I love my mom. And she listens to the Fox TV version of talk radio. It made me sad when I visited her last month. Everything is either jingoistic, or promotes the destruction of liberal thinking. And it’s all filled with manipulation and the very thing she and others like her profess to hate—fake news.
I am an Independent. Which is to say I don’t think either of the two major parties in the US have all the answers. Rather, they’re in a constant struggle for control of hearts and minds (votes) to grab the power necessary to ram policy down the throats of the majority of Americans who don’t benefit from it. I personally believe that Government could use a reboot regarding a lot of things. Things that include getting big money out of politics, implementing term limits so that even the politicians with best intentions aren’t as easily swayed by big money, the end of gerrymandering, and so on. Except this post isn’t about that stuff. I don’t have all the answers, clearly, but feel like the majority of regular Americans are way underrepresented in Government and policy. I blame money.
For most Americans we believe that accumulation of money is the only proven path to happiness (I wrote a novel about it.) As such, we will do whatever necessary to grab as much money as possible so that we can be happier. In fact, most of us save all our lives to live our last few years within this “idea” of happiness. Some folks get lucky and are born into money and never have to think about it like the rest of us. And yes, you can definitely work the system to glean financial independence in America—the template is right in front of all of us. Except unlike the adage that you must simply “work hard” to achieve financial success, I am living proof that you also need some good luck.
Anyway, money is our master in America. And it’s the same for businesses as it is for people. Hell, without businesses the part in the template about “working hard” doesn’t exist.
Media companies are just like every other business. They rely on a variety of means to generate revenue, while paying their bills to keep the lights on and making profit for the shareholders to split.
Shareholders like profit and get upset when there isn’t any. Most Americans ARE NOT these shareholders. Most Americans are just the idiot consumers of the content these media companies pump out. Don’t worry, we’re all idiots. (Humility is the path to peace.)
With a cable subscription ($) you can stream virtually any content you desire these days.
And you know what people are naturally drawn to? Fighting. Division. Stress. Anxiety. Fear. They didn’t used to say in the newspaper business “If it bleeds it leads” for nothing. Why? Because one of the revenue streams they used was selling ad space in newspapers. Those ads cost money to run. And the cost goes up the higher the subscription rate (subscriptions being another revenue model newspapers banked on.)
Modern media companies use the same concepts. They all need eyeballs and ears to set their advertising rates. The more eyeballs and ears, the higher the ad rates, and the happier the shareholders. Who cares whether it’s truthful, unbiased, or accurate?
After most local and regional newspapers lost their grip as credible new sources for a failure to be pliable in the digital age and having to strip down to the bone as a result, TV and online media companies took note. Most began offering their content for free. All you needed was a high speed internet connection subscription ($) or cable tv subscription ($) and you could get all the “news” you wanted.
When that happened, the talent necessary to deliver the “news” shifted. No longer was it necessary for Dan Rather to tell you the Truth from a big studio in New York City, any cutie with a cell phone could do it remotely—complete with hashtags to follow along with the story. More importantly, what became “news” shifted. With all these new “news” resources at their disposal, they could cover just about anything.
Considering that all media companies rely on advertising revenue to survive, what incentive was there for deep, unbiased reporting that yielded something like Truth to help bring awareness to consumers? That takes time. And talent. No, media companies started paying attention to the data that was suddenly in their hands and decided to cater their stories to specific audiences. For example, and while this is an oversimplification, Fox is for conservatives, and CNN is for liberals—two groups that make up most of America’s consumers who are in a constant dramatic battle for their party’s supreme power in government. News based on these concepts turned out to be a cash cow, and this model has spread across the globe.
Advertisers don’t care. They just want to sell more toilet paper. And they have shifted their budgets to where the people are—away from print and into digital and TV. And I guess radio for a small but loyal audience.
The problem is that media companies will continue to cater to our division as long as we are considered less human and more bits of data that can be converted into revenue.
Sure, when there are big stories that affect all of us and have no political slant, (think natural disasters) most media companies will temporarily focus on these things. But, there are only so many eyeballs and ears to go around. Which is why eventually even these things become politicized. To draw us in. Because to them we’re just hungry bits of data. And they know how to feed us.
I love my mom. But I feel bad that she’s been sucked into this mess and no longer recognizes the Truth. Because the Truth is getting harder to find.