Been gone for a while – been breathing its last for decades now. Ever since the Fairness Doctrine was tossed out the window and News Divisions were rolled into Entertainment divisions – when Journalism became the idiot bastard and “info-tainment” became the new fair-haired child. Think around 1983.
Ethics became quaint and integrity became a term of derision.
And slowly, ever-so-slowly it died.
When Fox News became a free service on every cable TV in every Hotel and Motel across America (hence the “number one news source in America!”) – when Radio stations became anonymous and vanished from collective consciousness without notice.
When Magazines and newspapers competed for carcasses and where whatever potentially relevant printed word was found it was obscured by clouds of cheap perfume samples and vacant models slathered on slick pages.
It all took time – but it happened – it was the plan.
The idea that a dumb America was an easily convinced America and that no reading between any lines was possible, because the lines were otherwise occupied by shiny objects and manufactured dramas – and we are, after all, a fear-based society, ain’t we?
But while Mainstream media was slowly going through the death throes, a new phenomenon was just as slowly making an entrance.
Beginning as an awkward series of beeps and squeaks by way of a Modem signing on to America Online – and a strange labyrinth of “chat rooms” that was more a pre-pubescent mating call than actual communication – there was potential to be discovered, a new as-yet undefined mode of reaching out and touching people.
And it wasn’t until Technology made vast strides did this new form of communication begin to take shape.
A few people got the idea that you could write essays, put forth ideas, complain, fight, exchange information and otherwise participate in this rather ramshackle community of people who designed things – made things and shared things with each other and it would be called Social Media – because that’s what it was.
And as it grew and technology became more and more sophisticated, things became serious for some people. Real writers, real Journalists, real thinkers emerged – and these were people who had grown up with Mainstream Media as a source of integrity and truth and faithfully watched the Evening News or watched any one of the number of Documentaries aired each week – or listened to the radio where the visuals weren’t important, but the information was. They were disenfranchised because their faithful media outlets were being dismantled – the trusted faces and voices offered early retirement and gold watches and heartfelt tributes – but not given a forum anymore.
So what do you do when your trusted and faithful source of information is gone; replaced by “pretty people” who would be better served selling Ginsu’s and Timeshares than analyzing tragedy?
You make your own – and you get the abandoned and marginalized people together and they start blogs.
And they are outspoken and they are, in the best possible sense of the word; wonks – and they research and they dig and they write; sometimes paragraphs and sometimes treatises or manifestos.
And mainstream media sneers – calls them anti-social children living in the basements of their parents house, morbidly obese and asexual – “a subculture of mouth-breathers” some called them.
But the blogs grew – some had agendas and some loved journalism and some loved researching – and most couldn’t get hired by Mainstream media because Mainstream media insisted you, as a candidate for any journalistic gig, had to be thoroughly versed in all things Kardashian and the bloggers could give a shit less.
And despite being routinely slammed, ridiculed and snubbed by Mainstream Media, Social Media continued to quietly grow.
But rather than rise to the challenge and realize audiences were abandoning the mainstream in droves, they chose to ignore; easier to deride and pompously dismiss than to look and see there may have been grains of truth. They blamed what was left of the News divisions and more Info-tainment was needed to fill up the slack. When in doubt, introduce shiny objects.
And by 2008 Blogs were gaining a level of respectability they hadn’t had before. The Political conventions issued Press Credentials to Bloggers – and in turn, Bloggers live streamed conventions (as best they could under technological restrictions) – and the analysis was keen and precise and the essays were reminiscent of the best days of Journalism of the 1930s and 40s. And Social Media became the Wild West, because along with the growth of Social Media came the practitioners of distraction, the purveyors of conspiracy, the followers of Onan.
Whenever any organization or movement is started and more than three people are involved, you invariably run the risk of having factions form and agendas being played out.
Some of the bloggers fell for it while some stayed the course and Social Media became trusted
And so we come to the all-knowing moment – the moment Mainstream Media effectively died and Social Media grabbed the mantle; June 1, 2022.
The Johnny Depp/Amber Heard Trial has proven to be the watershed moment for Social Media. Mainstream media has been left, babbling incoherently in the dust someplace -flailing about, casting aspersions, pointing fingers, effecting tantrums.
Mainstream media abandoned its job, chose to ignore what was right in front of it and was caught with its proverbial pants down.
The days of in-depth coverage of anything are gone as far as the Mainstream are concerned – bites of news, happy news, faux hand-wringing news and fearful news are no longer of interest to anyone living in this place and time. We can’t afford to be distracted anymore – we can’t be convicted of having short attention spans – simply put; there is NO TIME.
And the Depp-Heard trial are not the only examples where the Mainstream went missing. The latest horrifying shooting in Uvalde, Texas is another glaring point.
During one of the livestream post-mortem streams of the days’ trial proceedings, someone broke the news that the shooting took place. Since news and history are of prime concern to me, I immediately went to look for coverage from a local Texas radio station – somebody had to be there with a mike and an iPhone. Every station was running the same Sean Hannity program – wall-to-wall – nothing. It was at that exact moment that I was sure Mainstream Media was dead – and nothing was going to bring it back, not to the way it was a week or even a month ago. Those days are gone.
People who spent anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours on Youtube via Legalbytes got more factual information than those who spent the entire six weeks of the trial on Mainstream media.
That speaks rather poorly of the CNN’s, MSNBC’s Fox’s, ABC’s, CBS’s and NBC’s of America and it explains why there is so much wrong with us right now.
But it’s been wrong since 1986 and 36 years for a festering boil to pop is a long time, but it was inevitable. Inevitable that you can’t keep a veil of ignorance in place without it being noticed.
The big question is – now what?
The Blogs and Youtube channels need to set up their own rules, their own decorum, their own method of fact-checking and sifting. They also have to be mindful of the potential for provocation from the ones with less-than-honorable intentions or those who are just obsessed with stirring shit up for it’s own sake.
It’s there, but I think the audience is (mostly) savvy enough to spot the fakes. You don’t need a wardrobe, a makeup artist or even somebody else’s hair – f-bombs are an option, but people talk that way – you can have a dog barking in the background because at least half of you have dogs anyway and you know the drill. It’s the information that’s important – the facts are crucial.
Still – we’re on the very edge of a new era of journalism. It is extremely exciting and is very capable of bringing with it a new level of understanding. Maybe we can begin to value brains, after this long time.
I think we have a shot at being smart again.
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