The American media has long been viewed as an independent arbiter of verifiable truth, monitoring society and reporting to the public. Today, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Economist James Hamilton best put when he said that “the news does not come from individuals seeking to make democracy work better, but from readers seeking a diversion, journalists who make careers and owners seeking profits. “.
The media, like no other industry, is shaped by financial forces.
In accordance with the foundations of capitalism, the American media operate on the fundamentals of profit maximization. The forces of capitalism have driven the realization and maintenance of profits to dominate the distribution of information.
At the same time, polls indicate an increased polarization of the American public according to party. A recent Pew Research Study Finds Growing Shift To Extremes like “92% of Republicans are to the right of the average Democrat and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the middle Republican.” Likewise, the study explained high animosity between the two parties, as negative perceptions on the other side intensified over the same period.
Countless answers have been offered in an attempt to explain America’s growing partisanship, but, ultimately, the basic answer is clear: Capitalism’s control over the media extends political polarization. Americans know information from what the media provides, yet because of the need for profit, modern media provide information under the incentive to sell without informing.
Capitalism has always reigned supreme in the United States, but it was not until the 1980s that the consolidation of information became the model. The media have been placed in the hands of a small number of increasingly small businesses, often with little interest in current affairs.
Currently, six companies own 90% of the US media, creating a media oligopoly. These companies have immense control over what and how the news is covered, and with so few companies in the market, there is constant pressure to cut costs and outperform the competition.
Next, the 80s saw the digital revolution. The increase in the number of channels broadcast on television and the explosion of the Internet have offered a variety of media options. While seemingly beneficial, the expansion has created competition for attention between news and entertainment. Information in general was forced to shift from information to engagement, as the success of the media depended on public attention.
CBS President Leslie Moonves, best said when he said that Donald Trump “might not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
Radical ideas are gaining more attention, so it’s no surprise that a recent assessment of national information broadcast and cable found a bias towards fanatic candidates. This subsequently resulted in inaccurately extreme representation of the House of Representatives and Senate legislative bodies.
The desire for profit distracts the attention of policymakers who praise new and radical perspectives. Inevitably, the portrayal of political extremism leads to high political animosity.
Unfortunately, the search for attention has also led the media to compare political elections to horse racing between political candidates, with constantly updated bar charts showing who wins and who loses in the polls. Horse racing has become the norm because of its economic and consumer benefits. Covering elections in this way is cheaper – easier to consume for the average American – than analyzing political platforms. Subsequently, policy-based coverage represented only one 10% of the 2016 elections.
Enjoy what you read? Get Daily Cardinal content delivered to your inbox
Horse racing coverage does not provide voters with a balanced comparison of elected officials that will help them make an informed decision at the polls. Horse racing coverage presents politics as a constant battle between the two dominant political parties, creating an internal group and an external group.
The coverage of horse racing, which floods modern journalism, divides our nation.
The other major change has been the increase in ideological cover. Fox News originally discovered that they could attract a reliable audience without a large number of reporters by delivering the point of view of the news Republicans and Conservatives wanted to hear. This commercial scheme of American journalism has also been adopted on the left by MSNBC and CNN. While these media differ in their reliability rankings, each emphasized surface coverage – which tends to upset the other side – over in-depth investigative journalism.
This strategy is cheap but intriguing to the public. These sources of affirmation, carried by the business model, create a duopoly between Republicans and Democrats.
It can be argued that not all journalism is manipulated for profit. Local News sources are ranked among the most objective and reliable media, providing a relatively balanced analysis of the news.
Nonetheless, objective news is simply not profitable and with it more than a quarter of the country’s local newspapers has disappeared. Thousands of Americans now reside in what are called information deserts, and thousands more are seeing their local newspapers bought out by companies exclusively interested in profit. Every day, more and more Americans must fill their lack of independent local information with more national and partisan sources.
Ultimately, the modern media has a glaring conflict of interest. The news organizations depend on profits, and the media are therefore manipulated to attract readers, which increases ideological divisions. Americans rely on the media for information, but media entangled in ulterior motives for profiting creates a divided country.
We may have been born as a united nation, but as long as the media remains in the grip of capitalism, we are in a dangerous and disunited future.
Em-J Krigsman is a freshman studying political science and journalism. Do you think capitalism hurts American journalism? Send all comments to [email protected].
The Daily Cardinal has covered Madison University and Community since 1892. Please consider donating today.
Em-J is an opinion writer for the Daily Cardinal and a member of the Editorial Board.