It’s easy to act as though the news media is something that is done to us. Some alien force, projected onto all of us, pushed out by them.
Of course, that’s not true. It’s something we buy, something we pay for.
We’re paying for superficial analyses, talking points, shouting heads, *****gate of the moment, herd journalism and silly local urgencies instead of important international trends. We’re paying for fast instead of good. We believe we’re paying for hard questions being asked, but we’re not getting what we’re paying for.
We might pay with a dollar at the newsstand, but we’re probably paying with our attention, with attention that is turned into ad sales.
Too often, we fail to stop and say, “Wait, I paid for that?”
Almost everything else we buy is of far higher quality than it was twenty years ago. The worst car you could buy then was a Yugo… clearly we’ve raised the bar at the bottom. Is the same thing true of your news?
As the number of outlets and channels has exploded, media companies have faced a choice. Some have chosen to race to the bottom, to pander to the largest available common denominator and turn a trust into a profit center. A few have chosen to race to the top and to create a product actually worth paying for.
I fear that the race to the bottom will continue, but it’s hard to see how anyone could be happy winning it.
Their civic obligations aside, it’s up to us to decide what to buy.