This year’s Project for Excellence in Journalism report argues that the entire news media industry is breaking up into niche players, packaged and promoted “less on how they cover the news and more on what they cover.”
This is helping create what PEJ calls “the answer culture” – a growing trend where news outlets show a vested interest in taking sides on the few issues they’ve chosen as their product to capture a share of the fragmented media marketplace.
“This is something that was once more confined to talk radio, but it is spreading as it draws an audience elsewhere and in more nuanced ways,” reads the report. “The most popular show in cable has shifted from the questions of Larry King to the answers of Bill O’Reilly. On CNN his rival Anderson Cooper becomes personally involved in stories. Lou Dobbs, also on CNN, rails against job exportation. Dateline goes after child predators. Even less controversial figures have causes: ABC weatherman Sam Campion champions green consumerism.”
Will this branding of personified news turn things around for a industry that is feeling as irrelevant as it is distrusted by the consumer? And what does this trend say for how news media will cover complex but socially polarizing business issues, from the local controversy over a proposed Wal-Mart to a big-name CEO on trial for insider trading?
That isn’t for the news business to decide anyway, says PEJ director Tom Rosenstiel. “Almost every part of this is a double-edged sword.,” he said in an interview with Mark Glaser’s MediaShift blog. “The big shift is that more responsibility is in the hands of consumers. They have more choices and can make better and worse choices. They can delve into more source documents, see the entire interview or they can watch the entertainment channel all day. The media is no longer controlling the gate."
The far-reaching, 160,000-word 2007 State of the News Media report was created with funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Start by visiting the report's web site.
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Previously in Scatterbox...