Is the problem with news media bad or incompetent owners and employees?

July 15, 2007 | By | Reply More

I highly recommend the work of Free Press.   The answer to the question in the title of this post (from the Free Press FAQ page) is that our massive dysfunction of our media is not caused by malicious or incompetent individuals:

There may well be media owners who are especially despicable and who abuse their market power and privileges to enhance their own personal fortunes or to push their narrow political agendas. There may also be media corporation employees — be they journalists, writers, actors, executives or whatever — who engage in dubious ethical behavior. But neither is the main source of the problem with the media system in the United States. The main problem is that the structure of the media system makes socially dubious behavior — e.g. lousy journalism, violent and mindless entertainment, hypercommercialism — the rational outcome. If all the media owners and executives were to quit their jobs today and be replaced tomorrow by different people, the content of the system would not change appreciably, because the cues would remain the same. If we wish to change the nature of media content we need to change the cues so that good journalism and quality material will be the rational product of its operations. To do that requires that we change the government policies that shape and direct the media system. That is why Free Press exists.

Free Press works for policies that will bring more diverse and local media ownership of our commercial media, and more competitive markets. Free Press believes local and minority ownership is to be strongly encouraged. We believe that it is imperative that the core promises of the First Amendment be protected and nurtured if this is to be a free society. Media should not be the exclusive province of billionaires and hundred-millionaires. Free Press believes that advertising and commercialism must be carefully regulated. Free Press believes that strong democratic trade unions are an important and mandatory protection for the public against concentrated commercial media power.

Free Press also believes that a healthy media system must have a very strong non-profit and non-commercial sector. This sector can and must include a wide range of media, ranging from public broadcasters to community and low-power broadcasters to community-based websites, newsletters and ‘zines.

For more information or to take action on media reform, visit the website of Free Press

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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