorable coverage; The nation’s editorial cartoonists loved him even more. Roosevelt’s main goal was to promote discussion and support for his package of Square Deal reform policies among his base in the middle-class. When the media strayed too far from his list of approved targets, he criticized them as mud flinging muckrakers.
Journalism historians pay by far the most attention to the big city newspapers, largely ignoring small-town dailies and weeklies that proliferated and dealt heavily in local news. Rural America was also served by specialized farm magazines. By 1910 most farmers subscribed to one. Their editors typically promoted efficiency in farming, With reports of new machinery, new seats, new techniques, and county and state fairs.
Muckrakers were investigative journalists, sponsored by large national magazines, who investigated political corruption, as well as misdeeds by corporations and labor unions.
Exposés attracted a middle-class upscale audience during the Progressive Era, especially in 1902 – 1912. By the 1900s, such major magazines as Collier’s Weekly, Munsey’s Magazine and McClure’s Magazine were sponsoring exposés for a national audience. The January 1903 issue of McClure’s marked the beginning of muckraking journalism, while the muckrakers would get their label later. Ida M. Tarbell (“The History of Standard Oil”), Lincoln Steffens (“The Shame of Minneapolis”) and Ray Stannard Baker (“The Right to Work”), simultaneously published famous works in that single issue. Claude H. Wetmore and Lincoln Steffens’ previous article “Tweed Days in St. Louis”, in McClure’s October 1902 issue was the first muckraking article.
President Roosevelt enjoyed very close relationships with the press, which he used to keep in daily contact with his middle-class base. Before taking office, he had made a living as a writer and magazine editor. He loved talking with intellectuals, authors and writers. He drew the line, however, at expose-oriented scandal-mongering journalists who during his term set magazine subscriptions soaring with attacks on corrupt politicians, mayors, and corporations. Roosevelt himself was not a target, but his speech in 1906 coined the term “muckraker” for unscrupulous journalists making wild charges. “The liar,” he said, “is no whit better than the thief, and if his mendacity takes the form of slander he may be worse than most thieves.” The muckraking style fell out of fashion after 1917, as the media pulled together to support the war effort with minimum criticism of personalities.
In the 1960s, investigative journalism came back into play with the ‘Washington Post exposés of the Watergate scandal. At the local level, the alternative press movement emerged, typified by alternative weekly newspapers like The Village Voice in New York City and The Phoenix in Boston, as well as political magazines like Mother Jones and The Nation.
Betty Houchin Winfield, a specialist in political communication and mass media history, argues that 1908 represented a turning point in the professionalization of journalism, as characterized by the new journalism schools, the founding of the National Press Club, and such technological innovations as newsreels, the use of halftones to print photographs, and changes in newspaper design. Reporters wrote the stories that sold papers, but shared only a fraction of the income. The highest salaries went to New York reporters, topping out at $40 to $60 a week. Pay scales were lower in smaller cities, only $5 to $20 a week at smaller dailies. The quality of reporting increased sharply, and its reliability improved; drunkenness became less and less of a problem. Pulitzer gave Columbia University $2 million in 1912 to create a school of journalism that has retained leadership status into the 21st century. Other notable schools were founded at the University of Missouri and the Medill School Northwestern University.
Freedom of the press became well-established legal principle, although President Theodore Roosevelt tried to sue major papers for reporting corruption in the purchase of the Panama Canal rights. The federal court threw out the lawsuit, ending the only attempt by the federal government to sue newspapers for libel since the days of the Sedition Act of 1798. Roosevelt had a more positive impact on journalism — he provided a steady stream of lively copy, making the White House the center of national reporting.
Between the wars
Broadcast journalism began slowly in the 1920s, at a time when stations broadcast music and occasional speeches, and expanded slowly in the 1930s as radio moved to drama and entertainment. Radio exploded in importance during World War II, but after 1950 was overtaken by television news. The newsreel developed in the 1920s and flourished before the daily television news broadcasts in the 1950s doomed its usefulness.
The first issue of Time (March 3, 1923), featuring House Speaker Joseph G. Cannon.
News magazines flourished from the late 19th century on, such as Outlook and Review of Reviews. However, in 1923 Henry Luce (1898-1967) transformed the genre with Time, which became a favorite news source for the upscale middle-class. Luce, a conservative Republican, was called “the most influential private citizen in the America of his day.” He launched and closely supervised a stable of magazines that transformed journalism and the reading habits of upscale Americans. Time summarized and interpreted the week’s news. Life was a picture magazine of politics, culture and society that dominated American visual perceptions in the era before television. Fortune explored in depth the economy and the world of business, introducing to executives avant-garde ideas such as Keynesianism. Sports Illustrated probed beneath the surface of the game to explore the motivations and strategies of the teams and key players. Add in his radio projects and newsreels, and Luce created a multimedia corporation to rival that of Hearst and other newspaper chains. Luce, born in China to missionary parents, demonstrated a missionary zeal to make the nation worthy of dominating the world in what he called the “American Century.” Luce hired outstanding journalists—some of them serious intellectuals, as well as talented editors. By the late 20th century, however, all the Luce magazines and their imitators (such as Newsweek and Look) had drastically scaled back. Newsweek ended its print edition in 2013.
21st century Internet
Following the emergence of browsers, USA Today became the first newspaper to offer an online version of its publication in 1995, though CNN launched its own site later that year. However, especially after 2000, the Internet brought “free” news and classified advertising to audiences that no longer saw a reason for subscriptions, undercutting the business model of many daily newspapers. Bankruptcy loomed across the U.S. and did hit such major papers as the Rocky Mountain News (Denver), the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, among many others. Chapman and Nuttall find that proposed solutions, such as multi-platforms, paywalls, PR-dominated news gathering, and shrinking staffs have not resolved the challenge. The result, they argue, is that journalism today is characterized by four themes: personalization, globalization, localization, and pauperization.
Nip presents a typology of five models of audience connections: traditional journalism, public journalism, interactive journalism, participatory journalism, and citizen journalism. He identifies the higher goal of public journalism as engaging the people as citizens and helping public deliberation.
Investigative journalism declined at major daily newspapers in the 2000s, and many reporters formed their own non-profit investigative newsrooms, for example ProPublica on the national level, Texas Tribune at the state level and Voice of OC at the local level.
A 2014 study by Indiana University under The American Journalist header, a series of studies that go back to the 1970s, found that of the journalists they surveyed, significantly more identified as Democrats than Republicans (28% verse 7%). This coincided with reduced staffing at local papers and possibly their replacement by online outlets in eastern liberal cites.
A worldwide sample of 27,500 journalists in 67 countries in 2012-2016 produced the following profile: 57 percent male; mean age of 38 mean years of experience, 13 college degree, 56 percent; graduate degree, 29 percent 61 percent specialized in journalism/communications at college 62 percent identified as generalists and 23 percent as hard-news beat journalists 47 percent were members of a professional association 80 percent worked full-time 50 percent worked in print, 23 percent in television, 17 percent in radio, and 16 percent online.
Professional and ethical standards
While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of – truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability – as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.
Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel propose several guidelines for journalists in their book The Elements of Journalism. Their view is that journalism’s first loyalty is to the citizenry and that journalists are thus obliged to tell the truth and must serve as an independent monitor of powerful individuals and institutions within society. In this view, the essence of journalism is to provide citizens with reliable information through the discipline of verification.
Some journalistic Codes of Ethics, notably the European ones, also include a concern with discriminatory references in news based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and physical or mental disabilities. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved in 1993 Resolution 1003 on the Ethics of Journalism which recommends journalists to respect the presumption of innocence, in particular in cases that are still sub judice.
In the UK, all newspapers are bound by the Code of Practice of the Independent Press Standards Organisation. This includes points like respecting people’s privacy and ensuring accuracy. However, the Media Standards Trust has criticized the PCC, claiming it needs to be radically changed to secure the public trust of newspapers.
This is in stark contrast to the media climate prior to the 20th century, where the media market was dominated by smaller newspapers and pamphleteers who usually had an overt and often radical agenda, with no presumption of balance or objectivity.
Because of the pressure on journalists to report news promptly and before their competitors, factual errors occur more frequently than in writing produced and edited under less time pressure. Thus a typical issue of a major daily newspaper may contain several corrections of articles published the previous day. Perhaps the most famous journalistic mistake caused by time pressure was the Dewey Defeats Truman edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, based on early election returns that failed to anticipate the actual result of the 1948 US presidential election.
Failing to uphold standards
Such a code of conduct can, in the real world, be difficult to uphold consistently. Reporting and editing do not occur in a vacuum but always reflect the political context in which journalists, no less than other citizens, operate.
A news organization’s budget inevitably reflects decision-making about what news to cover, for what audience, and in what depth. When budgets are cut, editors may sacrifice reporters in distant news bureaus, reduce the number of staff assigned to low-income areas, or wipe entire communities from the publication’s zone of interest.
Publishers, owners and other corporate executives, especially advertising sales executives, could try to use their powers over journalists to influence how news is reported and published. For this reason, journalists traditionally relied on top management to create and maintain a “firewall” between the news and other departments in a news organization to prevent undue influence on the news department.
Codes of ethics
There are over 242 codes of ethics in journalism that vary across various regions of the world. The codes of ethics are created through an interaction of different groups of people such as the public and journalists themselves. Most of the codes of ethics serve as a representation of the economic and political beliefs of the society where the code was written. Despite the fact that there are a variety of codes of ethics, some of the core elements present in all codes are: remaining objective, providing the truth, and being honest.
Journalism does not have a universal code of conduct; individuals are not legally obliged to follow a certain set of rules like a doctor or a lawyer does. There have been discussions for creating a universal code of conduct in journalism. One suggestion centers on having three claims for credibility, justifiable consequence, and the claim of humanity. Within the claim of credibility, journalists are expected to provide the public with reliable and trustworthy information, and allowing the public to question the nature of the information and its acquisition. The second claim of justifiable consequences centers on weighing the benefits and detriments of a potentially harmful story and acting accordingly. An example of justifiable consequence is exposing a professional with dubious practices; on the other hand, acting within justifiable consequence means writing compassionately about a family in mourning. The third claim is the claim of humanity which states that journalists are writing for a global population and therefore must serve everyone globally in their work, avoiding smaller loyalties to country, city, etc.
Main articles: Freedom of the press and Media lawTurkish journalists protesting imprisonment of their colleagues on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2016Number of journalists reported killed between 2002 and 2013.
Governments have widely varying policies and practices towards journalists, which control what they can research and write, and what press organizations can publish. Some governments guarantee the freedom of the press; while other nations severely restrict what journalists can research or publish.
Journalists in many nations have some privileges that members of the general public do not, including better access to public events, crime scenes and press conferences, and to extended interviews with public officials, celebrities and others in the public eye.
Journalists who elect to cover conflicts, whether wars between nations or insurgencies within nations, often give up any expectation of protection by government, if not giving up their rights to protection from the government. Journalists who are captured or detained during a conflict are expected to be treated as civilians and to be released to their national government. Many governments around the world target journalists for intimidation, harassment, and violence because of the nature of their work.
Right to protect confidentiality of sources
Journalists’ interaction with sources sometimes involves confidentiality, an extension of freedom of the press giving journalists a legal protection to keep the identity of a confidential informant private even when demanded by police or prosecutors; withholding their sources can land journalists in contempt of court, or in jail.
In the United States, there is no right to protect sources in a federal court. However, federal courts will refuse to force journalists to reveal their sources, unless the information the court seeks is highly relevant to the case and there’s no other way to get it. State courts provide varying degrees of such protection. Journalists who refuse to testify even when ordered to can be found in contempt of court and fined or jailed. On the journalistic side of keeping sources confidential, there is also a risk to the journalist’s credibility because there can be no actual confirmation of whether the information is valid. As such it is highly discouraged for journalists to have confidential sources.
The term Fourth Estate or fourth power refers to the press and news media both in explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. Though it is not formally recognized as a part of a political system, it wields significant indirect social influence.
The derivation of the term fourth estate arises from the traditional European concept of the three estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. The equivalent term “fourth power” is somewhat uncommon in English, but it is used in many European languages, including Italian (quarto potere), German (Vierte Gewalt), Spanish (Cuarto poder), and French (Quatrième pouvoir), to refer to a government’s separation of powers into legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
Thomas Carlyle attributed the origin of the term to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons of Great Britain. Earlier writers have applied the term to lawyers, to the British queens consort (acting as free agents independent of their husbands), and to the proletariat.
In modern use, the term is applied to the press, with the earliest use in this sense described by Thomas Carlyle in his book On Heroes and Hero Worship: “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”
Burke’s 1787 coining would have been making reference to the traditional three estates of Parliament: The Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal and the Commons. If, indeed, Burke did make the statement Carlyle attributes to him, the remark may have been in the back of Carlyle’s mind when he wrote in his French Revolution (1837) that “A Fourth Estate, of Able Editors, springs up; increases and multiplies, irrepressible, incalculable.” In this context, the other three estates are those of the French States-General: the church, the nobility and the townsmen. Carlyle, however, may have mistaken his attribution: Thomas Macknight, writing in 1858, observes that Burke was merely a teller at the “illustrious nativity of the Fourth Estate”. If Burke is excluded, other candidates for coining the term are Henry Brougham speaking in Parliament in 1823 or 1824 and Thomas Macaulay in an essay of 1828 reviewing Hallam’s Constitutional History: “The gallery in which the reporters sit has become a fourth estate of the realm.” In 1821, William Hazlitt (whose son, also named William Hazlitt, was another editor of Michel de Montaigne—see below) had applied the term to an individual journalist, William Cobbett, and the phrase soon became well established.
Oscar Wilde wrote:
In old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism.
In United States English, the phrase “fourth estate” is contrasted with the “fourth branch of government“, a term that originated because no direct equivalents to the estates of the realm exist in the United States. The “fourth estate” is used to emphasize the independence of the press, while the “fourth branch” suggests that the press is not independent of the government.
The networked Fourth Estate
Yochai Benkler, author of the 2006 book The Wealth of Networks, described the “Networked Fourth Estate” in a May 2011 paper published in the Harvard Civil Liberties Review. He explains the growth of non-traditional journalistic media on the Internet and how it affects the traditional press using WikiLeaks as an example. When Benkler was asked to testify in the United States vs. PFC Bradley E. Manning trial, in his statement to the morning 10 July 2013 session of the trial he described the Networked Fourth Estate as the set of practices, organizing models, and technologies that are associated with the free press and provide a public check on the branches of government. It differs from the traditional press and the traditional fourth estate in that it has a diverse set of actors instead of a small number of major presses. These actors include small for-profit media organizations, non-profit media organizations, academic centers, and distributed networks of individuals participating in the media process with the larger traditional organizations.
Due to the massive increase in centralized political powers, emerges a need for the fourth estate of democracy, where transparency is maintained regarding information, news and the public sphere. This fourth estate, being the news media, contributes greatly and is used as a tool for the unbiased dispersion of news. Addressing important information that may often showcase the dark side of political parties or corporations.
During the American Revolution, this fourth estate was crucial for the process of distributing information, with the medium being newspapers. This demand for information had carried on even after the American Revolution, where it was heavily utilized for ideological dispersion. News media plays an important role in keeping the populace notified, and actively engages in distributing the truth, which has brought to light various issues. A popular example being the exposing of President Nixon‘s criminal activities, which ultimately led to his resignation, showcasing the political capability of this fourth estate. More recently, news media and journalists have played an extremely huge role in exposing the illegal monitoring done by the NSA, where a large percentage of the population is closely surveilled, and their disclosed information is accessible by the government.
These events showcase the capability of news media as a fourth estate of the truth, which serves the people. Furthermore, creates a sense of balance and transparency in society.
What Is Happening to Our Media?
Across the Western world, barely a month passes without more bad news for journalism and the commercial news media that have historically sustained the journalistic profession and its role in democracy. Newspapers and commercial broadcasters are boom businesses in emerging markets like Brazil and India, but in the old, affluent democracies, news journalism increasingly looks like a sunset industry. Paid print newspaper circulation is declining and while millions visit newspaper websites, few titles have succeeded in making money online. Advertising revenues are down or at best stagnant for much of the news industry, as companies cut their budgets in response to the economic slump or move their ads to search engines like Google or social networking sites like Facebook. Television broadcasters are generally holding their own financially but often cutting back on their investment in journalism as they compete for audiences who tend to prefer entertainment over news.
Even independent license-fee funded public service broadcasting, often seen as a stable safe haven for quality reporting in an uncertain media environment, is now under pressure—financially from governments in a time of austerity, politically from free-market forces and commercial media industry lobbies frustrated by increased competition on digital platforms, and in some countries from public outrage provoked by appalling editorial errors, as in the McAlpine scandal over spurious allegations of child abuse that recently brought down the newly-appointed BBC General Director George Entwistle.
The consequences are, as I’ve argued in my recently published report “Ten Years that Shook the Media World”, likely to be profound—not only for the industry, but also for democracy. For all its many shortcomings, professionally produced journalism has been the most important, the most widely used, and the most independent source of information about public affairs for most citizens in most democracies, but its ability to play this role in the future is now in doubt.
The twenty-first century was supposed to be a golden age for journalism, a time of more accurate, easily accessible, transparent, and communally connected reporting leveraging the affordances of new digital and networked technologies and the resources of “the people formerly known as the audience” in pursuit of the public interest. In some ways, these predictions have come true—the best journalism today is arguably better than it has ever been, linking to original sources, available across many different widely used platforms, open to comments and criticism from readers, and engaged in an ongoing conversation and collaboration with a wider range of actors than ever before.
And yet in many Western countries, the most basic precondition for good journalism, that there are journalists out there to do it, seems endangered. The combination of a cyclical downturn—the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s—and a structural shift in how we communicate—the rise and rapid spread of first the internet and then personal and portable mobile media—has challenged the legacy of commercial news media organizations that continue to produce and disseminate the most professionally produced news content in most democracies. In places as different as Finland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, newspaper companies currently employ two-thirds or more of all professional journalists. In all these countries, newspaper companies are cutting their costs and laying off reporters to balance declining revenues.
Journalism has, for good and for bad, been integral to popular government for at least a century. Today, the institutions that make it possible are changing rapidly. Newspaper companies across the Western world are struggling to adjust to a new media environment, and commercial broadcasters know that they too will have to face the digital transition. There are important differences from country to country in terms of how well each industry has been able to handle the challenges at hand, but the overall democratic challenge is a shared, dual one—how to fund professional journalism in the future, and how to ensure it manages to remain relevant in an ever more competitive media environment with thousands and thousands of offerings competing for our attention?
In emerging economies like Brazil and India, traditional elite-oriented newspaper companies face some of the same problems their counterparts in more affluent democracies struggle with, even as an increasing number of popular newspapers grow by catering to the expanding salaried lower middle classes and benefit from the combination of economic growth, increased literacy, and limited internet access. In this context, news is reaching more and more people as more and more commercial media cater to a broader and more diverse audience, and journalism is not existentially threatened even as questions of quality and independence often remain unresolved.
But in most affluent democracies, both popular and elite news media are struggling to adjust to a new communication environment. The trends today points toward a future in which there are fewer large media audiences gathered around a shared news agenda and more niche ones oriented towards their own interest, towards a further erosion of the will and ability of commercial media companies to underwrite general interest news journalism, and as a consequence towards a continually growing gulf between the few who will in all likelihood be more informed than ever before (as users of various premium news products) and the many who will find less and less news produced for them.
This development points towards a different, and less equal, twenty-first century democracy than the one most Western countries aspired to in the second half of the twentieth century. It represents one of the great social and political issues of our time, and a massive challenge for journalists, news industry professionals, policymakers, and media reform activists interested in shaping the future of the media. It will profoundly change not only journalism and the news industry, but also democracy.
Current Problems in the Media
The burgeoning problems with the media have been documented in great detail by researchers, academicians and journalists themselves:
High levels of inaccuracies
- Public confidence in the media, already low, continues to slip. A poll by USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup found only 36 percent of Americans believe news organizations get the facts straight, compared with 54 percent in mid-1989.
- According to an in-depth study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1999, 23 percent of the public find factual errors in the news stories of their daily paper at least once a week while more than a third of the public – 35 percent – see spelling or grammar mistakes in their newspaper more than once a week. The study also found that 73 percent of adults in America have become more skeptical about the accuracy of their news.
- The level of inaccuracy noticed is even higher when the public has first-hand knowledge of a news story. Almost 50 percent of the public reports having had first-hand knowledge of a news event at some time even though they were not personally part of the story. Of that group, only 51 percent said the facts in the story were reported accurately, with the remainder finding errors ranging from misinterpretations to actual errors.
- When reporters and editors interviewed in the ASNE study were asked why they thought mistakes were being made, 34 percent said the “rush to deadline” was the major factor, one third said it was a combination of being “overworked” and “understaffed,” and the remaining third said it was “inattention, carelessness, inexperience, poor knowledge” and just-plain-bad editing and reporting.
- The Columbia Journalism Review and the nonprofit, nonpartisan research firm Public Agenda polled 125 senior journalists nationwide in 1999 on various questions. When asked: “Have you ever seriously suspected a colleague of manufacturing a quote or an incident?” a disturbingly high 38 percent answered yes.
There is tendency for the press to play up and dwell on stories that are sensational – murders, car crashes, kidnappings, sex scandals and the like.
- In a study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, eighty percent of the American public said they believe “journalists chase sensational stories because they think it will sell papers, not because they think it is important news. ” Another 85 percent of the public believes that “newspapers frequently over-dramatize some news stories just to sell more papers.” Over 80 percent believe sensational stories receive lots of news coverage simply because they are exciting, not because they are important.
- 78 percent of the public thinks journalists enjoy reporting on the personal failings of private officials.
- 48 percent of the public sees misleading headlines in their paper more than once a week.
Mistakes regularly left uncorrected
A 1999 poll by the Columbia Journalism Review and the nonprofit research firm Public Agenda of 125 senior journalists nationwide found:
- Fully 70 percent of the respondents felt that most news organizations do a “poor” (20 percent) or “fair” (50 percent) job of informing the public about errors in their reporting. Barely a quarter called it “good.” A paltry 2 percent awarded a rating of “excellent.”
- A remarkable 91 percent think newsrooms need more open and candid internal discussion of editorial mistakes and what to do about them.
- Almost four in ten of those people interviewed feel sure many factual errors are never corrected because reporters and editors are eager to hide their mistakes.
- More than half think most news organizations lack proper internal guidelines for making corrections.
- A majority (52 percent) thinks the media needs to give corrections more prominent display.
- Over 40 percent said their news organization does not even have a person designated to review and assess requests for corrections.
Poor coverage of important issues
While the media is busy covering sensationalist stories, issues that affect our lives and the whole world receive little attention.The Environment
- A study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found the number of stories about the environment on the network news went from 377 in 1990 and 220 in 1991 to only 106 in 1998 and 131 in 1999. At the same time, the number of stories about entertainment soared from 134 in 1990 and 95 in 1991, to 221 stories in 1998, and 172 in 1999.
Though polls repeatedly show Americans overwhelmingly (higher than 80 percent) want improvements in the environment, Dan Fagin, President of the independent Society of Environmental Journalists, said in 2003 “Whether the subject is global climate change or local sprawl, aging power plants or newborn salmon, debate over environmental issues has never been … so obfuscated by misleading claims. Meanwhile, getting environmental stories into print, or on the air, has never been more difficult.”
- “The Project for Excellence in Journalism, reporting on the front pages of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, on the ABC, CBS, and NBC Nightly news programs, and on Time and Newsweek, showed that from 1977 to 1997, the number of stories about government dropped from one in three to one in five, while the number of stories about celebrities rose from one in every 50 stories to one in every 14. What difference does it make? Well, it’s government that can pick our pockets, slap us into jail, run a highway through our backyard or send us to war. Knowing what government does is “the news we need to keep our freedoms.”
– Bill Moyers
- The reporting on national affairs by the major newsmagazines has declined by 25 percent, while the number of entertainment and celebrity stories has doubled, according to “The State of the News Media in 2004” report by the non-partisan Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Foreign Aid and 24,000 Easily Preventable Deaths a Day
- At the Rio Earth Summit the world’s industrialized nations agreed to fix international aid at 0.7 percent of GDP. The only countries to reach that target have been the Scandinavian countries. The US ranks at the very bottom with a pathetic 0.14 percent. A sizeable amount of our aid is political in nature and does not go toward benefiting people in need. Even when private donations are included in the mix, our country still ranks at the bottom in total giving per capita.
According to the World Health Organization about 28,000 people who die every day around the world could be saved easily with basic care. In all, last year 8.8 million lives were lost needlessly (approximately the combined number of people living in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine) due to preventable diseases, infections and child birth complications.
When Americans are asked what percentage of the GDP for international aid would be reasonable, the answers range from 1 percent to 5 percent. Similarly, when asked what percentage of the federal budget should go to foreign aid, Americans on average said 14 percent, and that in fact, they thought 20 percent was currently being allocated. The actual amount of our budget allocated is 1 percent.
Yet the press rarely reports on any of the above – that we give so little, that we are avoiding what we agreed to, that Americans think giving at a higher level would be reasonable, that we think we are giving far more than we are, and that a huge number of deaths every day (eight times the number that died in the 9-11 attacks), are a direct result of not receiving basic care. When the press does report on foreign aid, the media often perpetuates the myth that we give substantially and in proportion to our means.
- Large numbers of Americans give low ratings to the media for school coverage. For example, in a joint survey by the Education Writers Association and the Public Agenda, 44 percent gave “print media with a national readership” ratings of fair to poor, while only 4 percent gave a rating of excellent. About 84 percent gave “broadcast media with a national audience” ratings of fair to poor and only 1 percent gave a rating of excellent. Educators and journalists agreed. Over 44 percent of journalists rated “print media with a national readership” as fair to poor in their coverage and 84 percent rated “broadcast media with a national audience” the same.
Nonprofit media organizations rate far higher on educating the public than for-profit entities
A seven-month series of polls by the Center for Policy Attitudes and Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland found that Americans receiving their news from nonprofit organizations were far more likely to have accurate perceptions related to American foreign policy than those receiving their information from for-profit entities. The study also found the variations could not be explained as a result of differences in the demographic characteristics of each audience, because the variations were also found when comparing the demographic subgroups of each audience.
For example, in three areas of information related to Iraq (whether weapons of mass destruction had been found, if clear evidence had been found linking Iraq and al-Qaeda and if worldwide public opinion supported the war in Iraq), only 23 percent of those who received their information from PBS and NPR had an inaccurate perception, while 55 percent of those who received their information from CNN or NBC had an inaccurate perception, 61 percent for ABC, 71 percent for CBS and 80 percent for Fox.
Similarly, on the specific question of whether the majority of the people in the world favored the U.S. having gone to war, 63 percent of those who received their information from CBS misperceived, 58 percent who received their information from ABC misperceived and only 26 percent of those who received their information from PBS and NPR misperceived. Those receiving information from the other networks fell into a similar pattern as demonstrated in the example above: Fox at 69 percent, NBC at 56 percent and CNN at 54 percent – all with rates of misperception twice as high as the nonprofit media organizations.
When the percentages of people misperceiving in each area were averaged, it was found that those receiving information from for-profit broadcast media outlets were nearly three times as likely to misperceive as those receiving from the nonprofit media organizations. Those receiving their information from Fox News showed the highest average rate of misperceptions — 45 percent — while those receiving their information from PBS and NPR showed the lowest – 11 percent. CBS showed at 36 percent, CNN at 31 percent, ABC at 30 percent, and NBC at 30 percent.
The study found similar patterns also existed within demographic groups, and that differences in demographics could not explain the variations in levels of misperception.
For example, the average rate for all Republicans for the three key misperceptions was 43 percent. Yet for Republicans who took their news from PBS and NPR, the average rate was only 32 percent – a full one quarter less. This same pattern occurred in polled Democrats and Independents.
Similarly, among those with bachelor’s degrees or higher, the average rate of misperceptions was 27 percent. However among those who had their news from PBS-NPR the average rate was 10 percent. This pattern was observed at other educational levels as well.
The media’s short attention span
- Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution in the 1970’s began observing what he called “the issue attention cycle” in the American media. The cycle is: the news media and public ignore a serious problem for years; for some reason, they suddenly notice, declare it a crisis and concoct a solution; next they realize the problem will not be easily fixed and will be costly; they grow angry, then bored; finally, they resume ignoring the problem.
- Here is an example from research done by Laura Haniford of the University of Michigan. Haniford focused on the news media’s coverage of the racial achievement gap — the difference between how whites and blacks score on standardized tests.
She found that from 1984 to 1995, The Ann Arbor News published 11 articles on the achievement gap in local schools; then suddenly, in 1997, 92 achievement-gap articles appeared; then, gap coverage virtually disappeared again, plummeting to two articles in 2001. What amazed her was that during that entire period the achievement gap remained substantial and virtually unchanged.
The media does not cover itself
- Of the roughly 1,500 daily newspapers in the U.S., “Only a handful—at most a dozen, including The [Washington] Post—actually have a reporter who covers the press full-time as a beat. What critical reporting exists, though at times is refreshingly good, it is for the most part timid and superficial. About 15 papers have an ombudsman on staff to respond to readers’ complaints. When it comes to looking at itself, society’s watchdog is a lamb,” according to Sydney Schanberg, one of the most respected journalists of this era, he has been a reporter for The New York Times for more than twenty-five years, and recipient of many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize.
- Schanberg adds: It’s no secret that journalism in America has become more slipshod and reckless, at times promiscuous…. Every journalist surely also knows that the old-time standards…have been weakened if not discarded. Most of us in the business, however, stand by as mere observers….
If this were happening in any other profession or power center in American life, the media would be all over the story, holding the offending institution up to a probing light. When law firms breach ethical canons, Wall Street brokerages cheat clients or managed-care companies deny crucial care to patients, we journalists consider it news and frequently put it on the front page. But when our own profession is the offender, we go soft.
By failing to cover ourselves, we have made ourselves complacent, virtually assured that because we are not likely to be scrutinized by our peers, we are safe in our careless or abusive practices.”
- Renee Ferguson of WMAQ in Chicago said the unwillingness on the part of the media to monitor itself is amongst the reasons behind an increasing problem of plagiarism among print and broadcast reporters. “I suspect we all know examples at own our stations and papers where things like the Blair incident have happened,” Ferguson said. “Are we prepared to investigate ourselves?”
Focus on huge profit margins, not serving public
- Geneva Overholser (former Editor of The Des Moines Register and board member of the Pulitzer Prize Board and American Society of Newspaper Editors) describing in 1990 a list of factors rapidly eroding the quality of reporting, said, “There is the fact that newspaper corporations typically retain truly remarkable profit margins: 30 percent is not unusual and the metro average has been somewhere around 17 percent. That’s 17 cents on every dollar made as profit for the company, yet the average beginning salary for a newspaper reporter last year was $17,000.”
- Current data supports Overholser’s assertions. In October, 2003, for example, Gannett Co. Inc., one of the nation’s largest newspaper chains, reported for the first nine months of 2003 profits of $853.2 million on revenues of $4.89 billion, a profit margin of 17.4 percent. In the same month, the E.W. Scripps Co., owner of another chain of daily newspapers, reported quarterly profits of $60.9 million for the company’s newspapers on revenues of $164 million, a profit margin of 37 percent.
- “Citizens are asking journalists and media critics why the media don’t ‘do something’ to discover and publish ‘the truth.’
…. As a loyal American, trained as a journalist some 45 years ago, I am convinced that journalists in the U.S. feel increasingly trapped between their professional values and the marketing/profits mentality so evident now everywhere in the news industry. The old professional values urge them to dig, investigate and bring to the light of day the relevant facts and issues, while the market/profit mentality asks, ‘Is it worth it? Do enough people care?’
It seems clear enough that the market/profit mentality has won out, especially in electronic news, and to a considerable extent in the print media. … Meanwhile, the push for corporate profit margins much higher than those of average American businesses goes on — with 40 to 100 percent in the electronic media and 12 to 45 percent in the print media common during 2003.”
– Margaret T. Gordon, a professor of news media and public policy at the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington and formerly the dean of the school, in a Seattle Times column August 08, 2003.
- The American public agrees with Overholser and Gordon. In an in-depth by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 59 percent of Americans said newspapers are concerned mainly with making profits rather than serving the public interest.
Media outlets are investing less in the quality of what they do
According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, there are 2,700 fewer reporters employed by newspapers in 2003 than there were in 1990. The number of jobs lost is believed to have continued falling in 2004.
According to washingtonspectator.com and speeches made by Bill Moyers, full-time employees of radio stations decreased by 44 percent during the period from 1994 – 2000. Moyers also stated that since the 1980s, broadcast network correspondents’ numbers are down by one-third, and TV networks now have half the previous number of reporters in their foreign bureaus.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism said Internet news also experienced cutbacks:
- “In the area with the greatest potential, they are cutting personnel the most: Our data suggest that news organizations have imposed more cutbacks in their Internet operations than in their old media, and where the investment has come is in technology for processing information, not people to gather it.”
- “Some 62 percent of Web professionals say their newsrooms have seen cutbacks in the last three years – despite huge increases in audiences online. That number is far bigger than the 37 percent of national print, radio and TV journalists who cited cutbacks in their newsrooms. Anecdotally, Web journalists say what investment there is tends to be in technology for processing information, not in journalists to gather news.”
The public is misinformed and uninformed
A few heavily studied examples:Foreign Policy
- A Knight Ridder/Princeton Research poll of Americans showed 44 percent of respondents believed “most” or “some” of the 9-11 hijackers were Iraqis. Only 17 percent gave the correct answer: none. A New York Times/CBS News Poll revealed that 45 percent of respondents believed Saddam Hussein was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks.
- A Pew Research Center/Council on Foreign Relations survey around the same time showed that almost two-thirds of people polled believed U. N. weapons inspectors had “found proof that Iraq is trying to hide weapons of mass destruction.” A report of such proof was never made by Hans Blix or any U.N. inspector, nor was it made by Mohammed El Baradei or any other official of the International Nuclear Regulatory Agency.
The same survey found 57 percent of those polled incorrectly believed Saddam Hussein assisted the 9/11 terrorists.
- Despite wide knowledge of the above polls and others similar to them, the media did little to correct the misperceptions and in fact, may have continued feeding them. A poll conducted months later by the Washington Post on September 6, 2003 found that 69 percent of Americans thought Hussein was linked to 9/11.
Who We Elect
- A major study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government found the level of people’s knowledge about candidates’ positions rose and fell based on the degree to which the media was focusing on important issues. Moving from a spate of media coverage of gaffes by Bush and Gore in the 2000 race to a period of focusing on the issues, for example, there was a 20 percent increase in people’s ability to identify correctly the two candidates’ positions.
“Once again, public awareness increases when the focus is on the issues,” said Marvin Kalb, the Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center’s Washington Office and co-director of the Vanishing Voter Project.
- Still, only a few weeks before the election, when voters were read a major issue position attributed to a candidate and then asked whether it was the candidate’s actual position, on average, of those polled 47 percent said they “didn’t know,” while 34 percent identified the position accurately and 19 percent misidentified it. In all, almost 50 percent of registered voters were able to recognize none or only one of the twelve candidate positions. Only 10 percent knew more than half of the policy positions about which they were asked.
- “It’s pretty clear that millions of Americans will go to the polls on Election Day armed with only scant knowledge of the issues, Some of them might be a bit surprised next year when the new President pursues policies quite different from those they thought he would.”- Thomas Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and director of the Shorenstein Center surveys
In 1945, four out of five American newspapers were independently owned and published by people with close ties to their communities. Those days are gone however. Today less than 20 percent of the country’s 1483 papers are independently owned; the rest belong to multi-newspaper chains.
- “Of the nation’s 1,500 daily papers, nearly 1,200 — about 80 percent — are owned by the big chains, which concentrate on reaping large profits and are not much given to public self-examination on ethics and quality issues.
…. The gut decision that journalists have to make is whether they want to be regarded as professionals with honor or merely as pickup teams of scribblers and windbags.”- Sydney Schanberg
- “It is not apparent to many news consumers, but 22 companies now control 70 percent of the country’s newspaper circulation and 10 companies own the broadcast stations that reach 85 percent of the United States.
Since 1975, two-thirds of independent newspaper owners and one-third of independent television owners have disappeared. Only 281 of the nation’s 1,500 daily newspapers remain independently owned. The three largest newspaper publishers control 25 percent of daily newspaper circulation worldwide.”- Freepress.net
- “Five companies now own the broadcast networks, 90 percent of the top 50 cablenetworks produce three-quarters of all prime time programming, and control 70 percent of the prime time television market share. The same companies that own the nation’s most popular newspapers and networks also own over 85 percent of the top 20 Internet news sites.
While the Internet has become a valuable new source of information, the vast majority of Americans continue to rely on television, newspaper, and radio as their primary sources of news information. Two-thirds of America’s independent newspapers have been lost since 1975 and according to the Department of Justice’s Merger Guidelines every local newspaper market in the U.S. is highly concentrated.
One-third of America’s independent TV stations have vanished since 1975 and there has been a 34 percent decline in the number of radio station owners since the Telecommunications Act of 1996.”
– According to bill H.R. 4069 introduced to the House of Representatives March 30, 2004
- “Sure enough, as merger has followed merger, journalism has been driven further down the hierarchy of values in the huge conglomerates that dominate what we see, read and hear. And to feed the profit margins – journalism has been directed to other priorities than “the news we need to know to keep our freedoms.” – Bill Moyers
Journalists agree that major problems exist.
- Only 47 percent of journalists surveyed felt their publications were improving.
- Only 39 percent felt their newspapers were usually very interesting to read.
- A remarkably low 21 percent felt their newspapers were connecting very well with readers.
“For all sorts of reasons, timidity, self-satisfaction, greed, inappropriate desire to belong…for all these reasons and more, there is an awful lot that the press keeps from you…. we’ll begin with squeamishness… and an overdeveloped fear of offending someone… orthodoxy, conventional thinking, a misplaced pleasure at being on the inside, incompetence and laziness…. greed…. the fact, for example, that too many papers by far do not wish to offend major advertisers….
Reporters who are incompetent, lazy, lack fire in the belly…. You put all these sins together, and there are more, and you come up with a public-press know-nothing pact that makes some sizeable contributions, I would argue, to our national problems currently.
Break this know nothing pact now and you will have taken as mighty a step as you can as an individual to help see to it that we as a nation move together toward a lively, hopeful, confident, and all-embracing future.”
– Speech to Stanford graduates by Geneva Overholser, chosen 1990 Editor of the Year by the Gannett Company, former board member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and Pulitzer Prize Board, former reporter for NY Times, and former Editor of the Des Moines Register.
Rachel Kainer has spent spent four years of her life dedicated to journalism. She is incredibly disappointed with the media today. She prefers not to watch or read the news these days because of the unprofessional, biased pieces that are put out. Instead of being informed of the actual facts, all we get are exaggerated, untrue information and reporters/writers’ opinions. With people these days being so quick to believe what they hear on the news, the nature of the media right now is extremely dangerous. She doesn’t believe that every single reporter, journalist, or writer is a liar or is guilty of acting like this. Unfortunately, the honest, professional journalists who just want to expose the truth are few and far between today. It seems like every year mainstream media is more and more skewed away from the truth of the facts.
Today articles are completely biased by the author’s opinions. Obviously, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, She is exerting her First Amendment right to state her opinion right now. But when you take on the responsibility of a journalist, to tell everyone the God-honest facts, you better do just that. Save your opinion for an editorial, because it has no place in the news. If you’re going to write a news article and put your own opinion in it, you should explicitly state that it is your opinion. Nobody in a place of authority like that should be sharing their opinion and claiming it as fact.
Why are facts so misrepresented and skewed? If you don’t have all the facts, don’t write about it. Don’t makeup facts or exaggerate the facts because you want a story and you want it out now. I completely understand that news, especially important or breaking news, needs to be shared in a timely manner. I’m not saying that the media should withhold important information just because they don’t have all the facts.
You can still write an article or put a story on the news; just don’t include information you don’t know. Putting out false information only leads to misjudgment. In today’s world when everyone is so easily offended and so quick to accuse other people, why would you publish anything as the truth if you’re not sure that it’s true?
And why are we so busy attacking others? If you state the honest facts, people will make their own opinions. It’s completely unfair for you to force your own opinions down someone’s throat when it’s your job to let them know what honestly happened. Furthermore, if you’re going to make an assumption about something in a news piece when you don’t even know the facts it’s only going to cause problems.
Journalism, the news, and the media were never meant to be this way. The world today, now more than ever, needs a source that they can trust. We need a source of information that we know will be honest, unbiased and true to the facts. We don’t want to hear anything but the truth, and we can make my own opinions based on honest facts. That’s all we want from the media, and we hope that someday this dream will come true.
The Impact of Social Media: Is it Irreplaceable?
In little more than a decade, the impact of social media has gone from being an entertaining extra to a fully integrated part of nearly every aspect of daily life for many.
Recently in the realm of commerce, Facebook faced skepticism in its testimony to the Senate Banking Committee on Libra, its proposed cryptocurrency and alternative financial system. In politics, heartthrob Justin Bieber tweeted the President of the United States, imploring him to “let those kids out of cages.” In law enforcement, the Philadelphia police department moved to terminate more than a dozen police officers after their racist comments on social media were revealed.
And in the ultimate meshing of the digital and physical worlds, Elon Musk raised the specter of essentially removing the space between social and media through the invention — at some future time — of a brain implant that connects human tissue to computer chips.
All this, in the span of about a week.
As quickly as social media has insinuated itself into politics, the workplace, home life and elsewhere, it continues to evolve at lightning speed, making it tricky to predict which way it will morph next. It’s hard to recall now, but SixDegrees.com, Friendster and Makeoutclub.com were each once the next big thing, while one survivor has continued to grow in astonishing ways. In 2006, Facebook had 7.3 million registered users and reportedly turned down a $750 million buyout offer. In the first quarter of 2019, the company could claim 2.38 billion active users, with a market capitalization hovering around half a trillion dollars.
“In 2007 I argued that Facebook might not be around in 15 years. I’m clearly wrong, but it is interesting to see how things have changed,” says Jonah Berger, Wharton marketing professor and author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On. The challenge going forward is not just having the best features, but staying relevant, he says. “Social media isn’t a utility. It’s not like power or water where all people care about is whether it works. Young people care about what using one platform or another says about them. It’s not cool to use the same site as your parents and grandparents, so they’re always looking for the hot new thing.”
Just a dozen years ago, everyone was talking about a different set of social networking services, “and I don’t think anyone quite expected Facebook to become so huge and so dominant,” says Kevin Werbach, Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics. “At that point, this was an interesting discussion about tech start-ups.
“Today, Facebook is one of the most valuable companies on earth and front and center in a whole range of public policy debates, so the scope of issues we’re thinking about with social media are broader than then,” Werbach adds.
Cambridge Analytica, the impact of social media on the last presidential election and other issues may have eroded public trust, Werbach said, but “social media has become really fundamental to the way that billions of people get information about the world and connect with each other, which raises the stakes enormously.”
Just Say No
“Facebook is dangerous,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) at July’s hearing of the Senate Banking Committee. “Facebook has said, ‘just trust us.’ And every time Americans trust you, they seem to get burned.”
Social media has plenty of detractors, but by and large, do Americans agree with Brown’s sentiment? In 2018, 42% of those surveyed in a Pew Research Center survey said they had taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while 26% said they had deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone.
A year later, though, despite the reputational beating social media had taken, the 2019 iteration of the same Pew survey found social media use unchanged from 2018.
Facebook has its critics, says Wharton marketing professor Pinar Yildirim, and they are mainly concerned about two things: mishandling consumer data and poorly managing access to it by third party providers; and the level of disinformation spreading on Facebook.
“Social media isn’t a utility. It’s not like power or water where all people care about is whether it works. Young people care about what using one platform or another says about them.”–Jonah Berger
“The question is, are we at a point where the social media organizations and their activities should be regulated for the benefit of the consumer? I do not think more regulation will necessarily help, but certainly this is what is on the table,” says Yildirim. “In the period leading to the [2020 U.S. presidential] elections, we will hear a range of discussions about regulation on the tech industry.”
Some proposals relate to stricter regulation on collection and use of consumer data, Yildirim adds, noting that the European Union already moved to stricter regulations last year by adopting the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). “A number of companies in the U.S. and around the world adopted the GDPR protocol for all of their customers, not just for the residents of EU,” she says. “We will likely hear more discussions on regulation of such data, and we will likely see stricter regulation of this data.”
The other discussion bound to intensify is around the separation of Big Tech into smaller, easier to regulate units. “Most of us academics do not think that dividing organizations into smaller units is sufficient to improve their compliance with regulation. It also does not necessarily mean they will be less competitive,” says Yildirim. “For instance, in the discussion of Facebook, it is not even clear yet how breaking up the company would work, given that it does not have very clear boundaries between different business units.”
Even if such regulations never come to pass, the discussions “may nevertheless hurt Big Tech financially, given that most companies are publicly traded and it adds to the uncertainty,” Yildirim notes.
One prominent commentator about the negative impact of social media is Jaron Lanier, whose fervent opposition makes itself apparent in the plainspoken title of his 2018 book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. He cites loss of free will, social media’s erosion of the truth and destruction of empathy, its tendency to make people unhappy, and the way in which it is “making politics impossible.” The title of the last chapter: “Social Media Hates Your Soul.”
Lanier is no tech troglodyte. A polymath who bridges the digital and analogue realms, he is a musician and writer, has worked as a scientist for Microsoft, and was co-founder of pioneering virtual reality company VPL Research. The nastiness that online existence brings out in users “turned out to be like crude oil for the social media companies and other behavior manipulation empires that quickly came to dominate the internet, because it fuelled negative behavioral feedback,” he writes.
“Social media has become really fundamental to the way that billions of people get information about the world and connect with each other, which raises the stakes enormously.”–Kevin Werbach
Worse, there is an addictive quality to social media, and that is a big issue, says Berger. “Social media is like a drug, but what makes it particularly addictive is that it is adaptive. It adjusts based on your preferences and behaviors,” he says, “which makes it both more useful and engaging and interesting, and more addictive.”
The effect of that drug on mental health is only beginning to be examined, but a recent University of Pennsylvania study makes the case that limiting use of social media can be a good thing. Researchers looked at a group of 143 Penn undergraduates, using baseline monitoring and randomly assigning each to either a group limiting Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat use to 10 minutes per platform per day, or to one told to use social media as usual for three weeks. The results, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks in the group limiting use compared to the control group.
However, “both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring,” wrote the authors of “No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression.”
Monetizing a League (and a Reality) All Their Own
No one, though, is predicting that social media is a fad that will pass like its analogue antecedent of the 1970s, citizens band radio. It will, however, evolve. The idea of social media as just a way to reconnect with high school friends seems quaint now. The impact of social media today is a big tent, including not only networks like Facebook, but also forums like Reddit and video-sharing platforms.
“The question is, are we at a point where the social media organizations and their activities should be regulated for the benefit of the consumer?”–Pinar Yildirim
Virtual worlds and gaming have become a major part of the sector, too. Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader says gamers are creating their own user-generated content through virtual worlds — and the revenue to go with it. He points to one group of gamers that use Grand Theft Auto as a kind of stage or departure point “to have their own virtual show.” In NoPixel, the Grand Theft Auto roleplaying server, “not much really happens and millions are tuning in to watch them. Just watching, not even participating, and it’s either live-streamed or recorded. And people are making donations to support this thing. The gamers are making hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Now imagine having a 30-person reality show all filmed live and you can take the perspective of one person and then watch it again from another person’s perspective,” he continues. “Along the way, they can have a tip jar or talk about things they endorse. That kind of immersive media starts to build the bridge to what we like to get out of TV, but even better. Those things are on the periphery right now, but I think they are going to take over.”
Big players have noticed the potential of virtual sports and are getting into the act. In a striking example of the physical world imitating the digital one, media companies are putting up real-life stadiums where teams compete in video games. Comcast Spectator in March announced that it is building a new $50 million stadium in South Philadelphia that will be the home of the Philadelphia Fusion, the city’s e-sports team in the Overwatch League.
E-sports is serious business, with revenues globally — including advertising, sponsorships and media rights — expected to reach $1.1 billion in 2019, according to gaming industry analytics company Newzoo.
“E-sports is absolutely here to stay,” says Fader, “and I think it’s a safe bet to say that e-sports will dominate most traditional sports, managing far more revenue and having more impact on our consciousness than baseball.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Facebook has begun making deals to carry e-sports content. In fact, it is diversification like this that may keep Facebook from ending up like its failed upstart peers. One thing that Facebook has managed to do that MySpace, Friendster and others didn’t, is “a very good job of creating functional integration with the value they are delivering, as opposed to being a place to just share photos or send messages, it serves a lot of diversified functions,” says Keith E. Niedermeier, director of Wharton’s undergraduate marketing program and an adjunct professor of marketing. “They are creating groups and group connections, but you see them moving into lots of other services like streaming entertainment, mobile payments, and customer-to-customer buying and selling.”
“[WeChat] has really instantiated itself as a day-to-day tool in China, and it’s clear to me that Facebook would like to emulate that sort of thing.”–Keith Niedermeier
In China, WeChat has become the biggest mobile payment platform in the world and it is the platform for many third-party apps for things like bike sharing and ordering airplane tickets. “It has really instantiated itself as a day-to-day tool in China, and it’s clear to me that Facebook would like to emulate that sort of thing,” says Niedermeier.
Among nascent social media platforms that are particularly promising right now, Yildirim says that “social media platforms which are directed at achieving some objectives with smaller scale and more homogenous people stand a higher chance of entering the market and being able to compete with large, general-purpose platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.”
Irreplaceable – and Damaging?
Of course, many have begun to believe that the biggest challenge around the impact of social media may be the way it is changing society. The “attention-grabbing algorithms underlying social media … propel authoritarian practices that aim to sow confusion, ignorance, prejudice, and chaos, thereby facilitating manipulation and undermining accountability,” writes University of Toronto political science professor Ronald Deibert in a January essay in the Journal of Democracy.
Berger notes that any piece of information can now get attention, whether it is true or false. This means more potential for movements both welcome as well as malevolent. “Before, only media companies had reach, so it was harder for false information to spread. It could happen, but it was slow. Now anyone can share anything, and because people tend to believe what they see, false information can spread just as, if not more easily, than the truth.
“It’s certainly allowed more things to bubble up rather than flow from the top down,” says Berger. Absent gatekeepers, “everyone is their own media company, broadcasting to the particular set of people that follow them. It used to be that a major label signing you was the path to stardom. Now artists can build their own following online and break through that way. Social media has certainly made fame and attention more democratic, though not always in a good way.”
Deibert writes that “in a short period of time, digital technologies have become pervasive and deeply embedded in all that we do. Unwinding them completely is neither possible nor desirable.”
His cri de coeur argues: that citizens have the right to know what companies and governments are doing with their personal data, and that this right be extended internationally to hold autocratic regimes to account; that companies be barred from selling products and services that enable infringements on human rights and harms to civil society; for the creation of independent agencies with real power to hold social-media platforms to account; and the creation and enforcement of strong antitrust laws to end dominance of a very few social-media companies.
“Social media has certainly made fame and attention more democratic, though not always in a good way.”–Jonah Berger
The rising tide of concern is now extending across sectors. The U.S. Justice Department has recently begun an anti-trust investigation into how tech companies operate in social media, search and retail services. In July, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the award of nearly $50 million in new funding to 11 U.S. universities to research how technology is transforming democracy. The foundation is also soliciting additional grant proposals to fund policy and legal research into the “rules, norms and governance” that should be applied to social media and technology companies.
Given all of the reasons not to engage with social media — the privacy issues, the slippery-slope addiction aspect of it, its role in spreading incivility — do we want to try to put the genie back in the bottle? Can we? Does social media definitely have a future?
“Yes, surely it does,” says Yildirim. “Social connections are fabrics of society. Just as the telegraph or telephone as an innovation of communication did not reduce social connectivity, online social networks did not either. If anything, it likely increased connectivity, or reduced the cost of communicating with others.”
It is thanks to online social networks that individuals likely have larger social networks, she says, and while many criticize the fact that we are in touch with large numbers of individuals in a superficial way, these light connections may nevertheless be contributing to our lives when it comes to economic and social outcomes — ranging from finding jobs to meeting new people.
“We are used to being in contact with more individuals, and it is easier to remain in contact with people we only met once. Giving up on this does not seem likely for humans,” she says. “The technology with which we keep in touch may change, may evolve, but we will have social connections and platforms which enable them. Facebook may be gone in 10 years, but there will be something else.”
Today, Freedom From Fear Is Freedom From Mainstream Media
What was once considered unacceptable and unethical in the public domain has been made entirely acceptable and ethical by the mainstream media in the last five years. Not only is the media celebrating existing immoralities, it is also scaling new heights of impropriety. Crudity is the new definition of refinement – the mainstream media’s vulgarity has destroyed the norms of Indian democracy that once prevailed in the public domain.
To be vulgar and immoderate is no longer wrong – be it on the street or in the studios of news channels. This is not the work of one odd channel or anchor; hundreds of them are at it all the time. Sure, you are free to single one out as the leader of the pack – what I want to say is that they have all been flag-bearers of decline, glorifying falling standards.
This transformation has been made possible by the complete fusion of the mainstream media and politics. In the process, the media has recognized the political supporter as the only kind of viewer there can be. Since the consumers and supporters of this media are adherents of a particular ideology and political party, the dividing line between viewer and party supporter has been erased. It is by ending the sheer diversity of information in news that this section of political supporters as viewers has been created. I think of them as the informationless horde, which has grown quite big. For that reason, I take it seriously, refraining from making fun of its follies. When ignorance takes the place of learning, it is no laughing matter.
Periodically, this horde is tested for its singular lack of information. For instance, following the Pulwama incident, the debate was not on the prime minister’s silence but on why Sachin Tendulkar had not spoken out! We have made the cardinal mistake of presuming that the expansion of communication media implies the expansion of information. But that is not so. The sharp erasure of the diversity of issues is what leads to a deprivation of information – a state of informationlessness. And that is what has happened across a proliferating mainstream media.
The ‘national curriculum’ project that mainstream news channels have been running for five years now has been crystal clear about its intent from day one: to snuff out the engaged viewer within you (who asks questions). Only then would the process of seizing democracy without killing it be complete. It is quite another matter that blood has flowed on the streets in the process – the crowd did not spare anyone, be it Subodh Kumar Singh or Akhlaq. That is the kind of impact the national curriculum launched by the present-day dispensation has had. I believe this project has succeeded, overwhelming our democracy and our consciousness of being citizens, of being the people.
The mainstream media launched its national curriculum as soon as the Modi government came to power in 2014. At its core was the idea of ensuring a continual process of Hindu-Muslim divide. For that, it was necessary to create a growing sense of division among citizens. So, the media has been trying to break the people’s very awareness of the idea of citizenship. Since information and questioning are the basis of citizenship, the possibility of either has been severely curtailed. Our mainstream media does not question the government; on the contrary, it interrogates the people on behalf of the government! The political line emerging from these channels in the wake of the Pulwama blast has shown that clearly.
Enemies are being manufactured from within the ranks of citizens. To that end, a sentiment of ‘Hindu frustration’ and ‘Muslim frustration’ – armed with half-baked information – has been generated within all of us. The frustration was there earlier too, but has been magnified several times over and ‘installed’ in the media. For that reason, today’s mainstream media is not the people’s media – it is a media for Hindus. To be more accurate, it speaks for those playing politics in the name of Hindu religion, those professing Hindutva. Five years ago, who would have thought that this Hindutva media would occupy almost 90 % of the mainstream media space! Yet it has happened so.
The mainstream media, in its new Hindutva guise, is certainly not going to confront the dispensation or the establishment. On the contrary, it is their defender, for they too are of the same persuasion.
This is not to say that citizens did not perceive themselves as Hindus earlier. But that understanding has been replaced by a new perception of being Hindu – one who is shorn of courage and running scared of the people standing alongside him. One who looks at the person next to him with suspicion, seeing in him a Hindu who is anti-Hindu. And, by extension, anti-national.
It is for the first time that I am seeing a Hindu who is fearful of other Hindus. Put it down to the contribution of the present-day mainstream media. Its conduct goes completely against those Hindu conventions which are claimed to be superior and are constantly lauded. The Gita may say that anger destroys our powers of discrimination, but our news anchor who takes its name continues to rave and rant in the same breath, speaking only in anger.
The mainstream news media and the social media have forged a new kind of bhakt. Or maybe this new kind of bhakt has helped the media become what it is today. I feel that every citizen ought to be a Kabir or Ravidas – that is, be able to challenge the everyday practices of established religion or the government of the day. Without the example of Guru Ravidas, we would not have been able to comprehend what the purity of mind and heart is all about. A dip in the Ganga would have been the only way to prove one’s faith, and Tendulkar would have had to go to some news channel to prove his patriotism. Today’s mainstream media is against all Indian traditions. What it seeks to do, and has done, is fashion a bhakt who is completely bereft of information. One who is informationless is loveless as well.
This is the baseline of our democratic system now. Its very basis has changed; so too its reference point. If you ask a question, you will be accused of being the following in that order – a Congress agent, a Naxal, urban Naxal, an opponent of Hindu unity, a supporter of Muslims, and, finally, an opponent of Modi, which is where the accusations come to rest. In reality, this final point of offensive defence – why do you oppose Modi? – happens to be the starting point for the end of our democratic system.
To forge a feeling of ‘Hindu frustration’, the media played up a fear of Muslims – in fact, the entire project of building Hindu anger has been centred on this idea. It is worth noting that the project ended up having the same impact on Muslims as it did on Hindus. Just as the Hindus stopped asking questions of the government, the Muslims, out of fear, did the same. In fact, the latter have not just stopped asking questions, they have been abandoning their political right of representation as well in a bid to stem further polarisation in society – they are withdrawing from public and political spaces. Political parties other than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also been affected by this build-up of fear – they too have withdrawn from asking questions on these issues for fear of losing out.
I see before me a craven India where everybody is putting their respective fears forward. It is imperative that we regain our consciousness of being citizens or else we stand to lose the India we attained after a century of struggle. Both Hindus and Muslims need to liberate themselves from fear. For that, they will have to free themselves of the mainstream media.
If one studies the speeches of politicians, the angry demeanor of news anchors, the slogans gracing TV screens and the language of WhatsApp messages, a certain mental complex becomes apparent. A Tendulkar whose language does not reflect that complex can be an anti-national; so too lieutenant-general Syed Ata Hasnain. Today’s mainstream media has shown that stupidity, vulgarity and immoderation can provide a revenue model for good business.
It is not that this process is not being challenged. Members of the public are posing questions to the government through YouTube. A new kind of media is emerging, such as The Wire, Scroll, The Caravan. Then there are newspapers like The Telegraph. We too have been making an effort. The numbers of those who understand what the media ought to be are on the rise. Intrepid female journalists who are fighting the system also provide hope. In terms of the scale of what they are up against, all these efforts are small. But I have faith that these signs of hope will grow with time.
For now, what can be said is that our present-day mainstream media is no longer the fourth estate of democracy, it is the first estate of a political party. Thanks are due to the BJP and Modi ji for bestowing such a spineless mainstream media on India. Really, Modi ji, I am tempted to ask: from where have you got the temperament of a fakir? Only an unworldly fakir can give his blessings to a media such as this.
I think what all Americans want is to be able to live their lives as they see fit, and to be able to provide for themselves and their loved ones. We also want to be able to trust what we hear from the media. It would also be nice to be able to trust the politicians that we elect to do right by us. However, most of us know that this is just too much to ask. However, what we do need is to not have the rights that our forefathers died protecting be taken away from us. Special interest groups do not have the right to speak and make decisions for the masses. Just because you are a billionaire you do not have the right to censor what we hear, read and see. We are all grown-ups and we can make up our own minds on what is the truth. We also have the right to be able to protect not only ourselves but our love ones as well. Let us hope at some time the media will have an epiphany and finally start reporting the news in an unbiased manner. If this happens, just maybe our country stands a chance.
en.wikipedia.org, ” Fourth Estate,” By Wikipedia editors; en.wikipedia.org, “Journalism,” By Wikipedia editors; en.wikipedia.org, ” History of American Journalism,” By Wikipedia editors; en.wikipedia.org, ” History of Journalism,” By Wikipedia editors; en.wikipedia.org, ” History of American Newspapers,” By Wikipedia editors; opensocietyfoundations.org, “What Is Happening to Our Media?” By Rasmus Kleis Nielson; dailysource.org, ” Current Problems in the Media,” By Daily Source Editors; theodysseyonline.com, “Here’s What’s Wrong With The Media Today: Journalism was never meant to be this way,” By Rachel Kainer; knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu, “The Impact of Social Media: Is it Irreplaceable?”; thewire.in, “Today, Freedom From Fear Is Freedom From Mainstream Media: The media has recognized the political supporter as the only kind of viewer there can be,” By Ravish Kumar; “The Coming of Neo Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class,” By Joel Kotkin;
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