I’ve decided to use my blog for what I think is indispensable in making informed decisions in the voting booth. Most of us base our voting decisions from the information we receive from the news media. However, “the medium is the message,” so shouldn’t we have an understanding of the media? My points here include a few things I’ve learned from my own glimpses on the inside.
- Political advertising is protected free speech, so that they can contain false information, even though candidates now verify they support what’s stated.
One landmark case from the Supreme Court was New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, from 1964, protecting speech from libel on public figures even when the statements are false.
- News agencies are often for profit, meaning they serve their shareholders.
While some news organizations may talk about a Chinese wall between the business end and the news end, many still have to make money for their shareholders. This means budgets will be cut on things to save money, even if those things are important. Consumers of such news media need to remember this–sometimes, for example, a news organization will cut its overseas staff.
- Rupert Murdoch’s empire is a different beast.
News outlets, such as Fox “News,” The New York Post and Murdoch owned media in the UK will slant coverage to bring in support for the politicians who are considered friends. The New York Post has operated at a loss.
- Publicity agencies tightly control media coverage of celebrities, such as entertainment figures, etc.
Sometimes publicity agencies will dictate exactly what a magazine will say about a well-known person who is their client. The reward is access to that person, whose image on the front cover can help sell magazines. The punishment for not falling in line is losing access. Obviously, media outlets have more room to report negative press on a celebrity when a scandal breaks–not reporting on it only shatters the façade of presenting real news.
Donald Trump has been considered an entertainment figure, whose personality and comments get a lot of attention, thus boosting ratings. This can explain why news organizations have been delighted to have him on while asking softball questions.
- Politicians need the media.
The relationship between politicians who are not entertainment figures and the media is often the reverse. They crave coverage.
As an example, when I was on my college paper as a photographer, the attorney general of the State of Ohio waited for me to finish eating my lunch before starting his press conference.
- News reporters will often make agreements with the people they cover for greater access.
Sometimes a reporter won’t disclose something that could be damaging or an item remains secret, as background material for their stories.
- A lot of news is made quickly, under tight deadlines.
Deadlines have superseded accuracy or a better understanding of a story. People have ascribed more malicious intents from our news media when we often get the news we consume because reporters are under pressure to rush a story out.
- Reporters are often lazy, using spoon fed stories.
A lot of news items are simply press releases, some person with some position saying something. Sometimes reporters don’t dig very much beyond that, sometimes because of deadlines, sometimes because of budgetary limits and sometimes because of laziness.
- “Live” doesn’t always mean live.
I remember working the teleprompter for BET, after Viacom took the network over. For the show 106 and Park, we would shoot several episodes to cover a block of time. AJ and Free would give the respective date and the audience went along. Exceptions occurred when something unusual happened, such as when Lisa Left Eye Lopez and Aaliyah died and they had to call us all in at the last minute to do a show on days we weren’t scheduled to shoot.
- Reporters are often compromised from the special access they get
I have to admit I saw this happening to myself. People in the media are often given special access when they cover events. That can include access to the sports clubhouse, when covering a sporting event, for example, with free meals, etc. In such a situation, it’s hard to say anything bad about the people who have just treated you.
- While the Internet offers new opportunities, it’s also a source of unsubstantiated and misinformation.
Not to bite my own hand, but we often don’t know who’s behind information we encounter online. This means less accountability. It can be easy to spread lies online.
- People tend to consume media that reinforces their pre-existing beliefs.
Study after study, of the ones I’ve looked at (ha-ha), show that people rely on news media that confirm their pre-existing beliefs and avoid media that don’t. The Internet can make this tendency worse. But please let me know if you find a study suggesting otherwise.