We do it because we can

Picture me shaking my head as I let Michael Skoler’s 2009 article Why the News Media Became Irrelevant—And How Social Media Can Help slip through my hands on to my lap (yes, I print out reading assignments!)—for the third time.   Something’s got me scratching my head.

Journalists tell stories about truth as a mediated construction based on facts and various pieces of information they can gather from those they consider credible and reliable sources.  And bravo Mr. Skoler for pointing out that there has been “…a steep drop in public trust in journalism…” over the past two and half decades.

It was during this timeframe the media consolidation became the order of business with CEOs and stockholders seeing dollar signs in their eyes.

When GE was allowed to acquire RCA in 1985, it opened the door for other large-scale mergers of media companies as a means of diversify their holdings; thus giving rise to media conglomerates.  There were two direct consequences of these business transactions.  First there was downsizing as a means to marginalize profits, which meant massive layoffs.   Downsizing meant fewer reporters on the ground to cover stories and more reliance on wire services, experts, and “officials” as sources.   Secondly, with holdings in numerous media formats from radio, to television, to print media and limited sources, the news offered to the public became limited in scope, meaningful content and lacked any contextualization.   News had become bland, boring, and as Mr. Skoler put it, irrelevant.

Couple this with the media coverage debacles of weapons of mass destruction in 2002 and the Valerie Plame story of 2003 both relying on solely on government officials, no wonder journalism lost the publics’ trust.  It was a far cry from Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting of the Watergate scandal in the early 70’s.

Stage, front and center, Web 2.0 and the social media boom!  People are now connecting with each other through tags and tweets and trusting in their networked relationships.

I didn’t quite understand Skoler’s statement regarding the lack of profitability of social media sites until I dug around on the Web.  Facebook’s revenue for 2009 is estimated at around 800 million dollars!  However, online advertising revenue for the New York Times has tanked in recent years.  Oh, my bad—I forgot, journalism is a business with a model based on ad revenue.

That’s quite the predicament—find a way to engage and participate with people and make a profit when people do it just because they can.

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2 Responses to We do it because we can

  1. Pingback: Who Can We Trust, Really? | The Carrie Connection

  2. crm429 says:

    Hi Jeannie,

    You make some excellent points here about mainstream journalism and the public’s trust. Did you read any of the comments on Skoler’s article? There were a few good ones, but one that stood out for me was Nick Peters. I liked the fact that he differentiates between journalism and social media, but also says, “Mainstream news is dying because mainstream news sucks. It’s . . . dumbing itself down to levels of mediocrity I never would have imagined when I was a news man.” And all in the name of profit, I might add.

    Anyway, great post Jeannie!

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