The last US election exposed mainstream media for being fundamentally out of touch with their audience and prioritising profit.
I know many people want me to chastise the media for not doing more to expose Hillary Clinton and some want me to lament them for their over-coverage of Donald Trump. Those are good points, and I will touch on them briefly. However, there is an issue that is far greater in the industry that I want to highlight.
Election night 2016 will go down in journalism as the night the media failed in its duties. They didn’t talk to the average person. They have been ignoring the growing discontent in America for eight years. Not talking to people lead to Donald Trump winning, when all odds were reportedly against him. I am not saying the media caused his victory, I am critiquing their inability to realise how close the election really was.
Mainstream media like CNN, MSNBC, New York Times and the Huffington Post are all satisfied with getting a white collar expert with a university degree and settling on that. The problem is that those white collar experts are living in gated neighbourhoods, working in a controlled environment in large urban centres; far away from rural America. You can’t learn the struggles of the average person when you’re talking to some who is also out-of-touch.
Had these outlets spent the extra money and did some real journalism, they would have known there was support for Trump. Not racially, gender or political based disagreement but discontent with the system itself. Middle-class America has watched their wealth slowly disappear. Their cheques get smaller and the bills get higher. How the media didn’t realise this will be one of their greatest failures ever.
Now, enough complaining. How does journalism recover? Well, I don’t think there is a way it can just recover. Public trust in media is at an all-time low. It has become evident that old media is trying to kill new media which is upsetting the younger generations. You can learn more about this in the video below.
The problem is a mix of profit over journalism, corporate infiltration and increasing demands from advertisers. On top of these issues is the fact that news subscriptions are falling and fewer people are watching network television. This is all overshadowed by the impact on-demand content from the internet has.
I don’t think the giant US news outlets can recover. The economic model they use allows outside parties with agendas to affect their content. A public funding model is needed. The type that supports NPR, PBS, BBC (United Kingdom), and CBC (Canada).
With public funding, media can focus on real issues without having to use catchy titles and fluff to garner more clicks. This also means that they are held to much higher standards for accurate reporting without bias. They answer to the people, not to the advertisers or corporate owners.
I also call for the implementation of a regulatory board for journalists. Like the regulatory boards for nurses, doctors, lawyers and teachers. This board would enforce journalistic ethics on all media outlets, private and public.
Like those fields, journalists have significant influence and effect on society at large. Allowing someone to break the ethical standards of journalism degrades the entire profession and makes people who work hard seem less credible. That isn’t fair to people who follow the rules.
We wouldn’t let a teacher take money from Coca-cola to change pieces of the education plan to avoid how bad sugary pop is. We shouldn’t allow corporations to pay media to avoid topics or information that is relevant.
Now enough grand-standing. Support local and independent media. For the time being at least. Donate to local media even. It helps them keep delivering the news. If you read an independent blog, ask them how you can help.
Most of all, start a conversation and inform yourself about why the media is in its state. After all, this is an opinion piece.