I am sure this is not going to be a shocker for too many people, but I’ll lead off by stating the obvious. Journalism is dead. Let me qualify this statement a bit, what I’m referring to is the profession of journalism in mainstream media which is really a profession of sensationalism. There are many accomplices who took part in the bludgeoning of what is popularly referred to as the “fourth estate”, but chief among the culprits is corporatism which placed profiteering above defending the public interest.
Journalism used to be about beating down leads and checking corruption. Investigative work was a vital and vibrant part of being a news reporter. Though mainstream media was never truly independent from corporate influence and government interference, there was nevertheless a time when reporters were tenacious in their pursuits of nepotism and exposing the malfeasance of the powerful. Some journalists, like Ray Baker and Ida Tarbell, were so dogged and determined that they were nicknamed muckrakers.
Ray Baker exposed the inhumane treatment of coal miners and the way unions were maltreated by mining corporations. Ida Tarbell brought public attention to the malevolence of trusts and the insidious nature of the Standard Oil Company. While high society was busy cheering on John D. Rockefeller, Tarbell courageously documented Rockefeller’s brutal tactics and laid bare his predatory business practices. Her work led to the eventual breakup of the Standard Oil Company and motivated Theodore Roosevelt to become a trust buster.
Those days are long gone. Corporations learned from the era of muckrakers and took on the predatory spirit of Rockefeller. One by one, news publications and media entities got snatched up by Wall Street behemoths to the point where six companies now own more than 90% of the news and information we consume. By extension, journalists who once had a relative free reign were transformed from muckrakers to mouthpieces of their corporate bosses.
There is a reason why most Americans distrust the news and are not fond of mainstream media. It’s not because we are cynics, it’s because we know fraudulence when we see it. Mainstream media is not in the business of telling truth, they are in the business of growing their business. This is why Donald Trump is being covered wall to wall by MSNBC, Fox News, CNN and their peers in print and on the internet, they know full well that the ogre in the White House is a boon for their bottom lines.
Breaking news is what broke news. The incessant focus on profit and revenue growth demanded sensationalism over substance. This resulted in less investigative journalism and more "breaking news" which requires passing on news and less resources. News is now newstertainment.
— Teodrose Fikre ✒ (@TeodroseFikre) July 26, 2018
Do you know what happens when corporations don’t exceed shareholder expectations and don’t meet month over month profit projections? CEOs get fired and the company get taken over by another corporation who will trim costs and grow revenues. This same capital greed that is responsible for social inequalities and global suffering is the source of journalism’s demise. The incessant focus on profits means shutting down all ventures that are not as profitable and focusing on money making enterprises.
Investigative journalism is not profitable. Neither is foreign correspondence. This is why news publications have shuttered in depth journalism and focus instead on shallow stories, sensational headlines and breaking news. News executives know that the breaking news chime draws eyeballs the same way Pavlov captivated his dog with bells and triangles. The result is 360 degrees of infantilism as grown men and women are encouraged by their producers to act like teenagers in order to inflate ratings—mainstream media is to news as Sarah Palin is to an English teacher. Click To Tweet
If you pull mainstream journalists and reporters aside, in a moment of candor, I think most of them will admit that their profession has gone to the dogs. Presenting stories through ideological prisms is not what a free press does, what we are witnessing is corporate-state propaganda. A few days ago, White House reporters were up in arms and incensed that a CNN correspondent was barred from the Rose Garden. This was presented as an affront on a free press and an assault on media. These same folks kept quite for eight years as Obama declared a war on privacy and a free press and they had nothing to say as Julian Assange was and is being persecuted for doing his job as a journalist and rooting out governmental criminality.
Far from standing up for the principles of journalism, mainstream media is actively aborting it on a daily basis. Reporters who are supposed to challenge people in positions of authority now meekly pass along disinformation without so much as double checking it. Blind sources once protected whistle blowers, now they are used to facilitate government positions without giving the public a chance to discern what is propaganda and what is actual news. Breaking news is the last nail in the coffin of corporate journalism, this morning Claire McCaskill tweeted that she was hacked by Russians and the hounds in mainstream media reported it as fact without so much as asking for proof or independently validating the story.
Claire McCaskill was targetted by Russian hackers shortly after Trump encouraged folks to vote her out https://t.co/uiFvxPJ5Ix
— Sam Stein (@samstein) July 26, 2018
We live in an age where indictments and accusations are reported facts while people who question unsubstantiated narratives are dismissed as conspiracy theorists. Mainstream journalists and reporters are contributing to this counterfactual paradigm because they have more to gain by being complicit and risk losing their status and access if they dare speak against the establishment. The tycoons of our day make magnates like Rockefeller, Carnegie and Morgan look impoverished by comparison. Sadly, we don’t have reporters like Tarbell and Baker to shine a light on the insidious practices of Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and their cohorts in the billionaire club.
If you want journalism, the last place you’ll find it is in mainstream media. They are too busy chasing eyeballs to actually keep authorities in check. Besides, it’s kind of hard to speak truth to power when one is getting paid by the powerful. The spirit of muckrakers is found these days in independent journalists and people who write motivated by morality instead of being driven by cupidity. It is up to the audience to decide if they value the empty calories of people like Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow or seek other sources and be nourished by the lesser known who keep the legacy of Ida Tarbell alive through their tenacity. #BrokenNews
Pass this article along to some of the better known journalists and reporters on social media, perhaps a few of them will actually be moved by it and remember why they pursued journalism to begin with.
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.