There is a hint of truth in President Trump’s repeated shellacking of the media. Money-grubbing practices in search of corporate profits has devastated the industry and made it a shadow of what it once was.
A shocking revelation with serious ramifications for the future of our country came to me during the 2016 Presidential campaign. The revelation came to me through the controversy of candidate Donald Trump’s refusal to release his income tax returns. People were caught up in the debate over the rightness or wrongness of his decision not to release them.
My question was how in this day and age of ingenuity and technology could he get away with not releasing them. It’s true he had no legal obligation and depending on who you asked he had no moral obligation.
But I remember a time when any person seeking public office got instructed in rule number one of politics. IF IT HAPPENED THE MEDIA WILL FIND OUT AND REPORT IT. There was no area of personal or legal privacy that they could not and would not penetrate. The first thing political consultants would have candidates clean up were there financials, chief among them would be income taxes because that information was thought to be the easiest thing to acquire.
Media is gap filler that government oversight and protection leave unfilled
The media was thought of and feared as if it were a government agency itself. It could go places the government couldn’t. It could get people to talk to it that government couldn’t. And sometimes it could offer protection that the government couldn’t.
From Ida Tarbell’s investigative reporting of John D Rockefeller, leading to the breakup of the Standard Oil monopoly. The Washington Post’s investigative reporting of the Watergate break-in which brought down a President. The media was the gap filler that government oversight and protection left unfilled.
Big corporations taking over media outlets lead to major changes. The first thing was to merge and consolidate reducing the number of media outlets. The second thing was to eliminate budgets for investigative journalism.
These changes have reduced the media to selling incompetently reported controversy for ratings. All to generate profits regardless of the accuracy or prudence of the story. No one newspaper including the majors like the New York Times and Washington Post, ever had the budget to cover all the major stories. But they all had large staffs of investigative reporters and the budget to do one to two major in-depth pieces a year.
3-6 months now 3-6 minutes
Pieces that might take 3-6 months of investigative work to develop the story. Because every city with a population of 100,000 plus had more than one newspaper. Stories of major national impact would break from different papers across the country. The last time this model worked was back in 2001 when the Boston Globe broke the scandal in the Catholic Church of Priest abusing kids. Now the media is reduced to copycatting and re-reporting shabbily investigated stories.
The 3-6 month time frame for investigating so called in-depth stories has been reduced to 3-6 minutes. Unless someone is shot, dying, being investigated or caught in a lie the story gets no air time.
Media is a joke
The media functioning on our behalf to hold the powers to be accountable, and keep us truthfully informed is a joke. They are doing just the opposite. All one needs to do is ask yourself a few questions like: Why do people think the Affordable Care Act affects only people who can’t afford health care ? Why do people think we are losing the fight against ISIS ? Why do people think the Clinton Foundation was a conflict of interest but Donald Trump’s for profit business is not ?
The answer is that the media makes money from people believing these falsehoods. The truth is not controversial enough to drive ratings and so its not in the media’s financial interest to set the record straight. The bottom line is that the bottom line now dictates what and how the media provides news and information to the American public. There is no adherence to journalistic principles inspired by the Freedom of Press Amendment to our constitution. Donald Trump is wrong it’s not Fake News its Frugal news which is just as bad.