The point of the media is to inform the public and hold accountable various actors, such as governments and businesses. When functioning properly, the media acts as a crucial element of democratic countries. When compromised, the media undermines democracy and accountability, serving only specialized interests.
When the media is criticized today, it is generally shallow and partisan; either the media is too liberal or too conservative. I do not believe the media’s main problem is its place on the political spectrum. Yes, certain media outlets can act too partisan. But in general, I believe calling the media liberal or conservative is a clever political ploy. Saying the CBC is left-wing eventually forces the CBC to move to the right which, in turn, moves all political talk right of where it used to be. And calling the mainstream media “liberal” is a genius tactic by conservatives to explain away any political wrongdoing by conservatives and any political rightdoing by liberals. If it is reported on the news that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen, this is attributed simply to “liberal bias” and not Obama’s policies. Similarly, if Sarah Palin calls Africa a country, media reports of this are explained away by shouts of “liberal bias.”
These are simply political ploys and do not get at the real problem with mainstream media. The media’s main problem today, particularly in the U.S. is its laziness and sensationalism. This stems naturally from our economic system that demands profit. Private media outlets need to attract advertisements, so they need to attract viewership. It is not profitable, therefore, to research a story in-depth and report on important global issues. Instead, the media focuses on trivial matters and stories that would be better suited for MTV or TMZ.
Recently, over about four days, I decided to take screenshots of some of CNN’s featured stories. This is a very unscientific way of proving my point, but I think it it’s effective nonetheless. CNN has moved from a valuable news organization to one that drives viewership by appealing to populist and unimportant “stories.”