“The writer is situated in his time. Every word has consequences. Every silence, too.”
Let’s you and I have a fireside chat. We can relax and talk openly and candidly about the state of media in America and the world while we share a cup of coffee or tea.
I have no interest in bashing media or journalists. Nor will I. That polarizing fight is for partisan political types attempting to differentiate themselves from the other talking head personalities. Again, I am not interested in playing the game. I would like to explore the landscape of big and small media reframed with three notions in mind.
To make money, big and small media must grab and hold our attention. Engagement (attention) can be monetarized by selling your attention to advertisers.
To accomplish “grabbing and holding our attention”, media has chosen to feed our “hard-wired” human need for drama. Media “tends” to frictionalize (to add to existing friction) and to fictionalize (exaggerate) storylines for dramatic effect.
And, journalists and editors are human beings therefore inherently biased in their research and presentation. The resulting degree of that bias is always in question.
Have I lost anyone? I bet not.
Looking at media through your new lens of needing to eat like the rest of us, media becomes a group of biased human beings simply running a business nourishing its audience with the “drama” they tuned in for and crave. In our fast-paced world, sometimes the absolute or pure truth is sacrificed on the altar of editorial expedience and audience engagement.
According to Oxford University, the global climate for journalism is challenging, if not outright hostile in some places. But not every place. There are few apparent signs of improvement any time soon. This year’s Reuters Institute Digital News Report (Newman et al. 2021) showed rising rates of concern about the quality of the information environment in many countries.
The Reuters Institute report reveals new insights about digital news consumption based on a YouGov survey of over 92,000 online news consumers in 46 markets including India, Indonesia, Thailand, Nigeria, Colombia. and Peru for the first time.
Please note in the graphic below that the USA has the lowest trust rating in the measured world 29%. Just below the French and Hungarians at 30%. In the following graphics provided by the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford, we were given full use of their slides on the condition of attribution, as well as access to their research.
The idea of paying for news, like any other service makes the information provider beholding to their audience and funding source.
What do consumers of media want most? A range of views.
In their defense, journalists believe social media platforms and their algorithms stoked ‘echo chambers’ propagating messages from like-minded voices. The incessant reverberation sowed distrust towards uncomfortable facts or opposing viewpoints. Additional blame was heaped on social media platforms for elevating the voices of bad-faith critics (friction), including political leaders with their own axes to grind towards independent journalism.
Traditional journalistic tactics of friction & fiction were coded into algorithms and let loose on social media platforms and amped up. I get it. Friction & fiction distort words, concepts, and truth.
Back to America and our focus on trust in traditional media both big and small. Below is an Axios and Edelman survey from last year.
Specifically, according to Axios/Edelman:
*56% of Americans agree with the statement that “journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”
With media’s past history of frictionalizing and fictionalizing to “dramatize” news for their bottom line, is indulging in “gross exaggerations” a fair inducement?” Probably. Making knowing false statements? Probably not. To boldly lie on the record is not something most journalists would ever consider. Period.
*58% think that “most news organizational are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public.”
Of course, news organizations are more concerned with their ideology and political position because it forms their audience. The partisans in the public sphere, their audience seem to be clamoring for more. News organizations are for profit. Pandering to their audience is good business.
Let’s try an experiment. What if you looked at your typical newscaster as a big-screen actor playing a role, how would that change your outlook on the news? Would you be more relaxed less incensed by their perceived bias? Try it.
Today’s post marks Beyond the Hype’s 50th offering. For a young media brand, we have made great strides in finding our audience. Our articles have reached over 40 countries and in countless languages with thousands of page views and visitors each month.
We began with the idea of offering a unique and provocative perspective on culture, money, media, travel, and international relations. Looking back, we have done a good job of being in front of big stories like inflation, the Bitcoin bubble, China, Russia, rising coffee prices, and the handling of COVID-19. All the while, we visited Berlin, London, and a few other choice spots. We have had a good beginning.
Going forward I believe you can expect us to be in front of the next big stories like stock market turmoil and the Metaverse, while we launch our first book. As a brand, we have chosen to monetize our efforts only through book sales. So please support your authors.
Until next time. Travel safe.