From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?
The Internet gives an important opportunity for new forms of journalism based competition against businesses that have failed to provide the "public good" necessary to uphold and guarantee a functioning "democracy". Just like private train businesses failed to produce adequate transportation to the growing nation, media businesses are not meeting the need for journalism for a safe and healthy democracy. The Founders said the "fourth estate" was essential to our Democracy and set up the post office to guarantee flow of news and information. Today, concentration and control of news and information by media owners mean most citizens' voices and concerns are not heard anywhere in media to educate voters and hold businessmen and elected officials accountable for their choices and actions. Mainstream media businesses cannot profitably provide all the news citizens need to hold their elected officials accountable, protect their financial and economic interests, and make correct voting choices. Mainstream media businesses require audience ratings in order to sell advertising to survive, which means they can only cover certain kinds of stories that generate emotions that draw viewers. Media research shows that these emotions are mostly negative with fear and hate on top. Fear mongering and scapegoating are valuable tools used by media businesses to raise audience ratings (also handy for Fascists). Media companies' owners under today's FCC and narrow Supreme Court case law carry on this behavior to serve their businesses and low-tax no-tax political interests with impunity. This rising fear and hatred has already resulted in death, but you at the FTC, FCC, Congress and Supreme Court do nothing. Also, large viable market areas for newspapers and TV stations mean they cannot cover all the news in a region that voters require. They also push news of consumer service nature to promote consumption, cannot report on all social trends in our society that are post-consumerist in nature, and cannot be critical of their major advertisers and industries because that would hurt their advertising revenues. In addition to all these commercial constraints on real news getting out, business lobby groups and wealthy people with low-tax, no-tax, war mongering, or socially divisive agendas can spend unlimited dollars to generate one-sided propaganda-like programming and issues advertising through dubious "think tanks" and "educational 501c3s" under Buckley vs Valeo. This duplicitous self-serving noise on the airwaves and print further clouds the information voters can access to meet their voting obligations. This means that many voters (40% of whom lack broadband access to the Internet) cannot get balanced information about issues that affect the economic well-being of their families to protect themselves against business and shareholder interests that have undermined the middle-class now for 30 years. The US needs journalism as a "public good" which means new organizational forms including NFPs enabled by the Internet, but also independent state funded organizations such as the BBC that cannot be manipulated, dismantled or starved for cash by Congress or "philanthropists" as PBS and NPR have been. The Conservative movement worked to dismantle PBS for as long as I can remember since the 1980s, precisely because they cannot have voices uncontrolled or unconstrained by advertising and profit reporting on the activities of businessmen, politicians, government agencies, industry lobbyist groups, the NSA, CIA, military and defense contractors, military "aid" recipients, etc. in a free and open democracy. Now, with Democrats equally dependent on corporate campaign finance money, they are no different at working to thwart real news reaching US voters. The FTC needs to restructure media to create more competition to level the playing field for all citizen's voices, free journalists, and prevent divisive social scapegoating by FCC licensees.