It’s funny how the first two media sources were kind of an example of homophily. They
kid of mirroerd each other with terms and turn of phrase.This term also relates to
something I heard a few months back on Democracy Now! about Google narrowing the
results you get when using their search engine based on the kinds of searches you’ve
done in the past. It leads to a kind of myopic sabatoge of the almost infinite
possibility of of exploration and opinion sharing that is the internet. It’s just a
human and animal tendency to gather in agreeable (to each other) groups, so called
brds of a feather…In this present age it can have dire polarizing consequenses as
witnessed by rising tides of fascism in Europe and in another form here in the
USA.It’s imperate that if one is to be a citizen of the world, one should become
informed as much as one can, and engage with opposing as well as confirming
There are several overlapping aspects of media ethics and rights as supported by the First Amendment and the Communications Decency Act (CDA) that were discussed in the podcasts and Project Censored stories.
The first aspect dealt with the conversation of then Mayor Mike McGinn and the Weekly publisher Mike Sealy. The Mayor wanted the Weekly to pull its “Backpage” ads from its publications, specifically the ones that offered escort and like services. The charge was that a substantial number of escorts were underage and that the Weekly was enabling the escort services to traffic in teen prostitution.
As unfortunate as teenage/child prostitution is, I believe the heavy handed remedies along the lines of ‘some have been harmed, so we must enact restrictions against everyone’ ultimately become failures of policy in the first order. Just look at the failure of the ‘War on Drugs’, and previously, Prohibition. They also lead to a less free society and more incarceration on the public’s dime. The decriminalization of drugs and prostitution, with the problems being treated as a health dilemma rather than a criminal concern is a more effective (better result outcomes) use of public resources.
Back to the issues of media ethics and McGinn, free speech is pretty clearly protected by the First Amendment and the CDA specifically alleviates responsibility of a web host (online paper) in regards to third party content (advertisers, commenters), unless it is demonstrably provable that it poses significant risk of public harm, as per the case of Soldier of Fortune magazine carrying an ad of a ‘hit man’ for hire, which someone actually hired and murdered the plaintiff’s father.
I think the greater failings of ethical standards by the big media companies (including PBS/NPR) are really that of omission of important stories or aspects thereof, underrepresentation or misrepresentation of dissenting voices, as was recently found by the F.A.I.R. (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) organization regarding the Syria/ISIL conflict, that of 189 guests on talk shows only 3 represented the peace movement, and on Sunday morning talk shows, only 1 of 89 guests did.
There’s a reason for this invisible bias and lack of ethics, big media are big multinational corporations who benefit from the status quo, militarization, income inequality, and environmental devastation.
We really need to un-entrench the cabal of big money and industry from the revolving door of congress, start enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, overturn the Citizens United ruling get private money out of elections altogether and publicly fund elections so that all reasonable voices can be heard equally, not just the ones with the most money.
In examining the three “On the Media” podcasts, “Sue You”, “People in Holes”, and “You Decide, We Report”, one can find a common if mostly cynical thread that runs between them: media channels will pander to the most sensationalistic interests of the audience in search for more viewership.
The most prurient example is Liskula Cohen and her blog “Skanks in NYC”, a clear case of low denominator journalism. The defamation suit is almost peripheral to the purposes of our exposition. It’s likely a blog that employs the same type of keywording and search engine optimization that larger media channels employ.
In the “You Decide, We Report” podcast, Brent Payne from Tribune Interactive in effect validates news organizations’ efforts toward maximizing online traffic. This can be of critical import for the news outlet, since the period of time for ‘breaking news’ is only 3-4 hours. Plainly worded headlines are fast replacing the clever catchlines of previous journalistic eras in order to increase the likelihood of being among the first results from Google searches on the topic in question. Media channels can now analyze traffic to their site and optimize the wording for increased future traffic based on their findings and Google Analytics allows for a kind of interactivity with what the audience considers newsworthy. This leads to questions of journalistic integrity regarding who are the gatekeepers of newsworthiness, the audience or the media.
Cable news is unabashedly exploitative of any sort of sensationalist device it can get its teeth into such as babies in wells, people in holes and the O.J. Simpson trial and car chase. Round the clock and wall to wall reporting, conjecture and speculation in the absence of new or relevant facts feed themes of popular public drama, playing on emotions, catastrophizing, rehashing the same events and calling in so-called experts to examine various aspects of the story.
It seems clear from all the above that media channels are in the business of selling stories and gaining ad revenue for themselves and seem more than willing to compromise their ethics and integrity in doing so.