Midway through The Brass Check, Upton Sinclair had this to say about the American newspaper industry, circa 1920:
The American people thoroughly despise and hate their newspapers; yet they seem to have no idea what to do about it, and take it for granted that they must go on reading falsehoods for the balance of their days!*
Sinclair’s claim isn’t accompanied by survey data, but when Gallup asked 1,025 American adults last September whether they trust newspapers, television and radio to report the news “fully, accurately and fairly,” only 40% said they do. That number was even lower among younger and less conservative respondents.
Had Gallup asked me, I’d have told them that I get all my news online, but not from corporate mouthpieces like CNN. I’m a consumer of alternative media primarily and secondarily and of mainstream media only for purposes of triangulation.
Diane Rehm Show (NPR) substitute host Derek McGinty’s recent response to a listener’s charge of media bias, in this case against Bernie Sanders, would seem to endorse my approach, though I don’t think it was intended to. When a man named George called in during the May 6 domestic news roundup to say he believes that more black voters in the South might have voted for Sanders if his campaign had been covered more responsibly, McGinty didn’t defend the coverage. Instead, he asked George whether “voters have the internet.” Because, he said, “there’s a lot of information on there that you can get any time you like.”
In other words, he side-stepped the critical fact that black Democratic voters who support Clinton in South Carolina skew older and therefore are much more likely to get their news the old-fashioned way, regardless of whether they “have the internet.” NPR congressional reporter Susan Davis followed up McGinty’s red herring by pivoting away from the topic to DNC talking points.
This is exactly the kind of arrogant irrelevance that makes the choice between corporate media and populist media so stark for people like me. Stark and obvious. It’s why mainstream media is going and going, and why, no matter how much hairspray or how many crane shots get thrown into the breach, it soon will be gone.
To the highest bidder, of course.
*Upton Sinclair, The Brass Check (Pasadena, California: self-published, 11th edition, March 1936), 201.