An apt description of the current American media landscape, and it’s consumers
Thirty years ago, there was such a thing as “the media.” The daily paper was dropped on everyone’s doorstep in the morning. When dad came home from work, he’d switch on the television and watch the nightly news on one of the big three networks while waiting for dinner
Social media platforms proliferate this practice. Many people today get a substantial portion of their news exclusively from social media, specifically Facebook. Everyone “likes,” “shares,” and “favorites” those articles expressing points of view they agree with. Social media platforms exist to make money from keeping people’s eyeballs on their sites, so they respond by giving the viewer more of the same, reinforcing existing preconceptions even more.
Prior to the internet, market forces worked as a pretty good check and balance. If a network or newspaper went too far astray, it lost viewers to one of its competitors, which eventually pulled it back to the middle. With the fracturing of the market into micro-targeted segments, that centering function is gone. Now viewers just leave to one of a thousand information sources each trying to generate inflammatory clickbait headlines. Whereas once the choice between news sources was Wheaties or Cheerios, today the traditional news media is trying to sell Wheaties while some of its digital competitors market Oreo cookies, and others are selling straight crystal meth.
As long as the media in this country remains free, which it should, it’s the responsibility of every informed person to eat his Wheaties. If you’re a citizen who considers yourself informed, whether liberal or conservative, you need to have a foundation of general news from an established news source, e.g., an organization that has actual reporters with bureaus in major cities or that at least uses major news wires like Reuters or McClatchy, not just a sketchy aggregator site. Only after that should you rely on opinion-oriented sites or sites with well-established angles on the news. You’ve got to eat a balanced meal before you eat dessert. Feed your mind nothing but garbage and it will become fat and lazy.
And as far as educating yourself, do yourself a favor and follow some that run counter to your own inclinations. Follow both Mother Jones and National Review, Fox News and MSNBC. It’s not only a good way to fact check both sides, but it will also serve to remind you that the other ideological side isn’t trying to destroy America. Most of either side sincerely wants the best for this country. They just happen to have a different perspective than you. Too many people dig into their ideological fighting holes and consume media only to throw derogatory news grenades at the other side.
Finally, for the love of all that’s holy, stop clicking on conspiracy-theory sites. You’re just feeding their cancer on society with your traffic and shares. You should know them when you see them. Gaudy banner headlines and words like “REVEALED!” and “EXPOSED!” in all caps should ring alarm bells in your mind.
Blaming the news media at large for the state of today’s civil discourse and polarization is like blaming Taco Bell for the obesity epidemic. Sure they could do more to help, but really they’re just giving the people what they want.
The solution lies in each and every one of us — stop consuming junk media before it consumes us all.
The business model of the mainstream media, is to foment argument between the ‘Left’ and the ‘Right’ [as if there are only two perspectives], in order to entice the majority of viewers who parse their politics only in terms of Left/Right….to raise revenue. Are we too far down the rabbit hole to change the course of our media?