In the last fifty years only the postal business has changed as fundamentally as has journalism.
It’s not just that newspaper readership has shrunk drastically and TV and the Internet grown so enormously. It’s the result those factors have had on journalism and news.
In Memphis we grew up without newspaper competitors. Both newspapers shared the same owner. Then there was only one.
Without competition, a newspaper could focus on what experienced and serious journalists judged to be important news.
To the contrary, TV and Internet news media have constant competition. To attract viewers they must define news differently. TV news must draw the most viewers at the lowest cost. Unlike a once-a-day newspaper, many are on twenty-four-hours a day. There simply isn’t that much news.
So TV news nationally today is mostly talking heads with personal opinions. The more the heads shout at each other, the more drama, the more entertainment, the more viewers.
Locally, stations have very limited news budgets. Sending raw reporters to chase the police radio is cheap, so that’s local TV news across America. There’s little work today for professional journalists because today the audience defines news.
Don’t blame broadcast media. But we have the greatest deluge of information in history, and we know less about what’s really important than ever.
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