Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reinventing the Media

The media may be our most powerful societal entity: It affects who we elect, the laws that get passed, what we buy.

And today's media has tools to do an ever better job. For example, using just a Twitter question, journalists can crowd-source interviews. With their cell phones, citizens can instantly transmit video of news events to major media outlets worldwide.

But today's media has become less helpful to the public because it has largely abandoned what I believe is its near-sacred responsibility to provide the full-range of benevolently derived perspectives on the issues of the day. Instead, their reporting tends to reflect their a priori biases.

The core cause: journalism schools' change in philosophy. In previous generations, J schools taught aspiring journalists to make all efforts to be fair and balanced. Now, the message more often is , "You have the opportunity to change the world."

Alas, most journalists and their bosses have spent little time in the real world. Their world view reflects what they learned in college, from their fellow journalists, and from their friends. Those influences tend to be overwhelmingly liberal: Academia is left-leaning, most people who enter journalism do so in part to change their world in that leftward direction, and they choose friends with similar views. Indeed surveys invariably find that most journalists are Democrats, Socialists, or Greens.

Combine journalists' leftist bias with the aforementioned okay from journalism schools to let your values rip, and the media we're exposed to has a decidedly left-of-center bias. Fox News, the only major conservative outlet, is so ridiculed by the other media that it now gets only a small mindshare of the public, especially among the intelligentsia, those most likely to vote and to influence policy.

Yes, much wisdom comes from left of center, but not all. But you wouldn't know that from the media. Not only do article topics and approaches to those topics tend to be left-biased, freelance articles and op-eds with right-of-center perspectives are generally rejected, censored, as are right-of-center books and movies submitted for review. When such items get reviewed, they generally get judged more on their ideology than the quality of the work.

It's time for a new core principle of journalism: That journalists indeed have a near-sacred responsibility to present the full range of benevolently derived ideas, to be the grist for full-dimensioned citizen conversations about the issues of our time.

For example, there are solid arguments for and against wealth redistribution, for and against Keynesianism, for and against undertaking massive efforts to cool the planet, for and against America's continuing as the world's policeman. Consumers of the media should not have to make far greater efforts to find right-of-center thought than to find left-of-center thought.

In my view, few things could improve America more than a media that opens rather than closes minds.


Jason Ribeiro said...

I think blogs, or "citizen journalism", has already changed the landscape of journalism dramatically. So given all the choices now, I think it's up to the consumer of information, the reader, to be more responsible by reaching out to new and diverse sources of information.

Advertiser supported media is going to have a different spin on things no matter what. It seems there is a strong market for both the left and right sides. They will serve what the market responds to. I wouldn't expect that to change anytime soon. There might be some crusading journalists out there, but for the most part the overall quality of journalism has gone way, way down in the past 20 years, or more.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that's an old anti-Semitic cartoon but I may be wrong.


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