What happened? We all wondered that, regardless of whom we despised the most for president. The answer: He who controlled the media won—regardless of intelligence, respect and dignity.
That answer also brings up an issue that is even bigger than who holds the office of president: the deterioration of America’s Fourth Estate—independent, objective and fair journalism keeping the public informed of issues it needs to know about. The media—social as well as institutional—are at least in part to be thanked or blamed for Trump’s election.
There are two reasons. First: What remains of bona fide journalistic media increasingly succumbs to the theory it, too, has to share whatever snippet of information pops up, lest it lose readers, listeners and viewers to others peddling that information. In fact, “information,” in the strict sense, may be a misnomer: It no longer matters how stupid or unrealistic the information is; if it’s attracting an audience—or might—many journalism organizations run with it.
Trump understands this and has brilliantly used the situation to his advantage. He lobs sensational, sometimes fact-free, comments, almost always on Twitter, knowing that today’s entertainment-focused, click- and viewer-dependent media will redistribute them. The more sensational and upsetting (at least to some), the more they become “news,” and the more he owns social media, talk shows, the top segments of broadcast newscasts and newspaper front pages and columns.
It’s propaganda, not news. News is what somebody actually does, has established real methods to achieve or has done that affects or will affect the public. Trump’s sensationalistic tweets are garbage, and the media should boycott them.
The other reason our fourth estate is crumbling is that fewer and fewer people want to pay for objective journalism; they would rather be entertained, usually for free, via online content. For many, ignorance—including researching only their own point of view—has indeed become bliss. Combine that with smart people who know how to tweet to control news cycles, and you get what Green Day described in its 2004 song “American Idiot”: “Now everybody do the propaganda, and sing along to the age of paranoia.”
Indeed, a high and growing percentage of Americans seem to believe anything they read or hear, as long as it fits their point of view and interests. Increasingly, they want sensationalism, shock-and-awe and entertainment—it’s easy, and it doesn’t require them to have to think.
Meanwhile, for those who really want to be informed, there’s less good journalism out there, even as fake news has surged. It costs money to produce something unique, balanced, interesting and important—yet budgets to produce such content have been cut deeply across most news organizations within the last 20 years. Fair and objective investigative journalism is now only possible at a small percentage of newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations.
Thus it’s important for us all to support those media we still can trust, and to help others understand why they should do the same.
TCB, like other publications, has a tight budget, but we still manage to produce high-quality journalism on a regular basis (see our listing of awards below). This is why we appreciate, more than you know, the support we receive from our readers, advertisers and sponsors. Thank you for helping ensure Minnesota has objective, fair business news and perspective through these pages, our electronic publications and our live events.
I’m also proud to work with a team of dedicated, experienced journalists who remain committed to delivering information the public needs to help our economy and community grow stronger. This includes understanding what’s important for Minnesotans, whether the issue is veterans in the workplace, wealth migration or high in-state tuition at the University of Minnesota.
A recent example is executive editor Adam Platt’s Dec. 1 online story which revealed that Macy’s told the City of Minneapolis it will close its downtown Minneapolis store in 2017. Originally a Dayton’s department store, the building’s holiday offerings have long been a tradition; because many would want to know whether this could be their last Christmas at the heir to a Minnesota institution, Adam worked tirelessly on that story for weeks. Sure enough, the story was widely shared through social media, and was picked up by other media, following our report.
Of course, there are always areas in which we know we can improve, and we look forward to doing so this year. Please keep the ideas and feedback coming. And thank you, again, for supporting the work of our small, dedicated group here at TCB.
Folio: Eddie and Ozzie Awards B-to-B Regional Business Magazines
The Alliance of Area Business Publishers Publishing Excellence Awards
Society of Professional Journalists Minnesota Page One Awards, Magazines:
Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association Annual Excellence Awards Business/Trade Over 30,000 circulation: