As a journalist I find I often have to defend the media a lot, because we are the enemy and it’s our fault everything is wrong. Between governments and the media I am not sure who gets blamed the most for the world’s ills and society’s disarray.
Truth be told the media is not entirely blameless, we produce more news than is needed, yes that is a thing but more that later, and we bow to society’s construct of what the news ought to be. When thoroughly interrogated you will find that the media can be tactless and some of the old taste and class that would ordinarily be associated with such a respectable institution has since faded away.
A recent solution to the media’s continued damage to society is to burn it down and begin again. There are some hard truths about the media that we, the media, tend to ignore. Self-reflection and introspection does not come easy to the fourth estate. But one must ask: can we truly still call ourselves the fourth estate?
The schizophrenia of the media cannot be denied and its impact no longer ignored. Between selling out to advertising to keep journalists like myself employed and attempting to be an honest voice for the people we caved and sold out to the highest bidder – society.
Here is what happened, somewhere between the acrobatic wordplay that challenged governments, the deep thoughts that questioned the Church and forced society to take an introspective look into its own shortcomings the media became something else. It became gossip and gloss, it cared more about what society wanted to know rather than what it needed to know. It began to mirror society rather educate and inform it. A healthy balance of both was lost. We began publishing more news than we ever needed. In every respect we, the media, created issues so we could talk about them.
Celebrities and their missteps are a construct of society. If the world did not find it interesting it would not be published. The many falls of Justin Bieber is the young pop star’s way of playing his role in the spotlight, a place were relevance means everything. I often refer to the deaths of celebrities I hadn’t heard of in a while. I am constantly cautioned that just because someone is not in my entertainment does not mean they are dead. This is true, but society aided by its greatest ally, the media, has made it so. If you do not dance on this stage we have created for you then you are irrelevant. Your dance, its method and its message are not important, but the fact is you must dance and entertain us. So how can we then chastise the likes of Miley Cyrus for the emergence of her risqué and rebellious side when we have proven to her that this sells? The truth be told, we like the new Miley because she gives us something to talk about and we can judge or admire her, depending on which side of the fence you sit, because at the end of the day she breaks the monotone of our days. She is not different; she is just another version of others that came before her.
Some will argue that the world of gossip, the most successful media arm, is in a way uplifting and allows us as society to escape our own mundane or tragic lives. Some will argue that it is a bit of fun, a laugh at the expense of celebrities that are too silly to know any better. What would happen if we all stopped caring what celebrities did? What if we followed politics, healthcare issues, and education issues with the same fervour that we followed stars of tinsel town? Imagine the revolution that would be. What if we gave up reality television and engaged with hard-hitting drama and stories with interesting plots that challenged our thinking?
I do not defend the media nor do I place blame squarely on society’s shoulder. I will not attempt to use my prose to mitigate the damage this fine institution of ours can impose on impressionable young minds. The media let it happen.
However, if you would humour me for a moment longer: Thomas More argues that if a government were to suffer its people to be ill or uneducated and have their manners corrupted from infancy when those people become criminals because they don’t know better can it not be said that first that government first created criminals then punished them?
A magazine editor recently told me that no matter how much she wanted to represent the everyday woman on the cover of her glossy, it was impossible because no one bought it. “I tried,” she said “and I failed miserably and went back to the airbrushed beauties.” As much I cannot defend the ‘media woman’ she is a construct of my own making and the media simply represented her to me. Now I have begun to see the errors of my ways but I am only one of a few.
So if by accident or design society through uses and gratification compelled the media to produce and report on its underbelly of moral ambiguity and ill-conceived ideas then perhaps it can be said society created the media and it now crucifies? And vice versa.
In the end, the media sticks to what it knows with very little discernment and taste. Some media houses have no rules and their content jungles slug it out with best of the best. Some may not like it but plenty others do and they are willing to pay for it. And lest we forget the media is a business.