And now in other news…

Dissatisfaction with ever-bigger media companies stimulates growth of alternative news sources.

Marco Visscher | November 2003 issue
Earlier this year, an American Senate committee asked media tycoon Rupert Murdoch to justify the fact that each week his radio stations dedicate over 300 hours to conservative political viewpoints, and only five hours to more liberal perspectives. The 72-year-old owner of so many companies that to list them all would take 10 pages, broke into a grin. ‘Apparently,’ he responded blandly, ‘conservative talk is more popular.’
The Senate committee was considering new legislation to remove obstacles to the concentration of media companies. The draft law would mean that the big market players, including Murdoch’s News Corporation, would be given more room to buy up even more television and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, publishers, websites and film companies. Good news for Murdoch, who, with earnings totalling some US$17 billion last year, still has a ways to go to catch competitors like Viacom, Disney and General Electric, which are good for a combined total of US$180 billion.
The question the committee put to Murdoch deserves a better answer, if for no other reason than the fact that it inspired sizeable protest campaigns by a variety of interest groups – from feminists to Christian fundamentalists, and from the consumer movement to the association for flexible regulations on weapons ownership. They fear that ‘controversial minorities’, such as themselves, will become further marginalised or ignored by the media. After all, they claim, the bigger the media conglomerates become, the more market-oriented. And the more market-oriented the media are, the more difficult it will be for those with alternative, daring visions to get attention.
The problem is not unique to America. The British journalist and author George Monbiot recently approached it from another perspective. In New Statesman (July 30, 2003) he complains that journalists increasingly identify with the political and societal elite, which means they are increasingly shifting to the right of centre. Because they have become absorbed in an elite that represents power, they have unconsciously taken on the moral duty to abandon those without power (the unemployed, homeless, migrants).
This is comparable to the contention of investigative journalist James Fallows. The poor have become ‘invisibilised’ in the American society, a colleague quotes him as saying in The Sun (January 2003). The media are kept afloat by advertisers that – quite simply – can sell more to people that have more money to spend. Therefore, journalists focus on this group by providing – another development – more economic and investment-related news along with new sections and magazine inserts for newspapers that are all geared to specific target groups that are interesting to advertisers.
In The Atlantic Monthly (September 2003) Fallows describes the deeper problem with this new market orientation. News is treated like any other business sector and is not strictly regulated by the government. This implies that the press is not concerned with providing solid information and convergent opinions, but is focused on serving a market. Such an approach is the antithesis of the vision that journalists have the responsibility to serve the public interest.
This is nothing new. What is new is that this recent development toward liberalisation of the media landscape has received the express approval of a government – in this case, the American government. And that government plays down the problem by rationalising that cable or satellite television and the Internet provide more freedom of choice than ever, so those looking for other news sources are not neglected. Fallows entitles his analysis ‘The age of Murdoch’.
Columbia Journalism Review (September/October 2003) takes just the opposite view in its cover story: ‘The new age of alternative media’. The trade journal notes a growing dissatisfaction with ‘Big Media’ and, at the same time, a longing for more individuality among writers and political passion. In the past, this could only be found in obscure and often highly militant weeklies, but modern technology has made it possible for every amateur to produce his own alternative media product.
Behold the emergence of the weblog, a website where information is regularly refreshed, placing the latest stories on top. Pieces often contain one or more hyperlinks to other online stories. Thanks to free technology provided by companies like Bloggger.com, you no longer needs specific web publishing skills to launch your opinion into cyberspace. For some three million people this has become a liberating way of joining the media fracas without simply adopting the fixed conventions of traditional journalism. Good weblogs differ from a newspaper in the personal approach of the writer, the interaction between the weblogger and the readers, and the surprising diversity and curiosity of sources.
Another counterweight to the commercial media is the Independent Media Center (IMC), an international collective of activists fed up with having journalists ignore their ideas, misquote them and criminalise their actions. The mainstream media maintains the status quo, according to IMC volunteers, while they profess to be neutral and objective. Anyone can place a news item on the websites of IMC (Indymedia.org), which now has a presence in scores of countries on all continents. As a rule, these items do not even try to appear objective, and have a strong political slant.
A new – or actually quite old – phenomenon is the reporter that collects money to write stories. According to Wired News (March 14, 2003) Christopher Allbritton can call himself ‘the Web’s first independent war correspondent’. The journalist, who formerly worked for the Associated Press wire service, collected over US$14,000 from more than 300 benefactors on the basis of a simple promise: he would go to Iraq and report original and honest news items on his website (Back-to-Iraq.com), free from commercial and patriotic influences. At its peak, 23,000 visitors logged onto Allbritton’s site. The benefactors were the first to get the story – written on a laptop, sent via a satellite telephone or in an Internet cafe – and they were given the opportunity to send ideas for articles to Allbritton.
According to Business Week (July 28, 2003), this type of journalism is a ‘powerful megaphone for the little guy’. The greatest future potential, the publication says, is in countries where independent, reliable information is hard to come by. Such as South Korea, where OhmyNews.com is a popular website that obtains 80% of its news from over 25,000 civilian journalists that are paid what the editorial staff are willing to give. The site was said to have made an important contribution to the recent election victory of Roh Moo-hyun, a human rights advocate who was not very well known and largely ignored by the media giants.
In the Columbia Journalism Review Jay Rosen, chair of the journalism department at New York University and prominent press critic, makes a comparison to clarify the new-found interest in alternative media. ‘Medical authority is simply not the same in a world where patients do their own research on alternative drugs and treatment regimes. It would be surprising if authority in elite journalism remained the same when the very readers the New York Times cultivates (educated, affluent, curious) are themselves rich in alternative sources of news. Do Net-surfing patients stop trusting their doctors? No, but they are less likely to be overawed. Something like this is happening in journalism, making users more assertive.’

Solution News Source

And now in other news…

Dissatisfaction with ever-bigger media companies stimulates growth of alternative news sources.

Marco Visscher | November 2003 issue
Earlier this year, an American Senate committee asked media tycoon Rupert Murdoch to justify the fact that each week his radio stations dedicate over 300 hours to conservative political viewpoints, and only five hours to more liberal perspectives. The 72-year-old owner of so many companies that to list them all would take 10 pages, broke into a grin. ‘Apparently,’ he responded blandly, ‘conservative talk is more popular.’
The Senate committee was considering new legislation to remove obstacles to the concentration of media companies. The draft law would mean that the big market players, including Murdoch’s News Corporation, would be given more room to buy up even more television and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, publishers, websites and film companies. Good news for Murdoch, who, with earnings totalling some US$17 billion last year, still has a ways to go to catch competitors like Viacom, Disney and General Electric, which are good for a combined total of US$180 billion.
The question the committee put to Murdoch deserves a better answer, if for no other reason than the fact that it inspired sizeable protest campaigns by a variety of interest groups – from feminists to Christian fundamentalists, and from the consumer movement to the association for flexible regulations on weapons ownership. They fear that ‘controversial minorities’, such as themselves, will become further marginalised or ignored by the media. After all, they claim, the bigger the media conglomerates become, the more market-oriented. And the more market-oriented the media are, the more difficult it will be for those with alternative, daring visions to get attention.
The problem is not unique to America. The British journalist and author George Monbiot recently approached it from another perspective. In New Statesman (July 30, 2003) he complains that journalists increasingly identify with the political and societal elite, which means they are increasingly shifting to the right of centre. Because they have become absorbed in an elite that represents power, they have unconsciously taken on the moral duty to abandon those without power (the unemployed, homeless, migrants).
This is comparable to the contention of investigative journalist James Fallows. The poor have become ‘invisibilised’ in the American society, a colleague quotes him as saying in The Sun (January 2003). The media are kept afloat by advertisers that – quite simply – can sell more to people that have more money to spend. Therefore, journalists focus on this group by providing – another development – more economic and investment-related news along with new sections and magazine inserts for newspapers that are all geared to specific target groups that are interesting to advertisers.
In The Atlantic Monthly (September 2003) Fallows describes the deeper problem with this new market orientation. News is treated like any other business sector and is not strictly regulated by the government. This implies that the press is not concerned with providing solid information and convergent opinions, but is focused on serving a market. Such an approach is the antithesis of the vision that journalists have the responsibility to serve the public interest.
This is nothing new. What is new is that this recent development toward liberalisation of the media landscape has received the express approval of a government – in this case, the American government. And that government plays down the problem by rationalising that cable or satellite television and the Internet provide more freedom of choice than ever, so those looking for other news sources are not neglected. Fallows entitles his analysis ‘The age of Murdoch’.
Columbia Journalism Review (September/October 2003) takes just the opposite view in its cover story: ‘The new age of alternative media’. The trade journal notes a growing dissatisfaction with ‘Big Media’ and, at the same time, a longing for more individuality among writers and political passion. In the past, this could only be found in obscure and often highly militant weeklies, but modern technology has made it possible for every amateur to produce his own alternative media product.
Behold the emergence of the weblog, a website where information is regularly refreshed, placing the latest stories on top. Pieces often contain one or more hyperlinks to other online stories. Thanks to free technology provided by companies like Bloggger.com, you no longer needs specific web publishing skills to launch your opinion into cyberspace. For some three million people this has become a liberating way of joining the media fracas without simply adopting the fixed conventions of traditional journalism. Good weblogs differ from a newspaper in the personal approach of the writer, the interaction between the weblogger and the readers, and the surprising diversity and curiosity of sources.
Another counterweight to the commercial media is the Independent Media Center (IMC), an international collective of activists fed up with having journalists ignore their ideas, misquote them and criminalise their actions. The mainstream media maintains the status quo, according to IMC volunteers, while they profess to be neutral and objective. Anyone can place a news item on the websites of IMC (Indymedia.org), which now has a presence in scores of countries on all continents. As a rule, these items do not even try to appear objective, and have a strong political slant.
A new – or actually quite old – phenomenon is the reporter that collects money to write stories. According to Wired News (March 14, 2003) Christopher Allbritton can call himself ‘the Web’s first independent war correspondent’. The journalist, who formerly worked for the Associated Press wire service, collected over US$14,000 from more than 300 benefactors on the basis of a simple promise: he would go to Iraq and report original and honest news items on his website (Back-to-Iraq.com), free from commercial and patriotic influences. At its peak, 23,000 visitors logged onto Allbritton’s site. The benefactors were the first to get the story – written on a laptop, sent via a satellite telephone or in an Internet cafe – and they were given the opportunity to send ideas for articles to Allbritton.
According to Business Week (July 28, 2003), this type of journalism is a ‘powerful megaphone for the little guy’. The greatest future potential, the publication says, is in countries where independent, reliable information is hard to come by. Such as South Korea, where OhmyNews.com is a popular website that obtains 80% of its news from over 25,000 civilian journalists that are paid what the editorial staff are willing to give. The site was said to have made an important contribution to the recent election victory of Roh Moo-hyun, a human rights advocate who was not very well known and largely ignored by the media giants.
In the Columbia Journalism Review Jay Rosen, chair of the journalism department at New York University and prominent press critic, makes a comparison to clarify the new-found interest in alternative media. ‘Medical authority is simply not the same in a world where patients do their own research on alternative drugs and treatment regimes. It would be surprising if authority in elite journalism remained the same when the very readers the New York Times cultivates (educated, affluent, curious) are themselves rich in alternative sources of news. Do Net-surfing patients stop trusting their doctors? No, but they are less likely to be overawed. Something like this is happening in journalism, making users more assertive.’

Solution News Source

SIGN UP

TO GET A Free DAILY DOSE OF OPTIMISM

Optimist Subscriber
Delivery Frequency *
reCAPTCHA

We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously. Privacy Policy