Remember when corporate owned mainstream media was relevant? Me either. Not to any meaningful extent anyway. Of course, there are a few good exceptions. “60 Minutes” is not so bad. We always have “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” to fall back on. Some crazy percentage of people get their news from these Comedy Central shows. Jon Stewart still refuses to admit he is a news reporter of any kind. Is he embarrassed to be a part of that once proud profession? Has it gotten so bad that a stigma is now permanently attached to the field? Or do people just prefer comedy with their news? After all, a spoonful of sugar does make the medicine go down. Stewart and Colbert are masterful at that, and deserve their warehouse full of Emmys.
The two remaining examples of relevant mainstream news are essentially mirror images, now largely overlooked remaining bastions of a bygone era in which the everyman felt he could connect with the powers that be. “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” still make a half-ass attempt in their uniquely languid manner to give us access to the otherwise now impossible to reach governing gang populating our insular Capitol.
It’s an “economy of influence” in D.C. from Capitol Hill to K Street, as Lawrence Lessig has aptly pointed out in his eye-opening book, “Republic Lost.” Unless you are a funder, buzz off. These Congressmen are busy. There are fundraising calls to make and bills drafted by lobbyists to rubberstamp. All this takes time, you silly constituent. Will these programs confront Congressmen about this huge issue that puts their agenda at odds with the will of the people? Not much. Risk ruffling too many feathers and you lose access. Then viewers. Then advertisers. What a silly game journos play. Ask the right question and Obama might call on you. Helen Thomas may have been the sole exception, may she rest in peace.
Long gone are the days when Walter Cronkite’s trusted paternalistic voice was welcomed into millions of American homes over a hearty dinner after a good day’s work – eight hours, no more and no less. That is how I like to imagine it used to be anyway. A seemingly wonderful time when people were engaged politically, not jaded. A time when political issues were spoken of openly and enthusiastically, not in secret for fear of being politically incorrect. Or worse, Soviet era level paranoia about bringing increased scrutiny to yourself and your metadata, aka the government’s bio on you, penned and preserved somewhere in the cloud, and in greater detail than even David McCullough could aspire to, if rumors are true. It certainly was not an era where whistleblowers would be labeled as traitors almost reflexively and investigative journalists jailed and labeled the same for protecting their sources.
All these acronymic agencies are quite the researchers. Why can’t we research them just the same? Why can’t we at least know what they are doing without whistleblowers there to shed light? Why would the government so seemingly and blatantly treat the rule of law as mere dirt off its shoulders?
Transparency is the future. Technology has kind of dictated that. I can live with that. In fact, I support it, but only if it is transparency in the truest sense and goes both ways. I am no fan of one-sided mirrors. This is likely a growing pain in the transition towards complete transparency. It is becoming quickly clear that the government cannot fight this organic movement towards transparency. There are simply to many leaks that cannot be plugged. It is a losing proposition for governments in these alleged secret spying endeavors in the end.
I am not surprised one bit over alleged government spying on essentially all aspects of our lives, or at least having access to it at will, allegedly. But how can journalists hold them accountable when even Senators are kept in the dark and it is impossible to have Congressional oversight over the domestic spying allegations with the NSA and the FISA “court” that seemingly rubberstamps every single request without due process or potential for any meaningful adversarial proceeding?
Mainstream media is still at fault here. Notwithstanding a few great investigative journalists looking deeper into this like Glenn Greenwald at “The Guardian,” media is content to frame the issue as Snowden being a traitor to the country for bringing to light these important revelations. Is it far-fetched to think that the ways issues are framed are dictated from somewhere in Washington? I hear whispers, “Focus on Anthony Weiner. Don’t scare Americans. We have invested a lot of tax dollars into this since before 9/11. You need to call Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden traitors to the country, not whistleblowers. This must be dealt with. No mercy shall be given. Potential whistleblowers need to live in fear, always and forever. Isn’t Elliott Spitzer running for some office too? Focus on that.”
Funny thing is, I can understand that point of view to some degree if I was in the government and had spent a lot of time and effort for what I considered a good cause of stopping terrorism at all costs. However, that does not let the media off the hook. They are doing a disservice to every single person, domestic and international, who has fallen under the purview of the spying allegations, by failing to properly investigate this. The only thing mainstream media seems to be doing right is following those hypothetical whispers of directions.
I am close to writing an obituary for mainstream media as we know it. Good riddance, I say. Welcome aboard new bold reporting and in depth investigations in this age where the Internet has given us all tools to share information like never before and collaborate on an entirely different level. Mainstream media had its chance. Now people should support ventures like “Rise Morning Show,” a new weekday morning show that considers its primary job to dig deeper. Never back away, accept the status quo, or become a talking point pundit. Never be that guy who talks for a living, yet says nothing of substance. Be real and hold people, organizations, corporations, politicians, government accountable. The Fourth Estate is in dire shape. Rise aims to help restore it.
Now, more than ever, we need strong oversight over the three branches of government, as well as over corruption in the private sector as well. Rise has an Indiegogo campaign that ends today. See the link at bottom if you would like to learn more about the show and show some support. David Seaman, a popular podcaster and strong critic of the NDAA and NSA is the host. I am very happy to say that I am also involved as producer. Remember all that nonsense talk and failed promises about hope and change? Well, Rise is actually going to embrace those words and make them real.
Long gone is the time when we knew people like Woodward and Bernstein had our backs and the Washington Post had our best interests in mind. I am not even sure I can name an investigative journalist at WaPo anymore off the top of my head. WaPo’s second most popular article as I write this is entitled, “Buttocks injections killing, maiming some women who seek cheap alternative to plastic surgery.” In fairness, there also appears to be a good, yet concerning piece on the front page, “In Afghanistan, a second Guantanamo.”
A real concern here is mainstream media’s move towards “infotainment,” where TMZ-esque stories are commingled with issues that really matter and affect us all. Talented journalists and reporters are now spending valuable time and energy on what are essentially PR pieces because they pay more on a freelance basis, and general fluff journalism where titles and stories are worded not for good writing, but to appease Google’s search algorithm, written as dictated by Google and other search engines to have a chance of being on the first page of particular search results.
Everyone wants click-throughs and a piece of that advertising revenue. There is an entire industry around this. Of course you know of it – search engine optimization, or SEO. I even worked for an outfit for a week or two just to see how off the rails journalism had gotten. My assignments were to write seemingly informative articles. The truth was that the content did not matter, so long as it mentioned a list of keywords and three or four specific phrases or sentences, and seemed legit enough to at least fool Google into thinking it was a relevant article if those terms were searched. This is sickening and more reason why Rise and ventures like it are important in these weird times.
The public forum has largely disappeared, replaced by the Internet. Things could be worse when it comes to media, the once vaunted Fourth Estate, the watcher of the watchers. Technology has led to a huge media fragmentation. Sure, it is possible to find hard hitting, daring investigative journalism. The main problem is that people have to actively seek this out, often on dark corners of the Internet, where fact-checking becomes a necessary accompaniment to the reading. There is also the “echo chamber” problem, where people only visit sites that further validate their points of view. No matter Americans’ particular biases or partisan political views, I don’t think I am going out on any limb by saying there is a shared belief the state of American mainstream media is dismal.
All of this is concerning, but I can’t help but be optimistic. I think that many of these issues will simply be resolved in time through the continued evolution of technology. As far as mainstream media as we know it, well, it’s a dinosaur and the asteroid is near. Despite my comments about various failures of journalists to really cover issues like the allegations against the NSA, I hold high hope for the future. That is because regular people who are genuinely interested in covering relevant issues and investigating corruption and general wrongdoing are coming out of the woodwork, and will quickly commandeer the reins of the Fourth Estate. The Internet provides the tools. And good content always finds an audience.
“Rise Morning Show” is a prime example of this seismic shift in media. Say goodbye to talking point driven infotainment that never goes beyond surface level analysis. Say hello to investigative journalism by the people and for the people. Rise is a great example of a few motivated individuals coming together behind a lot of support from the public with the goal of covering relevant issues every weekday morning, and digging deeper through real investigative reporting. I am proud to say I am on the Rise team. I am prouder to say that Rise, unlike mainstream media, is accountable to no one except its viewers. Rise will be fearless and daring in its reporting, and try to be a major part of this seismic media shift, bring esteem back to journalism, and truly raise awareness on important issues in these strange times, and provide outlets for action where applicable. Today is the last day to show support for Rise through its Indiegogo public funding campaign. Information can be found here. And hey, if you can donate a few bucks, please do! Now is the last chance. – http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/david-seaman-los-angeles-morning-show