What today is meant by the “news media,” specifically in our current toxic political environment? Conventional wisdom allows that it is the “news media” which exclusively, or almost exclusively, “covers” “politics” in the United States.
This definition falls far short, however, of identifying the many, many other formal and informal, means and methods of defining, gathering, disseminating, and most particularly, of interpreting what is or is not “news.”
Where, for example, does Allvoices.com and the many other “citizen journalist” sites fit in this new and ever evolving dynamic?
In that same vein, the explosion of “social media” sites has embedded within them identifiable “news” gathering/reporting/interpreting aspects.
And, what of the new fictionalized television shows, such as “Veep” or “Political Animals?” Should their weekly vignettes, which often refer to non-fictional events, be considered as “covering” real-time politics? If not, then on what basis is their obvious and pointed political subject matter and content to be gauged, judged, and assessed? If we say that these types of shows are not just depicting or reflecting reality but actually “covering” politics, then should they issue disclaimers as to their political position and bias at the end of each episode?
And just exactly where do we place Bill Maher’s appropriately named “Real Time” show or Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show,” both of whom pride themselves on not only commenting on and describing, but satirizing and mimicking the self-righteousness of “mainstream” news programs.
Although both Maher and Stewart -- and a long line of imitators -- have been known to “make” or become the news, are they news shows in and of themselves?
And then there are the putative cable TV “news” shows. Does anyone honestly believe that Fox News or MSNBC are straight “news” programs? These programs – “shows” -- are obvious branches and extensions of the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. They unabashedly disseminate their particular party’s propaganda and, like all good propagandists, feign to simply “report” or disseminate “ objective,” that is, non-partisan truth.
Finally, no discussion of the new American news media would be complete without mentioning the seminal role played by “talk radio.” Until 1989, something called the “Fairness Doctrine” required that all political content on both radio and television had to allow “equal time” for opposing views. The dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine, along with relaxation of the rules governing how many radio and television stations any single person or entity could own in any given market, essentially opened the floodgates – the airwaves -- to those with proverbial “deep pockets.” In Chicago, for example, a single person or company could now own all or nearly all of the TV and/or radio stations – and printed publications – and thereby promote their particular view of this world – without objection or even comment from those who might disagree.
And it is that dynamic – the dismantling of the notion of fairness and ownership – which allowed for the rise of the likes of Rush Limbaugh. His voice is literally forced upon radio listeners nationwide. In many cities, he may simply not be avoided if one wishes to listen to radio.
So, what effect will the “news media” have on this election? There is no longer an identifiable news media. Rather, we are in the middle of an age of propaganda which will not close until and unless a political, economic and cultural sea change occurs among not just politicians but “the people” themselves. This election, moreso than any in the past, is based on Madison Avenue advertising techniques.
The solution might be to turn off the TV and radio, and turn to sites like Allvoices, and comment about local, national and international events, and make and report our own “news.” Because whomever wins the election this November will have done so only because they first won the media wars.
If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.