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How Culpable is the Media?

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We live in a climate where trending, likes, re-teweets, viral, and so on decides what is news. While there is nothing new about the media running wild specific stories to quench the populations thirst (24/7 Princess Diana comes to mind) there is something different and more insidious happening lately. The death of print media and sinking viewership of cable media has created a death throes situation where everyone seems willing to say/print anything that will get shared. The result has been a media that hyper focuses on issues to an extent that their focus alters, influence, or becomes the story.

 

In this political cycle the media has provided Donald Trump with billions of free publicity. Trump has enjoyed pure and utter media exposure and yet to date he has recieved less than 40% of the votes in his primary. What would Trump's numbers be without the media storm? Have they created a mass national delusion by legitimizing Trumpos with incredible amounts of coverage?

 

With the terror attack in Brussels now spinning I am wondering what, if any, responsibility does the media have ensuring it isn't allowing itself to promote damaging or obvious propaganda? Is the Media culpable when Trump supporters clash with Sander's supporters or when Terror take social media because they now it will get picked up by major media networks and promoted? Are they created a false political atmosphere in the name of generating an audience?

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I think it's clear what happens when the media that's supposed to keep us informed is focused more on money than on information. They feel required to do anything to keep you viewing to promote their numbers, and sensational terrorism like Trump means they don't have to do anything but point and record. The public is glued, screwed, and tattooed.

 

And ultimately, it's auto-accident journalism. The public is at fault for not demanding better from the regulatory system governing the media, and from the media itself, but they can't look away. It's almost impossible to ignore it and take the high road. But why doesn't someone in the media realize the voice they're giving to terrorism, which would wither without global media coverage? When do they become responsible, when can they be held accountable for skewing elections, breeding more jihadists, creating gridlock by equating all sides of an argument?

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The media is as the media does. No whining. From town criers, to pamphlets, to newspapers & magazines, to the interweb, the same motivations have held sway. The 1st amendment to the US constitution was not written in a vacuum and behooves the reader to beware.

 

Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom - and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech. ~Benjamin Franklin

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At one time news and editorials were separated and one could rely on the news. Today, one must be vigilant and knowledgeable to distinguish editorial from news. Since people watch the news to learn about current events and attitudes, we have a misinformed public. I'd like to see the FCC levy fines for mixing editorials and news, but corporate controlled congress limits the power of Federal regulators.

 

Maybe things only seem to have changed, because Mark Twain said:

 

If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're mis-informed.

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At one time news and editorials were separated and one could rely on the news. Today, one must be vigilant and knowledgeable to distinguish editorial from news. Since people watch the news to learn about current events and attitudes, we have a misinformed public. I'd like to see the FCC levy fines for mixing editorials and news, but corporate controlled congress limits the power of Federal regulators.

 

Maybe things only seem to have changed, because Mark Twain said: If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're mis-informed.

First you firmly assert one stance (contradicting me) with an added recommendation to neuter the first amendment, then you end by conceding you simply don't know. Sheesh! :rolleyes:

 

The Heritage Guide to the Constitution

Freedom of Speech and of the Press

...

The Framers cared a good deal about the freedom of the press, as the Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec, written by the First Continental Congress in 1774, shows:

 

The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs. ...

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First you firmly assert one stance (contradicting me) with an added recommendation to neuter the first amendment, then you end by conceding you simply don't know. Sheesh! :rolleyes:

Obfuscation is opprobrious.

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Obfuscation is opprobrious.

I wasn't suggesting you were obfuscating; I was saying you are wrong. ;)

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Oh, wrong that news and editorial are mixed and confuse people? Or, something else? I'm sure I got the Mark Twain quote right.

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Oh, wrong that news and editorial are mixed and confuse people? Or, something else? I'm sure I got the Mark Twain quote right.

Wrong, Ed, that it used to be different.

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Oh, true. I was just young and gullible.

Edited by EdEarl

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The media is as the media does. No whining. From town criers, to pamphlets, to newspapers & magazines, to the interweb, the same motivations have held sway. The 1st amendment to the US constitution was not written in a vacuum and behooves the reader to beware.

 

Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom - and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech. ~Benjamin Franklin

I am not suggesting we take away freedom of speech. However, and perhaps thanks to money being speech, certian narratives are drowning out the truth. From climate change to Trump the media is complicit in propagating that which is provably false. People are free to speak their minds on/in twitter, facebook, reddit, church, the public square, amongts family and friends, and etc. I am not saying that should change. Shouldn't there be some type of code of ethics that apply to the media (paid accredited journalism) though? It someone is in a position designed to inform people shouldn't that information be honest?

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It's difficult to say that the (traditional) media is "culpable". It's just doing what the billionaires who own most of it pay it to do- which is to preach their messages of "blame the poor" and "blame the immigrants".

 

There might once have been a time when the point of the media was to tell the truth. I personally think that ended when the former Tory party chairman was given the job of running the BBC.

 

At the moment the only reasonably reliable source of data seems to be things like facebook- which is saying a lot.

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Money smothers ethics. Some are not affected, but they typically don't own newspapers, radio or television stations. One can get reliable information via social media, but money infects it, too. Those who worship and control money seem willing to protect their stuff regardless of consequences. Thus, we face climate deniers who seem to be willing to allow a climate catastrophe rather than allow renewable energy to replace their cash cows of oil and coal. Although, I suspect they are buying renewable energy systems to replace their cash cows.

 

Money is power. Thus, eliminating money will not change the situation. Those who seek power using money will change to assure their power is not interrupted. IDK if there is anything we can do to assure ethics rules.

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I personally think there is little value in reading the daily news; I think it goes without saying that it's purpose is to persuade you into agreeing with particular opinions by disguising them as the beliefs of wider society. The purpose generally is not to 'tell the truth' but a device to affect change, whether it's social or political. Of course the information is going to be biased; since when are opinions not biased? They're aiming at the average Joe to control what they're thinking about and influence their decisions.

Obviously in the ideal world our media would be free from corruption and there would be transparency and accountability. However, most intelligent people would consider the reliability of their news source just like they would with anything else they read by considering; who wrote it, what is it actually saying, when was it written, why was it written, personal interests/investments, motivation, etc.

Not all news sources are equal either, for example I would not even waste my time reading anything by Fairfax media or News Corp. I personally don't believe it's important to know what's happening each day. I prefer to read the Conversation for example which provides evidence-based news and focuses on in-depth analysis (written by academics). I personally find feature stories a lot more useful. Even then, you need to be cautious, however. My point is that source is important and knowing which ones are going to be (more) reliable should play a critical factor in what you choose to read/listen to.

Edited by Sirona

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Shouldn't there be some type of code of ethics that apply to the media (paid accredited journalism) though? It someone is in a position designed to inform people shouldn't that information be honest?

 

I think we only got honest journalism in the early days of television because the US government required it. I've never looked up the regs before, but I know broadcasters were required to do an hour of news every day to inform the American public, and iirc, they kicked and moaned about it at first, but it was the price for using the government owned airwaves. Then they saw how popular it was, how thirsty for real news the public was, and they got behind the idea fully.

 

But somewhere along the line, earlier than when we went to 24/7 cycle coverage, the news was allowed to be treated like game shows, sitcoms, and soap operas, and journalism died a lot. We have no more trusted journalists like Murrow or Huntley or Cronkite. People we counted on to dig deep and tell it like it is, without letting their personal views taint their reporting.

 

This gave rise to schmucks like Peter Jennings, who used to smile and nod on camera whenever Reagan was mentioned, or Reagan said something, or Reagan farted. Part of the whole media mechanism that kept such incompetence in office for 8 years.

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Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom - and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech. ~Benjamin Franklin

 

 

Freedom of speech is illusory, much like freedom itself; the only profound part of this quote is “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom” but even that is axiomatic because freedom of thought can’t be limited, whatever force employed.

 

The 1st amendment was designed to prevent the truth being denied by authority, it was never intended to protect an agent provocateur from justice.

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The media makes its money from advertising. The purpose of advertising isn't to inform consumers about products, services, and ideas. The purpose of advertising is to create demand for products, services and ideas. Advertisers target their demand creation activities to specific demographic groups. To attract advertisers, the media's product must appeal to those demographic groups targeted by advertisers. Advertisers could care less about the content carried by media outlets. Advertisers don't care what people watch or read, they just care about who and how many. If advertisers don't care, then neither does the media. So the media is simply responding to their advertising customers. Media outlets that attract the largest targeted demographics groups make the most money. Media outlets that attract smaller populations of targeted demographic groups, then generally follow the winning strategy of their competitors. So if you are looking for culpability, look no further than advertisers and people who respond to the demand created by those advertisers.

 

The downfall of newspapers was and is the internet, and specifically sites like craigslist and ebay. News papers used to make a large percentage of there advertising revenue from the want adds. If you have ever placed an want add in a newspaper, you know how expensive that advertising can be. The advantage of want add revenue is that it allows news papers to be more independent because the individual sellers and buyers aren't in the demand creation game.

 

The old saw still holds true. You should never watch or read anything without asking yourself "what soap are they trying to sell me?"

 

I think nothing would make advertisers happier than to have us all too terrified to leave our homes, glued to our televisions, while purchasing products off the internet.

 

I don't think any of us know just how manipulated we are by the demand creation game.

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I think we only got honest journalism in the early days of television because the US government required it. I've never looked up the regs before, but I know broadcasters were required to do an hour of news every day to inform the American public, and iirc, they kicked and moaned about it at first, but it was the price for using the government owned airwaves. Then they saw how popular it was, how thirsty for real news the public was, and they got behind the idea fully.

 

But somewhere along the line, earlier than when we went to 24/7 cycle coverage, the news was allowed to be treated like game shows, sitcoms, and soap operas, and journalism died a lot. We have no more trusted journalists like Murrow or Huntley or Cronkite. People we counted on to dig deep and tell it like it is, without letting their personal views taint their reporting.

 

This gave rise to schmucks like Peter Jennings, who used to smile and nod on camera whenever Reagan was mentioned, or Reagan said something, or Reagan farted. Part of the whole media mechanism that kept such incompetence in office for 8 years.

There were a couple of key changes made in the 80' and was then finished off in the 90's:

 

1985 - Guidelines for minimal amounts of non-entertainment programming are abolished. FCC guidelines on how much advertising can be carried per hour are eliminated.

 

1987 - "Fairness Doctrine" eliminated. At its founding the FCC viewed the stations to which it granted licenses as "public trustee" — and required that they made every reasonable attempt to cover contrasting points of views. The Commission also required that stations perform public service in reporting on crucial issues in their communities. Soon after he became FCC Chairman under President Reagan, Michael Fowler stated his desire to do away with the Fairness Doctrine. His position was backed by a 1987 D.C. Circuit Court decision ruled that the doctrine was not mandated by Congress and the FCC no longer had to enforce it.

 

1996 - President Clinton signs the telecumication act of 96' It is generally regarded as the most important legislation regulating media ownership in over a decade. The radio industry experiences unprecedented consolidation after the 40-station ownership cap is lifted. Clear Channel Communications owns 1200 stations, in all 50 states, reaching, according to their Web site, more than 110 million listeners every week. Viacom's Infinity radio network holds more than 180 radio stations in 41 markets. Its holdings are concentrated in the 50 largest radio markets in the United States. In 1999 Infinity owned and operated six of the nation’s Top 10 radio stations

 

http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/mediatimeline.html

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The media makes its money from advertising. The purpose of advertising isn't to inform consumers about products, services, and ideas. The purpose of advertising is to create demand for products, services and ideas. Advertisers target their demand creation activities to specific demographic groups. To attract advertisers, the media's product must appeal to those demographic groups targeted by advertisers. Advertisers could care less about the content carried by media outlets. Advertisers don't care what people watch or read, they just care about who and how many. If advertisers don't care, then neither does the media. So the media is simply responding to their advertising customers. Media outlets that attract the largest targeted demographics groups make the most money. Media outlets that attract smaller populations of targeted demographic groups, then generally follow the winning strategy of their competitors. So if you are looking for culpability, look no further than advertisers and people who respond to the demand created by those advertisers.

But this doesn't address the problems with the news. Do you think the news should be treated differently than the sitcoms and game shows, since it was originally developed to inform the public with multiple perspectives? Without that, station owners get to use an outlet they should NOT be able to exploit to promote their own agendas while unfairly detracting from competitors.

 

I don't think any of us know just how manipulated we are by the demand creation game.

This is so true. I laugh when I hear people say they aren't influenced by advertising because they've been around the block a few times. NOTHING can save us from the levels of spin generated at us by marketers who've studied the us meticulously for the last 60 years or so.

There were a couple of key changes made in the 80' and was then finished off in the 90's:

 

1985 - Guidelines for minimal amounts of non-entertainment programming are abolished. FCC guidelines on how much advertising can be carried per hour are eliminated.

 

1987 - "Fairness Doctrine" eliminated. At its founding the FCC viewed the stations to which it granted licenses as "public trustee" — and required that they made every reasonable attempt to cover contrasting points of views. The Commission also required that stations perform public service in reporting on crucial issues in their communities. Soon after he became FCC Chairman under President Reagan, Michael Fowler stated his desire to do away with the Fairness Doctrine. His position was backed by a 1987 D.C. Circuit Court decision ruled that the doctrine was not mandated by Congress and the FCC no longer had to enforce it.

 

1996 - President Clinton signs the telecumication act of 96' It is generally regarded as the most important legislation regulating media ownership in over a decade. The radio industry experiences unprecedented consolidation after the 40-station ownership cap is lifted. Clear Channel Communications owns 1200 stations, in all 50 states, reaching, according to their Web site, more than 110 million listeners every week. Viacom's Infinity radio network holds more than 180 radio stations in 41 markets. Its holdings are concentrated in the 50 largest radio markets in the United States. In 1999 Infinity owned and operated six of the nation’s Top 10 radio stations

 

http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/mediatimeline.html

 

Thanks for that. The first one sucked, but it's just a corrupt, greedy maneuver.

 

The second one is different, imo. Eliminating the Fairness Doctrine removed the heart of what government mandated informative journalism meant to the public. It removed our trust in the stories being told to us, and allowed that third bit of jackal legislation to get passed, giving rise to networks like Fox, who pissed lighter fluid over the rest of our hopes for unbiased information and flipped us the Zippo.

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My father was influenced by advertising, but adversely. When he shopped, often for groceries, he would buy whatever he didn't remember being advertised recently. If everyone did that, advertisers would have to change their methods.

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The media makes its money from advertising.

I think this gets to the heart of the issue and I agree.

 

The OP asks how culpable is the media. The answer is very.

 

We then dig deeper to understand why and see that it's about ad revenues. The media is run as a for profit business with those at the helm taking steps to maximize that profit.

 

It becomes about maximizing viewers, not about maximizing accurate information or cultural edification.

 

This line of thinking, while accurate, still IMO misses two critical points, though.

 

One - Those corporate titans who own all of the mass consumed media have their own interests and will use thei megaphones to shape the way people think, to change the narrative, to choose sides, and they do this in ways that helps them gain more power, wealth, and control. They are far more culpable than the amorphous faceless concept of "the media." These are actual people making actual decisions that lead us ingest more infotainment than information.

 

Two - The viewers tune into the nonsense. We're more culpable than anyone. We demand this garbage. We consume it en masse. We turned the Discovery Channel into a place to watch moonshiners, the Science Channel into a place to watch pumpkins get chunked, and the History Channel into a place to watch ancient aliens as the key builders of the pyramids. Reality shows about the Kardashians and toddlers in beauty contests and women who have litters of children are orders of magnitude more popular than C-Span and PBS. We demand the content. They merely supply it.

 

No. The media didn't do this. We did!

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I think the problem with mandating guidelines for news nowadays is that many "news" sources are individuals and groups running blogs, websites, or social media profiles. Any "effective" regulations would impinge on the peoples' liberty in expression. What about media hosted outside of the US, should we censor that? Impose regulations on people living in other countries?

 

If they were implemented, who would decide whether a piece is fair or not? That's not a point that's just "one of the things that will be fleshed out", it's an inherent problem with the idea. People are very regularly fallible and filled with biases, and having them censor the media would certainly skew the public's access to information in their direction. It's infeasible to find a team of hyperrational, unbiased people to do it without causing harm.

 

Look at the presidential contenders. Consider that much of Bernie's support has been rallied outside of traditional sources, and that a significant proportion of his support is spread through misinformation and bias-tricking marketing techniques. Consider that much of the vitriol against Trump is rallied in traditional sources, and that a significant proportion of that vitriol is spread through misinformation and bias-tricking marketing techniques too. And my support's with Bernie, but most of his supporters come from the same informational camp as Trump's.

 

Even in this thread it's clear that this would be a program, not in writing but in constitution, targeted against conservative sources and ideas. In a conservative institution, it might be the other way around... but it's not.

 

Is the only alternative to let everything flow freely and have people decide for themselves what to believe and what's veritable?

 

I was considering the idea of anti-subversion laws recently, that using techniques known to take advantage of our cognitive biases and heuristics for political purposes should be illegal. I.e. stuffing a subtle message of climate change denial into a documentary or film about puppy mills, or outright telling people who support animal rights that a belief in climate change is deeply intertwined with a belief in puppy torture. What if they cite some article in a journal skepitcal of climate change? What if it's hogwash? We know a bulk of social science and humanities research is much more subjective and speculative than scientific, but there's a lot of institutional power behind it, so calling such a film misinformative or subversive wouldn't fly too well. What about people who don't know they're using subversive "mind control" techniques in their advocacy/criticism, but just figured the methods from her experiences with people and media?

 

I think the solution would be a sort of "defense against the dark arts" against manipulation and misinformation taught to children at an early age. So that, while they might all be willing to use such tactics to further their own ends in the future, they will all be equipped to evade them when targeted.

 

In effect, regulation would be effective for implementing your own ideology and shuttering others', and it's clear a few in this thread are happy to oblige such a system.

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My father was influenced by advertising, but adversely. When he shopped, often for groceries, he would buy whatever he didn't remember being advertised recently. If everyone did that, advertisers would have to change their methods.

 

When Burger King was just thinking about moving their HQ to Canada to avoid US taxes, we stopped eating there. It was just a personal boycott, and we only ate there a couple of times a month, although I'd tell anyone who was interested why I was pissed off at them. But the other day I noticed the BK we used to frequent went out of business and they actually demolished the building. I know there's a deeper story, but until I find out what it is, I'm claiming responsibility.

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My father was influenced by advertising, but adversely. When he shopped, often for groceries, he would buy whatever he didn't remember being advertised recently. If everyone did that, advertisers would have to change their methods.

I absolutely agree that it's also about making money. Often the advertorials are written by PR companies and just contain the journalists name since they're more than happy put their name on anything. A lot of the time they're in the 'recommended' feed and appear suspiciously like a legitimate news story and attempt to use quotes and/or research data to promote something. However, the research is often misleading, inaccurate, ambiguous or exaggerated. In Australia you can lodge complaints through the Advertising Standards Bureau.

 

When Burger King was just thinking about moving their HQ to Canada to avoid US taxes, we stopped eating there. It was just a personal boycott, and we only ate there a couple of times a month, although I'd tell anyone who was interested why I was pissed off at them. But the other day I noticed the BK we used to frequent went out of business and they actually demolished the building. I know there's a deeper story, but until I find out what it is, I'm claiming responsibility.

Surprised it took taxation fraud to twist your arm into not eating Burger King, Phi. They must be filling the patties with MSG or something in the US :P

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@ iNow, of course media is a business and like all business it centers around money but if news media specifically has no obligation to be true what is the point of journalism credentials and various protections/support that come with? Why not just allow anyone with an audience a press pass and access? There are journalists out there who receive information and access based on the assumption that they are more than just advertising shills. Physicians make money too but there is still the hippocratic oath. Profit doesn't have to preclude ethics.

 

@ Sato, there is a difference between opinions and facts. A difference between most reliable information and information one prefers. Those differences should be clear when receiving information from a credentialed professional who specifically makes a living off the premise that they distribute the truth. Obviously that doesn't apply to all forms of media. For example when I post on this forum it is understood that I am projecting my own thoughts and opinions. The average person on facebook, twitter, blogging, or on the street is free to speak their minds. Obviously not all media is the same. Howard Stern's radio show is not meant to be a source of news but rather a source of entertainment. I am not suggesting that should change. I am addressing those who claim braodcasting excellence, fair and balanced reporting, the ones embedded overseas with our military, in the press room with our presidents, and etc. If they are merely pandering for advertising dollars than perhaps there should be disclaimers when they report.

 

Why do people still believe roving gangs were murdering people in the Superdome after Katrina? Why do people still connect Saddam Hussein with Al Quada? Why is does Climate Change share equal time with Climate Change Denial? How can people make informed decisions about elected a Gov't to represent them if they are so poorly informed?

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