Journalists stand in a paternalistic relationship to readers: They guide them rather than engage them in conversation. They decide on the legitimate and valuable topics for the agenda based on the estimation of the public’s need to know, but don’t see the necessity for listening to the public. (Page 18)
I really feel as though this quote is true and accurate, but it is a paradoxical statement and only addresses one side of the conundrum. Journalists have acted as a sort of parent figure to the public in terms of deciding content and what is covered and how. The quote goes on to say that journalists guide them rather than engage them. Adding that they make estimations on the public’s need to know and fail to listen to what the audience has to say.
I feel as though this represents journalists in a bad light, it is very hard to determine what content gets covered. Moreover, not everything can be covered. There is simply not enough manpower to do so. Especially if half of the public asks for one thing and the other half another. Now realistically, the results would be a heck of a lot more diverse. But suppose journalists do listen to ‘what the public wants,’ then what happens? There will be a mass audience probably equally as vocal complaining of bias the journalist may portray. When deciding content, you simply cannot win everyone over. These days, tabloids will cover what gets the most viewership, which brings in more money. In a profit-driven economy, there is never a black and white answer, only shades of gray.
Making news became commercially viable through the selling of audiences to advertisers, instead of newspapers to partisan audiences…The new centrality of advertising income also meant that owners and editors were compelled to abandon controversial, partisan material from their reports, and instead aimed to please as many advertisers and consumers as they possible could by printing ostensibly “neutral” content and proclaiming their political independence. (Page 38)
Ok, so I have many different problems with this — taking the side of the author who definitely makes a good point is the most logical thing to do, and I would sway towards the side of conglomerate industries that help to determine content as the principle evil-doers. It is the conglomerates who force a lack of coverage on journalists. Blanketing everything else and determining what is best for print based on commercial interests. Advertisers would be hard pressed if they were shown in a bad light. Threatening to revoke advertising and backing out would take away nearly all of the income still attainable in the media saturated world. Newspapers would not care to lose this advertising therefore remaining as neutral is in their best interests.
Pleasing advertisers is the number one goal of any media corporation and it remains that goal in almost any situation. Controversial coverage would theoretically draw away any interest from advertisers. So I guess that means a combination of things – lack of objectivity and extreme bias. Objectivity is always the principal goal of any legitimate journalist. That can be compromised as the author says as to please commercial interest. This results in homogenized media content because of cost-cutting measures. As a whole, neutrality in corporate journalism is mainly to protect commercial interests. While, neutrality protects nationalities and other harmful content from coming to fruition, it also has the aforementioned effect. Bias bleeds between the lines in large, corporate owned papers because of the ‘big wigs’ in the industry so it is increasingly harder to produce controversial content to an otherwise passive audience, readily accepting almost anything put in front of them.