The conundrum facing all media, as I see it, can be summed up by the following two completely different driving philosophies:
“Community Watchdog” or “Selling more fucking newspapers”
The winner of this philosophical battle is different for each media outlet and may change from story to story. However, all media suffer from this same dilemma.
In my opinion, a few responsible media outlets fight this dichotomy enthusiastically, many do not fight it at all and some wouldn’t even understand what I am talking about.
In the end, it’s probably a balance. Social responsibility versus ratings – translation – advertising revenue/money.
Unfortunately, the consuming public has almost always reacted more enthusiastically, and in far larger numbers, to reports of the worst side of life – the more sensational the better. They therefore buy more newspapers from media that supply that demand, and the more newspapers they buy, the higher the advertising revenue and the more financially successful the media outlet becomes.
As I said, a conundrum – responsibility versus profit.
In World War II the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, discovered that they could quite accurately predict future changes in Nazi Germany’s policies and public opinion by counting the number of column inches that various topics commanded in the country’s newspapers. After the War, and for many years, a Denver-based company successfully used the same technique as a consulting tool to help major industries predict future trends both in the U.S and worldwide. The point of this illustration is that media only has a limited number of newspaper column inches, minutes of air time and space on social media to make their statements. They must choose what they include and what they don’t. I submit that it’s an impossible task to get a balance between responsibility and profit even if you have the best intellectual and moral intentions in the world. A conundrum.
I wish I knew what to do about this. I imagine any responsible media mogul feels the same.
My reason for discussing the subject at all is a feeling that the current media trend is more towards the revenue/money philosophy than the social responsibility/watchdog role.
An additional problem is that any attempt to influence the thinking of the media on this conundrum is always met with a hail of “Freedom of the Press” responses. Notably from those with no interest in anything but “selling more fucking newspapers”.
I would be interested in any thoughts on how this dichotomy of interests can be addressed to the benefit of all of us.