OPINION: Stop Blaming the Media

Interviewing actor Jon Voight during a fundraiser
(and after a monsoon soaked everyone)
for the Granite Mountain Hotshots in 2013.

These days it’s trendy to blame the messenger.

The media is stirring the pot, inciting violence, lying to you, etc., as if they were a giant hive-mind not made up of men and women toiling in poverty, but determined to undermine the stability of every neighborhood in America. In the newspaper business, most reporters can’t afford rent without having a roommate or spouse with a better-paying job. Most of us reading a news story make more than the person who wrote it.

As a reporter I was part of the team that broke the story on the nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots that perished in Yarnell, Ariz. I photographed President Obama and his family at Grand Canyon. I’ve hobnobbed with drug dealers and celebrities alike. I may not be a reporter anymore, but I still cling to the tenets instilled in me while earning my degree in journalism. I was never a Borg.

Money

There are issues with the media to be sure, one being the drive for money. Newspapers, television news, and the rest are businesses first and foremost. They are out to make money and they go where the money is. Fox News caters and delivers news to a largely conservative audience. CNN the opposite. And in the drive to deliver 24 hours of news every day, they dangerously over analyze and guess at possible answers.

But who chooses the news? You do.

News is often created by what you click.

What is trending on social media? Let’s do a story on it, Obviously that’s what people are interested in. And it probably has something to do with a Kardashian. Let’s look at our website and see what our most popular stories were last month. Let’s do more stories on that, even if it’s got something to do with an unfounded conspiracy dreamt up by a sociopath. The readers loved it.

You feed the algorithm

It’s that simple. You clicked on it. You scanned headlines and chose something, and that was recorded by a simple algorithm and reported to the folks who gather the news. In any business, you give your customers what they want, and they base what the public wants by what the public clicked.

Still want to blame the media? Go right ahead. Should the media behave more responsibly and operate in a vacuum? They won’t be in business long if they do. Should they become non-profits, controlled by the state, or produced for free? Think about it.

Let’s just call it a conspiracy.

It’s easier to click on questionable news sites where those educated in journalism are nowhere to be found, where you find lies that conform to your beliefs, whether left or right, rather than looking in the mirror. These sites sell you hyper-sensationalism and trade on paranoia. But trust them if you’d like. Trust they are telling you a truth not to be found anywhere else, even though there’s no way to know where these stories really came from – that these sites don’t make money from every click.

Do you really want mainstream media to behave differently? Stop clicking on the stories you complain about. Lay off the sex, the death and the cute animals acting like humans. Redirect the flow. Bring back the news that matters to you.

It’s in your hands.

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13 thoughts on “OPINION: Stop Blaming the Media

  1. Great points. Too often people complain about the media bias or topics that are being relentlessly covered, or (and my favorite) that news is driven by ratings. They act as if that is the medias fault and that we are powerless to stop it, but as with any entertainment business, when customers stop coming the formula has to change. The news is customer driven, putting US in the drivers seat. We just need to grab the wheel.

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