Saturday, July 30, 2005

No Longer Secure In Their Monopoly, MSM Chases the Fringe

That's the message of this New York Times piece highlighted by our good friend Tom Maguire. It's a fairly comprehensive, well-reasoned piece summarized by the MinuteMan thus:
Low costs of entry to the media business have driven news outlets away from the political center in search of readers who want entertainment and validation rather than "news".
Validation...that certainly rings true. We seek refuge (most of us, anyway) in outlets most likely to confirm the wisdom of our views: thus, liberals listen to NPR, conservatives watch Fox News. Says Richard Posner in the Times:
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...

...The more news sources there are, the more intense the struggle for an audience. One tactic is to occupy an overlooked niche - peeling away from the broad-based media a segment of the consuming public whose interests were not catered to previously. That is the tactic that produces polarization. Another is to ''shout louder'' than the competitors, where shouting takes the form of a sensational, attention-grabbing discovery, accusation, claim or photograph.
Excellent points all, and you should read the whole thing. Needless to say, blogs are not immune from this; hence the mad rush on both the left and right to be more ideologically pure, more easily outraged, than the next guy. Fortunately, bloggers as a community tend to watch themselves even more carefully than the MSM, and hopefully, long-term, this will serve as a corrective to the tendency to divide into wingnuts and moonbats. Posner again:

The charge by mainstream journalists that blogging lacks checks and balances is obtuse. The blogosphere has more checks and balances than the conventional media; only they are different. The model is Friedrich Hayek's classic analysis of how the economic market pools enormous quantities of information efficiently despite its decentralized character, its lack of a master coordinator or regulator, and the very limited knowledge possessed by each of its participants.

In effect, the blogosphere is a collective enterprise - not 12 million separate enterprises, but one enterprise with 12 million reporters, feature writers and editorialists, yet with almost no costs. It's as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising.

Food for thought on a Saturday evening...

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