As discussed in Part I of this IV part series, De-Regulated To Ignorance, millennials grew up with a defunct media industry that was largely lacking in fact and integrity due to the removal of government safeguards. As a result, they are informed by a homogenized and biased corporate media that slants its stories and presentation of news toward the economic and political elite who run, fund, and create “news.” Thus, rather than question those in power, it serves those in power. What millennial era voters need are journalists who investigate and expose the abuses of those in power, not reporters who repeat narratives touted by the power elite.
In the millennial’s era, the de-regulated news media gears its broadcasts for profit not the distribution of relevant information. Corporate news is dangerous for democracy because a corporation’s legal mandate is to pursue profit without consideration for the consequences faced by others. Thus, as news was de-regulated, corporations focused on profits – by cutting 35,000 jobs in news media since 2008 – rather than quality. A problem arises, as journalists curtail criticisms of those in power because it undermines their two separate but related interests: the pursuit of profits (which affects journalists’s daily routines indirectly) and the cultivation of powerful sources (which has a direct effect on their daily routines). Reporters fear that if they criticize those in power, it will result in the closure of their access and thus their career. Thus, the news media is biased toward the economical and political elite as politicians’ access to the media allows them to set the agenda for news coverage and the point of view reported.
The close relationship of those in power and the media is visible annually at the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) dinner. The WHCA is a collection of journalists reporting on the President. The event includes ritualized mocking of the President and the press as they revel in their close relationship. In 2007, New York Times columnist Frank Rich argued that the dinner is “a crystallization of the press’s failures in the post-9/11 era” as it “illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows.”
The close relationship of those in power and the media resulted in political parties and news corporations creating the millennial’s “news” and thus views. FOX News became the blueprint for partisan television media. Former political operative Roger Ailes modeled FOX as a partisan talking piece for the Republican Party. The Democrats followed his design with their own biased media outlet: MSNBC. It included liberals and insiders such as Rachel Maddow and former Democrat strategists Chris Mathews. Pundits such as Sean Hannity of FOX and MSNBC’s Joe Scarbourgh and Keith Olbermann promote politicians to whom they personally contribute campaign funds. Similarly, John Kasich used his status on FOX to become Governor of Ohio where he could perform union-busting. In 2013, Stephanie Cutter while working for the Obama White House on communications strategy was a co-host on CNN’s Crossfire. Instead of focusing on how the collective bias against views outside the two major parties is bad for democracy, corporate pundits focus on a deceptive partisan bias. They give the appearance of representing diversity, when in fact the perspectives represented constitute only a narrow range of the spectrum of political opinion.
Pundits who will not serve the financial interests of the network are removed and their perspective is censored. Bill Maher’s long running show Politically Incorrect was canceled after he challenged the profitable patriotic narrative in the post-9/11 world by stating, “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly.” Bill Press claims that while at MSNBC he was told not criticize fellow MSNBC host Michael Savage because it threatened ratings. MSNBC’s is partially owned by GE who sought to make large profits from the war with Iraq and as a result removed pundits who opposed invasion including Jesse Ventura and Phil Donahue.
The Invasion of Iraq was the result of corporate media touting the message of political and economical elite. Examining television news broadcasts and print news accounts, FAIR found that, in the weeks leading up the war, “Nearly two thirds of all [news] sources, 64 percent, were pro-war, while 71 percent of U.S. guests favored the war. Anti-war voices were 10 percent of all sources…Thus viewers were more than six times as likely to see a pro-war source as one who was anti-war.” The result matched the outcome as 68% of US citizens supported the war under the false pretense that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). A ratio of 25 to 1 of US news media guests claimed there were WMDs in Iraq. The existence of WMDs in Iraq was proven false soon after the 2003 invasion, but three years later 50% of Americans still believed they existed.
The millennial era has witnessed many forms of traditional journalism either disappear or become overwhelmingly biased. A fifth of newspaper journalists lost their jobs from 2001 -2009. There was a 9% drop in the amount of daily news from 2009-2010 alone. Cuts in Congressional funding forced the once celebrated PBS to confront a dilemma between accepting corporate funding or ceasing to exist. As a result, private funders now control content, such as PBS contributor David Koch who cancelled a documentary critical of his interests. Even the last bastion of hope, the Internet is an extension of corporate news. A few major corporations dominate the most popular Internet news sites. Eli Praiser, the board president of MoveOn.org — the progressive public policy advocacy group—found that search engines reinforce rather than challenge people’s beliefs as companies such Google, AOL, Facebook, and ABC News personalize searches based around past search history.
As the millennials influence on the electorate increases, they will need a media revolution to protect the flow of information and thus the foundation of democracy. They will have to change the way voters-most importantly themselves-conceptualize media in order to protect themselves—and democracy.