Sunday, January 11, 2009

Corporate News Media – Catch 22

By Yong Kim

When it comes to trying to organize and make sense of the media in the 21st century, close your eyes and think about thee social divisions and hierarchy of your average high school.

The stereotypical list of cliques is this: the jock, cheerleader, nerd, prep, band geek, emo kid, druggie/stoner and the-really-out-there theatre kid.

Media is vast, which is why many might find it hard to concretely define an all-encompassing idea. Like high school groups, media has many identities and purposes.

Media is the main means of mass communication, according to Television, advertising, public relations, print and radio are all examples of the multi-faceted entity of media.

News media is under the umbrella of media. News, in its simplest form, is information. News media is the utilization of the mediums of mass communication.

The most general categorization of news media (applicable in other areas of media) can be divided into corporate or non-corporate (or non-profit) news.

The majority of news organizations you know or heard of is corporate news (from national media groups like NBC, ABC, CBS, NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal to your local newspaper and television). And the overwhelming majority of corporate news is mainstream news. Think of them as the popular kids – the ones on top of the news chain in terms of influence, prominence and name recognition.

And just like you would get mixed feelings about high school from people, the same goes for news media – some love it, some hate it, and some are somewhere in between.

From 2001 to 2005, public opinion towards national newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post decreased by 14 percent from 52 to 38 percent., according to the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press.

Public media towards mainstream media, as a whole has generally been under 50 percent.

Many argue the reason why many people have negative view towards the news is that the most watched, read, and listened to news media is owned by a corporation. And with the worsening economy, news media like newspapers are being sold, bought and merged. 

While news outlets are bountiful in the U.S., many of them are news conglomerates (a chain of different news groups owned by one company) and when narrowed down, the thousands and thousands of U.S. news media are really owned by a relatively small list. For example, The Smoking Gun (a popular news-gathering Web site) is owned by truTV, once known as CourtTV, which is a subsidy of Warner Brother’s Entertainment, which is owned by Time Warner.

“The goal of journalism is to serve the community,” said Janine Jackson, program director for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a non-profit media watchdog group. “The goal of media is to make profit,” she said.

So what happens when success is measured by different standards and what ethical problems arise because of this? Should all news be non-profit? Can non-profit news really compete on the same level with news media backed by multi-million/billion dollar companies? These are a few questions that will be explored. 

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