14 March 2007

The Mainstream Media's Mad Dash to Irrelevancy

Yesterday, I'm running (okay, plodding along) on the treadmill and have before me four TV screens. One is tuned to a Nancy Grace show and it is showing footage of Anna Nicole Smith. For a time, another news channel is also broadcasting something about Anna, but Grace's show continues for a half hour. Or so I thought. It turns out that she was dedicating a full hour to Anna.

Saturday, I'm walking the beach and streets in the delightful community of Coronado. I pass by a newspaper dispenser for the San Diego Union-Tribune. I don't know whether I was looking at an early release of the Sunday paper or the Saturday's paper, but the front page stopped me. What was on it, front and center and taking up about half the page? LaDainian Tomlinson modeling the new San Diego Charger's uniform.

I can only conclude one thing. The mainstream media has decided to fast forward its frenzied descent into irrelevance. Newspapers are losing subscribers every year? Wonderful. Television is losing viewers to the Internet? Great. They had their chance to make a positive difference and they opted instead to make a profit - a tactic seemingly destined to rob them of the very audience needed to sustain a profit.

And if covering such inane topics doesn't cost them their audience, then God pity the republic that confuses what they represent with reality. The mainstream media: a worldview that is all view and no world and is to ideas what sugar-free cotton candy is to nutrition.


Tisha! said...

gosh you and I must have telepathy! I just posted something about citizen journalism.

I think they kinda sorta gave up since traditional media is doing so poorly financially due to the internet and grassroots journalism but if they would rework their business model they will find a market for their news.

cheerio darling!

David said...

We couldn't be more in agreement on this subject. Bravo. I guess that's why I read foreign press or The Economist or watch BBC on the net. Maybe Jim Lehrer. What's sad is that we're quickly morphing into the sad reality you've highlighted. Kids now say to themselves "if Kevin Federlein can survive so can I" instead of listening to Rocky music or Sinatra singing "if I can make it there I'll make it anywhere."

Ron Davison said...


Telepathy - web 4.0 and the ultimte in wireless communication. If the mainstream media needs financial distress to wake up, fine. It is certainly one industry that could use the housecleaning of Schumpeter's gales of creative destruction.

Ron Davison said...


You hit another point worthy of a posting: media shapes our expectations and to the extent that it distorts expectations it has a huge cost that is usually a multiple of the profits it makes.

P.S. - I'm glad that we still hit on topics on which we're in agreement. :)

Life Hiker said...

I'm proud that our local rag in Rochester, NY, the "Democrat & Chronicle", has not "dumbed down" like most of the mass media. True, most of the hard content is outsourced, but at least the editors seem to be picky about what they print and the editorial page editor (a black man, would you believe!) usually tells it like it is.

And the actual financial picture for newspapers, while not as good as it was in previous years, is still as good or better than most U.S. industries despite the junk they publish. So it's a bit early to sound their death knell.

Notwithstanding the above, the internet and blogosphere has become the venue for learning the real story and listening to the various sides who debate what the real story means. What this venue currently lacks is enough people who really care about these things. But maybe it's always been this way, and the people who make a difference have always been the ones who care enought to educate the rest.

Anonymous said...

You would think that with a dozen different news networks we'd get a wide range of opinions and in-depth coverage of every issue, but no.

There seems to be one target demographic that every news network is targeting: morons. I guess advertisers will pay big bucks if you can deliver to them an audience that is really, really, stupid.

That's the only explanation that makes any sense.

exskindiver said...

you are right.
wait, i will send you an email.

Dave said...

There is some telepathy going on here. I just posted on the dumbing down of the local paper recently (though there wasn't far to go to reach the bottom).

Ron Davison said...

You are lucky. I suspect that the quality of the government is largely tied to the quality of the media.

Ron Davison said...

Maybe people less critical of journalism are less critical of ads? That's not an explanation I've heard before (about the target audience) but put that way it does make sense. Sadly.

Ron Davison said...


Ron Davison said...


It may well be telepathy. It may also be that we're living through a national (global?) trend with local symptoms.

BTW - I liked your posting.