Monday, October 25, 2010

the death of newspapers

If corporations have not completely taken over society, then they at least have infiltrated our lives at a level higher than any other point in history. Whether it is the handful of corporations that own and dictate the flow of news and other information, or the corporations hired by the U.S. government to carry out outsourced tasks, the role of the corporation has become powerful in its ability to wield a lot of control over our democratic society.


It seems as if everything is sensationalized, even the harder news stories, and I often find myself thinking, “This is news?” either when I am watching television or reading online.

The Nation article on the death of newspapers speaks of the need for government intervention to bring about a reform in journalism. Although the idea of the government management in this area is unacceptable to many people, the idea does bring up many valid points according to the articles authors, John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney, specifically:

It was the government’s action in the first place to allow deregulation and media monopolies; is it possible to reform that decision and disassemble the current media monopoly? “…the government should be prepared to rewrite rules and regulations and to use its largess to aid a variety of sound initiatives,” the authors write, adding, “Only government can implement policies and subsidies to provide an institutional framework for quality journalism.” The authors describe other solutions such as tax breaks for Americans who buy newspapers, millions of dollars in funding for public media that would build a “press ‘infrastructure project’ that is necessary to maintain an informed citizenry and democracy itself,” and government funds to provide for media production materials in middle schools, high schools and colleges, to name a few.

These are really good ideas that, when implemented, may even succeed, and that would be a great thing. However, I do find some fault with the reality of these solutions taking place. Corporations, their lobbyists, and their millions, ultimately have more power in combating legislation that will affect them negatively. It will take principled government leaders to lead the change, and create or amend legislation that currently serves a handful of individuals (corporations) and denies the rest of American citizens the variety of news and information choices that truly reflect a democratic society.


  1. As I sit and groan over attack ad after attack ad after attack ad (many sponsored by various lobbyist groups), I couldn't agree with Diana more that any plan to revive the newspaper industry that doesn't account for the clout of corporations is not well researched. However, I think its pretty impossible to outbid the media giants who want to increase their profits by publishing online only.

    I think another consideration for any government funding for newspapers is the current economic state of governments across the US. And we as librarians should know just as well as anyone how cash-strapped governments are. So while newspapers are important to our culture, I think I would rather have my tax money spent on schools and fire departments than keeping newspapers afloat.

  2. Diana, I like your comment about news being
    sensationalized. I fully agree with you.

    I was watching the TV news coverage on the race for US congress (God I hate political news). The whole thing was 100% gossip. The new’s “expert” gave stats on who had the largest funding, who was expected to loose, and how badly/easily the Republicans would win over the house. There was no mentioning of platforms or issues or anything IMPORTANT. I mean, come on, how is this not bias? What purpose does this serve?

    To me, TV news is getting horrendous. No story is taken seriously anymore and it seems that each segment is so short they can’t give you enough information to show that they actually did any REAL research or journalism. I don’t know what the reason is, but, TV news has gotten bad. That’s why I go to the internet and steer clear from US news corporations. My thought is that because foreign news is not so much affiliated with American companies, they are able to paint a truer, less corrupt, picture of the things happening in our own country. And, most of the time our actions are not seen in a good light. But, that’s life.

  3. TV news definitely has become quite the beast. I remember watching Good Night, Good Luck and thinking how Edward R. Murrow was a total badass. Granted that's a movie, but it probably does highlight the difference between then and now. It's true that "news" can happen anytime, but I don't think this justifies the 24-hour news networks existence. My favorite part of the frontline segments, was a quote from Ted Koppel along the lines of setting the standards for news as the same as entertainment was the worst move in the history of news broadcasting, giving people what then wanted instead of what was important. I had a very immediate reaction to this, on one hand the sentiment carries with it a certain degree of arrogance that Mr. Koppel somehow knows what I need to know and I can't figure it out for myself. On the other hand, he's right. It's Ted's job to discover the important facts in our nation/world and present them in a form we can consume in a half hour or hour. Then it comes down to finding someone or some organization you can trust enough to not lie to you. Sadly, it seems that the more popular people are also the ones that are engaged more in entertainment rather than information. That said, the only TV news I watch any more is Jim Lehrer who is probably the most boring/informative news man out there.

  4. Diana - your last paragraph summarizes some of the conversations I have had with my peers in doctoral programs with regard to the notion of citizen journalism that responds to corporate lobbies (and personhood, per the recent Supreme Court ruling). One critique of the McChesney/Nichols position on this topic is that it assumes too much of a level playing field, so to speak, from which citizens are meant to act. Many take issue with this premise. A second critique comes from the fact that a lot of the rhetoric around responding in these ways is based on an individualism that many find problematic. Some have offered notions of collective responses as an alternative. Nevertheless, this work continues to shed the light on the dangerous ramifications of the lack of a free press. Yet a monolithic newspaper-based press may well be a thing of the past. I watched a Congressional hearing called by Sen. John Kerry on this issue, at which a major newspaper executive indicated that many in his industry were "waiting for the ground to settle" before devising their way-ahead strategy in the context of the digital media paradigm. The truth is that there may never again be settled ground, but rather a dynamic and shifting landscape in which only those who can be nimble and adapt their practices quickly will survive.

  5. On the subject of media giants and their ability to shape the political landscape, Politico recently noted that nearly every potential GOP candidate for the presidency in 2012 (with the exception of Mitt Romney) is on the Fox News payroll - raising questions as to how Fox intends to offer "fair and balanced" campaign coverage of its own employees, or how other news networks can cover these candidates when they're contractually forbidden from appearing on networks other than Fox.

    Paul Krugman wrote an interesting op-ed piece for the New York Times (for what it's worth, I read it, like most of my newspapers, online) in which he noted that while media moguls like Fox's Rupert Murdoch have always attempted to influence political races with their financial backing, the act of publicly putting the candidates on the company payroll takes things to a whole new level. As Krugman writes, "the Ministry of Propaganda has, in effect, seized control of the Politburo."