Wednesday, February 25, 2009

RE: On topic? Probably not.

There's not really much for me to add in regards to The Pornographic Imagination. Edgar pointed out the loss of substance in news stories, and as a journalism major, I thought I'd discuss some history and very scary media trends.

At the dawn of the 1990s, the average profit margin for newspaper companies was 14.8% which fueled a wave of mergers and buyouts during that decade. The new megamedia companies managed a 21.5% (very substantial) profit average. Unfortunately, they achieved this through cheapening the content, marketing content directly to the audiences that were most attractive to advertisers, and allowing the less profitable audiences to drop off. Ironically, during this time, newspaper circulation dropped even during this historically profitable era. You see, it's easier and much cheaper to produce "infotainment" stories or "new you can use" rather than good investigative reporting, which is very costly and time consuming. Thus, while it causes readership to decline, a newspaper can still turn a net profit by printing stories that require less funding. It's not good planning for the future, but keep in mind, it does take a long time for a newspaper to die, and by then, the corporate owner will have rung out as much profit as possible.

Meanwhile, television news networks are also suffering, as Joe commented. Traditionally, corporations allowed greater spending and lower profit margins from news networks than they required from sports or entertainment units. The prestige of the news was considered good for brand image. However, major networks began to lose viewers with the rise in popularity of cable, meaning news audiences weren't just decreasing, their attentions were being scattered across a multitude of different channels. As a result, all three of the major pioneering networks in the United States were eaten by large corporations. (NBC is owned by General Electric, ABC is owned by Disney, and CBS is owned by Viacom)

In 1984, 50 larger corporations controlled over 50% of the media outlets in the nation. In 1992, despite over 25,000 media outlets, 23 corporations controlled most of the business in daily newspapers, magazines, television, books, and films. By 1997, those coporate giants had shrunk to 10. In 2008, the number was reduced to just 5! (Time Warner, Berteslmann, News Corp, Viacom, and Disney) This corporate monopoly means that many of the same news stories are broadcast over most of the same media outlets, unintentionally cutting down on the diversity of programs and information available to the American public. Sadly, the U.S. government has unintentionally helped this monopolization through deregulation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

And you're right, Edgar, there really is not need for "rapid fire news" or 24 hour news for that matter. With them, the pressure to update stories many times a day, instead of just the traditional morning and evening updates, has made reporters and news organizations obsessed with finding stories that can "advance." Also, because of this, the traditional "news hole" that news organizations must fill in order to function has turned into a gorge that can only be filled with more frivolous stories and from stories bought from wholesale news corporations. So, sorry, Joe, but even by reading newspapers you're likely to get many of the same formulaic stories.

Although there is a difference in how well certain sources present facts and inform their readers/viewers/listeners. For example, after it had been realized that the claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were most likely false, 80% of Fox news viewers still held factual inaccuracies in comparison to 23% of PBS and NPR listeners.

Sorry, this was way longer than I had originally intended, so congrats if you made it this far. So yeah, just some things to think about.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome write up. Always good to know this stuff