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Monday, November 10, 2014

Dear Editor


I know the last five or six years have not been easy on you.  The Great Recession and the Internet’s maturation coupled to put you on the precipice of the tipping point.  What will you do to remain relevant and needed?  Will you remain a leader in the world of the news media or will you fade to black?

The questions are not asked just because the economic model of print is challenged, nor are they asked because of the digitization of everything.  I ask them because the content of many daily newspapers and magazines feels too empty and lacking the substance it should have and that is sorely needed.

America has always had a strong press.  But now one has to wonder where print publications rank in a fractured and diluted media landscape.  Readership is down.  So is the viewing of TV news.  Radio has held its own and the Internet is booming.  It’s not just a matter of which format people digest their news from that’s important, but rather the accuracy, depth, and diversity of the content should concern us.

For centuries, it was newspapers that educated America of the news, not by just reporting it, but by analyzing it.  But the media of the 21st century is, to a degree, broken.  Is the media collectively doing what it should do, such as:

·         Report on the important stories.
·         Cover things accurately and fairly.
·         Entertain but also enlighten media consumers.
·         Research records and uncovering facts of importance.
·         Provide basic readings: weather, sports scores, movie and book reviews, Wall Street stock prices.
·         Investigate a story thoroughly and provide in depth perspective.
·         Champion an issue and sparking debate.

Because of cutbacks to major newsgathering outlets like the New York Times and many print publications, is society injured in ways unimaginable?  The media does its best, but falls for short.  We need it to give us access to things we otherwise wouldn’t see or know existed.  We need exposure to people, things, and events beyond what we normally involve ourselves with.

The media is becoming too interactive.  We have participatory journalism, reports filled with unscientific polls and ordinary citizen commentary.  What happened to having a respected, trained, experienced and impartial foundation of journalism reporting the news and not waiting for its readers – viewers – listeners to talk back and become the news?

All media encourages consumer participation when it comes to creating content but it’s reaching a point where it seems like the news media is crowdsourcing a lot of low-level content.  Everyone’s an aggregator and an opinionated yakker.  The news has morphed into stories that entertain, not necessarily inform.  It provides visuals and debates, but what of just the facts and news that defines society?

A new site was launched recently, called Emergent, in hopes of examining stories circulating in the media that need to be debunked. It will help begin to tell us if a story is confirmed as true or false or if it can't be verified. The media needs this -- especially online -- to keep it in check. Can one site do all of this? It is doubtful.

The ratio of the media is off.  From original local reporting, we now have syndicated content dominating the scene.  We used to have mainly news, and some room for feedback, editorializing, and sharing views of common people but now it’s some news and a lot of sharing of views by non-journalists.

The media needs to turn itself around and go back to being a guardian of democracy, an arbiter of good taste and what qualifies as real news, and most of all, it needs to be left to educated and trained sources who act in a balanced manner.  Without a strong media we lack a conscience for society.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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