From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?
TV news is not serving the American public's need to know about the world. The industry measures success by counting eyeballs for advertisers, so that stations can maximize advertising revenue. This overemphasis on commercialism and corporate priorities contributes to biases, popular misconceptions and omissions from TV news coverage. More quality control steps can be taken to counter these shortcomings. Quality control steps available to broadcasters include: 1) greater emphasis on fact checking and sorting out untrue claims for their confused viewers, 2) stations should avoid relying on favorite guest "experts" for insight into markets, economics and foreign affairs in cases where objective track records prove popular guests are not experts at all. Many of these guests are merely telegenic self-promoters, or have financial or political agendas to hype. Additional steps available to regulators and consumers include: 3) making sure FCC licensed broadcasters actually meet their public service obligations, instead of treating public airwaves as a private cash cow, 4) consumers can switch to new media like the Internet. The Internet can correct for some failings of TV and radio news. This is especially important since broadcasters have avoided the first 3 steps I listed. But combining these steps will be more effective and serve the public interest. Internet news and journalism schools offer promising talent pools. They can provide the broadcast journalists of tomorrow to deliver factual news and educational context to Americans who want to be informed. In cases where current TV and radio station owners fail to uphold their public service obligations, the FCC should revoke (instead of rubber stamp) the owners' license and award broadcast licenses to educational institutions and Internet news services who can demonstrate they plan to use the airwaves to serve the public. Those new owners could provide low budget, public television type service. Suitable programming, undervalued by commercial broadcasting, would cover: • Environmental issues • Energy use and energy efficiency • Preventative healthcare • Underserved, minority communities • Financial markets and economic news free of influence from Wall St. advertisers Of course this is only a partial list. Due to cable news' excesses, the U.S. doesn't have a marketplace of ideas so much as it has a P.T. Barnum-inspired media circus filled with company brands and personalities. Fortunately, PBS and public radio provide much needed exceptions to the media circus. In the spirit of public broadcasting, I support more experimentation with new Internet news sources, journalism schools and other educational resources that can provide Americans with more quality reporting our people deserve.