Why It's Called the Lamestream Media
I spent 15 years in the news media, and to this day am proud of the work I did and the industry I was in. Lately though, I have been hearing the term "lamestream media" to describe the mainstream media, which used to provide me a living.
I first bristled at the term, but as time has gone on, I can understand why people have issues with what they see on TV, read in the newspaper, or hear on the radio.
In the last two weeks, there have been three specific cases that pointed out how the news media has changed so drastically from when I was in it all those years ago.
Auston Matthews Has Coronavirus
Ten days ago, Toronto Sun sports reporter Steve Simmons broke the story that Toronto Maple Leafs star forward Auston Matthews had tested positive for the coronavirus in Arizona. That’s not the real story here though. It was the reaction to it.
Simmons was vilified for breaking the news and “interfering with Matthews’ right to privacy about a personal medical issue.” I didn’t get it. The fact that Matthews had tested positive for the virus, especially since he had been training with other NHL players, was news. It should have been reported. Matthews is one of the best goal scorers in the league.
Well apparently not.
There was nothing about this story on TSN, which bills itself as Canada’s Sports Network, other than a clip of Simmons when he appeared on Toronto’s TSN radio. Mind you, it was only up for about three hours before taken down from the TSN website. Even worse, there wasn’t even a mention of the story on Sportsnet, which is based in Toronto and holds the NHL broadcast rights after spending billions of dollars a few years ago for them. TSN also televises regional NHL games and both the network and the Maple Leafs share the same parent company as an owner.
Why did Canada’s sports networks basically avoid running the story? Was it because they deemed it to be a private health issue and Matthews had a right to privacy? That might explain it, if they hadn’t run stories on positive tests for star players in the NFL, NBA and other leagues and named names. Did they get a call to kill the story from corporate higher ups? Or did they just not run it because they knew it would have caused embarrassment and friction with their bosses? To date, nobody from Sportsnet or TSN has explained their position.
Regardless, Canada’s sports networks both clearly bowed to the power of the dollar and made editorial decisions based on following the money.
Trump's Tulsa Rally Leaves MSNBC Giddy
It’s just not sports where editorial positions are questioned. It’s happening every day in the US, especially now that coronavirus cases are going through the roof and the election is little more than four months away.
For years I haven’t watched much of Fox News, because of right wing position it takes on so many political stories. The election of Donald Trump just made its bias worse.
CNN is getting just as bad. You can’t turn it on and watch for 15 minutes without seeing numerous editorial shots taken at Trump and his administration.
Last Friday morning when I checked the CNN website, I was greeted by a bold three-line headline across the top of the page screaming “Health experts blame failures on America’s leaders” Earlier that morning a smaller headline read “Record surge in US obliterates Trump’s fantasy vision.”
I’m no fan of Trump. Far from it, but as major media outlets complain about how everything in America is turned into a political battle, the biggest news networks are playing a major role in widening those divisions.
It’s not just CNN. I watched some of the coverage of Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma a week ago Saturday on MSNBC and commentators were giddy there were so many empty seats in the arena.
A little bit of fairness in reporting would be refreshing.
The Great Divide That is Alberta Talk Radio
Local talk radio is also interesting. CORUS has Alberta's two biggest talk shows. There's the Ryan Jespersen show on 630CHED in Edmonton and Danielle Smith's show on 770CHQR in Calgary. Smith is the former leader of the Wildrose party, who left politics a few years ago.
Recently, Jespersen said on Twitter that he has asked Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and other members of his cabinet to appear on his show several times in the past, but they refused. He also said after one cabinet minister (Drew Barnes) did appear on his show, a reminder went out “from the top” to the party's MLA's to boycott Jespersen’s show.
If Jespersen is correct, then it's a pretty solid news story that Alberta's Premier has blacklisted a radio talk show. In the meantime, Kenney appears on Smith's show on a regular basis. In fact, his cabinet ministers and their supporters are on it so often you would think they have season's tickets.
Perhaps it all makes sense though. Politically Edmonton is much more left-leaning than Calgary and Jespersen’s views and comments reflect that. Jespersen and Smith are not paid to be impartial. They’re paid to host entertaining shows that stimulate people to think and spark debate. They do it well, especially Jespersen. I have complimented him a couple of times for the great radio he's done.
My issue is, it has become difficult for listeners to get unbiased information on both of Alberta's major talk shows. Recent interviews both hosts did related to the chance of Alberta separating from Canada are good examples. It was night and day.
As a result, we find ourselves getting information and wondering what’s fact and what’s opinion and what's right and what's wrong. Whether it’s sports news that’s covered up because of corporate ownership, or news programming that continually takes sides, we’re left in the position of questioning what we’re getting from mainstream media.
As the years go by, it seems mainstream media has a mounting agenda that’s used to influence opinion. Maybe that’s why so many people are turned off.
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It's rare for journalists to acknowledge this shift in their profession. Thanks for confirming that you see what so many listeners and readers have noticed. We're having to work much harder to sift through predictions and opinions to find the facts.
There is something else going on here. It seems as if journalists have become afraid of each other. Before you allow yourself to criticize CNN, for example, you recite the obligatory "I'm not a fan of Trump. Far from it..." as if a pro forma statement of the kind is necessary, as if you must signal your own bias as a credential for having a valid opinion. That's the problem all journalists seem to be facing right now. You are afraid of your own shadows or of being cancelled for not having the right opinions.
I don't care if a journalist is a fan of Trump. Or Trudeau. Nothing is less relevant to the news than your opinions of your opinions. These days, I'm following Blacklock's Reporter for political news. It's great to find journalists who still know how to report a story without adding a twist of opinion.
Please keep going in this direction. We need experienced journalists to cast a critical eye on what's happening to their profession and to the people we used to trust to deliver daily reports of the world around us.
Thanks for your insightful comments Virginia.
I made the reference to not being a fan of Trump's because as soon as a person like me knocks CNN and MSNBC for biased coverage against the President somebody would likely point the finger at me and accuse me of saying that only because I'm a Trump supporter. I'm not. That's the point.
I'm also a fan of Blacklock's Reporter. Thanks again.
I sometimes wonder whether this a reflection of mainstream media drastically changing it's roles and relationships? Mainstream media used to be predominantly local with items of regional or national interest being picked up from local affiliates or from agencies.
The focus was on news and the relationships and accountabilities were local. Even the business/revenue model was local. Mainstream media today is very much "top down" in what it chooses to focus on and it does this within an organizational structure that is quite different in how it operates and in what it prioritizes.
Operationally, it's business model is now national so its focus becomes less on providing as much information as possible to its readership (or listenership etc.) and more on not offending as much of its readership (or listenership etc.). This is what drives the coverage from broad to narrow and from in-depth to shallow.
Complicating this of course is also the change in revenue models whereby national advertisers are more attractive than local ones and national advertisers as well will want to be associated with as little controversy as possible.