Monday, February 7, 2011

The so-called News

Who decides what’s news? Who decides what makes it onto your TV screen, into your newspapers, magazines, radio, Iphone, and yes, even onto the internet [there’s still some freedom there but as Comcast takes over and consolidation increases, which it will…]? Do Rush and Rachel have the ‘final’ say so about what goes on their shows?

There are numerous factors contributing to what’s news among them: popularity - # of hits, clicks, ratings, eyeballs, ears, etc. But how do we know the people who report those stats are really honest – don’t they work for someone else, usually a large for-profit corporation? The popular myth in the US is that this factor, popularity, is the ultimate determiner of content, not so much the so-called news, tho this is getting to be so more and more, but of everything else.

So-called ‘market’ forces determine what gets published on all forms of media. If people didn’t want it, we wouldn’t put it on, the story goes. But think about it, how many really popular ideas, events, programs and shows never get covered? A lot. So yes, popularity and the so-called ‘market’ - the ultimate arbiter of all in contemporary American society even of morality, justice and truth, does have an impact on what’s ‘news.’ What else?

How about the for-profit corporate sponsors and corporate owners of the media? Do they have something to say about it? Some would say not, going back to the ‘popularity’ idea, that sponsors want to sell things and if what ever they’re sponsoring and selling isn’t popular, they won’t sell as much. Sounds reasonable, yet there’s another side to that coin.

If owners and sponsors even suspect something will offend even a small segment of the market [but only a segment with money to spend; poor people often don’t count] then they won’t sponsor and we won’t hear about it. That means that the status quo tends to get locked in, a ‘don’t rock the boat’ attitude, and if its not broke, don’t fix it perspective rules. This limits creativity, innovation, real improvement and change. It also explains why all, to use Sarah Palin’s words, ‘the lame street media,’ cover the same ‘top three’ stories, endlessly, all day long.

To me, bottom line, we have for-profit corporations deciding what’s news and how to pitch it so that it will not rock the boat and appeal to a large audience. Is this the way it has to be? Is this contributing to a world that works for everyone and everything, or to a world that works best for, for-profit corporations? Similarly, who decides who gets health care? Is it the evil socialist federal government or the wonderful, freedom-loving, for-profit health care/insurance companies?
For-profit is not a dirty word. Profits are important and vital. But if profit alone, without compassion, morality, truth and justice are all that’s involved in making decisions, we have a dog-eat-dog world, with the richest, biggest dogs eating all the smaller dogs. Have you noticed, do you think that’s happening? We need a referee, someone to level the playing field and stand for truth, justice and the American Way so that profit alone doesn’t determine what’s news, what we think about and do.

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