The Media.  Is it still the Message?


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 Sales of printed media such as magazines and dailies continue to drop annually.  The various media outlets began posting on-line versions of their publications many years ago.  Initially, the media outlets provided a free tease and would give readers a short abbreviated version of a couple stories before a pop-up asking for payment would appear.  Alternatively, they figured out that the short teases were failing and moved to providing an opportunity to read two or three stories before the inevitable money request would happen.

I think that the media was not getting the message.  The consumer of today has access to an array of information sources like never before.  I am convinced that the love of reading is a dying art form. Several of my friend who also freelance and (as I do) dabble with writing books and short stories can attest to the fact that folks have either forgotten how to read or are just too lazy.  Given the alternative such as television, consuming the information contained in a printed story takes a bit of work.

There once were advantages to seeking knowledge and understanding from an in-depth and well researched printed story.  The typical one-to-two minute TV produced news story can be no comparison. It once was much like comparing a gourmet meal to a drive through burger. But things took a turn.

Instead of building on strength, the printed media publishers and editors began being a bit less fussy about content.  Recently the quality and content of copy produced by front line staff has died.  Investigative research that once underpinned a true article has pretty much vanished.  The other side of the house, being reporting of news has morphed into near-editorial writing. It is nigh impossible to read a genuine news story in any of the major dailies that is not laced with the writer’s opinion.  I can think of one particular writer for one of the major dailies who has managed to write the same story for three years.  Whatever editorial control exists at that particular daily seems to have missed the fact that said writer has been enjoying a free ride.

Content criticism, however goes far beyond the problem of diminishing talent in the news room.  A few years ago, a group of us engaged in a two week project wherein we began dissecting page-by-page all three daily papers.  We physically measured the content in order to determine a percentage of real copy versus advertising space spaced on square inches used.  News and opinion content was as low as 30-35% on a regular basis.  Moreover, when we subdivided the news and opinion portion further, we learned that in excess of 60% of the news and opinion content originated by way of large agencies such as Reuters or Associated Press.

Our conclusion was that although news stand prices had increased, the quality of the product was in a free fall. Little wonder that people were not reading.

Change is one of the predictable in life.  The major dailies had placed increased focus on readership by way of the internet. Unfortunately, the same lack of research and poor writing has followed the content into the new forum called the World Wide Web.   Lack of research, half hearted articles and unneeded opinion can never replace news reporting. 

Sloppy journalism has become the hallmark of one particular major daily. I shall not dare name that publication, but they too are on the “net” flogging their poorly written and stories that are usually either not all there or lacking research.  To name that organization would be to welcome a law suit.  I am sure that although the newsroom staff is no longer ready for prime time, the legal department may be a bit more capable.

Spend a few minutes on the net.  Pick any topical news story and Google will present you with an array of sources. Using my three major daily selections, you will quickly learn that the heavy advertising content has followed the media house’s migration to the web.  They tried selling the service by way of presenting a teaser or a limited number of free reads and simply were not generating revenue.  People were unwilling to purchase the drivel created in the news room.

This begat the current trend.  Force the consumer to endure advertising footage in the form of two or three full length commercials before getting the story.  Sadly, it is not worth the wait and many of us simply do not bother.  The web site gurus at the media houses have engineered the commercial messages so that they cannot be avoided. The best that the consumer can do is clicking the mute button.

It seems to me that the entire decline in readership by the big dailies is quality of content.  There are genuine consumers out here that want to read a complete, unbiased news story void of the writer’s opinions. 

Copyright   Thunderbird Rising 2015

The above article is copyrighted.  You may use, copy or distribute this article conditional on attributing your source (Thunderbird Rising) and the author (Lloyd Fournier)

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Published by: lloydfournier

Lloyd is the founder of Thunderbird Rising (Thunderbird rising.com) and the recent recipient of a Humanitarian Award, an author (novels) and a freelance writer. His drill down style of writing is a throw back to classic journalism - completely objective and well researched. His work presents the reader opportunity to rethink issues.

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