Friday, July 22, 2005

American media's "bad news"

An essay that will appear in this week-end's New York Times Sunday Book Review discusses the current state of American media. The piece, titled “Bad News,” begins “The conventional news media are embattled. Attacked by both left and right in book after book, rocked by scandals, challenged by upstart bloggers, they have become a focus of controversy and concern. Their audience is in decline, their credibility with the public in shreds.” The author, Richard Posner -- a law professor, a federal appeals court judge and a blogger -- notes both liberal and conservative critics of the media agree “that the function of the news is to inform people about social, political, cultural, ethical and economic issues so that they can vote and otherwise express themselves as responsible citizens. Assessing complaints about mainstream media coming from both sides of the political spectrum, Posner observes “The mainstream media are predominantly liberal - in fact, more liberal than they used to be. But not because the politics of journalists have changed. Rather, because the rise of new media, itself mainly an economic rather than a political phenomenon, has caused polarization, pushing the already liberal media farther left.” He's talking about the rise of right-wing, conservative media. And that discussion is interesting. But the most compelling part of Posner’s essay is his take on blogs, bloggers and the blogosphere. He calls blogs “the latest, and perhaps gravest, challenge to the journalist establishment." He continues, “Journalists accuse bloggers of having lowered standards. But their real concern is less high-minded - it is the threat that bloggers, who are mostly amateurs, pose to professional journalists and their principal employers, the conventional news media.” What follows is Posner's discussion of the economics of blogging compared to that of mainstream media and the implications of those differences. “Bad News” is a lengthy essay, but for anyone interested in the liberal-conservative divide in American media and the changing media landscape -- and especially the role of blogs -- Posner’s piece provides significant food-for-thought. Check it out!