Thursday, July 17, 2008

Popular sentiment in the blogosphere

One great thing about the blogosphere and the interactive web is that it exposes you to some interesting thoughts and comments from people responding to blog posts, articles, and media clips, all around the world.

All across America, and around the world, it seems people are starting to take more of an interest in where they are getting their information from, and in understanding the agendas driving media companies and news outlets.

Media ownership has become more concentrated and the remaining TV, radio, and print news outlets have become increasingly driven by commercial concerns and a commitment to the bottom-line.

While this focus on profits is to be expected from media-focused corporations (and lauded by their shareholders and directors, at least in the short-term), it tends to bring about an accompanying decline in the quality of news reporting and the variety of news stories offered.

As "hard news" stories and international coverage drop off, and reporting standards and quality declines, the reading and viewing public loses out.

This shift leaves more discriminating readers and viewers cold, and these once-dependable "news consumers" are voting with their feet, with many canceling their newspaper and cable TV subscriptions altogether. Many of these disillusioned news patrons are now opting to get a large part of their news and information from a variety of online news sources and opinion outlets, such as blogs, international news websites, and trusted financial websites and communities.

Here's one recent example of this shift, courtesy of the reader comments at Barry Ritholtz' blog, The Big Picture.

While reading through the comments responding to Barry's takedown of a recent Barron's cover story ("Why Barron's Housing Cover is So Terribly Wrong"), I noticed these revealing remarks from readers "Unsympathetic" and "bluestatedon":

"Mainstream media is gratuitous schlock, not worthy of consideration. Famed? Perhaps to baby boomers who are used to respecting public figures. I'm 30. Until proven otherwise, I believe everything I see on TV or in print.. is pure spin, and factually incorrect." - Unsympathetic.

The second commenter agrees with the above and elaborates:

"IMHO a big part of the problem is found in the gradual corporatization of the media, but I also have concluded it's also a product of crappy journalism programs at the collegiate level. And you can also include our rotting and decrepit public education system.

For obvious reasons, an adequately functioning democracy absolutely requires the voting public to be well-informed, and a crucial link in that process are people who work at furnishing the truth to the public. Today's class of journalists are, by and large, more suited to an authoritarian state than a democracy. The trouble is, I doubt that your average mainstream "journalist" would be able to write a coherent paragraph describing the functional and legal differences between the two systems. As long as they have a nice lunch and get to quit work at 5, it's all the same to them.

Which is why the dirty, filthy bloggers laboring amongst the internet tubes are so important. Yes, there's plenty of crap on the internet, but if you know where to look (this site, as an obvious example), the truth — and real, hard, information — is available." - bluestatedon.

What you see here is a complete lack of faith in the traditional mass media sources that have dominated the spectrum for the last hundred years.

We also seem to have reached a point where many in America are now expressing outrage and disbelief over the current state of the nation and the treachery of our supposed political leaders and a pliant media. These sentiments are not limited to certain financial blogs; you can find them in just about any online news site or blog that hosts reader comments.

Of course, there are still some excellent journalists and mainstream news sources out there. Regular readers of this blog know that I am fond of reading and quoting from the Financial Times and Bloomberg, to name two such examples.

In fact, I suspect news outlets that remain committed to maintaining high standards of quality in their reporting will buck the trend of mainstream media abandonment and acquire new readers and viewers in the long-run. Many of these converts will be those who jumped ship from other newspapers and media outlets where eroding standards and lack of reader/viewer accountability are evident.

But for now we seem to see, in the blogosphere and the interactive web, a growing distrust of politicians, appointed government officials, and the MSM (mainstream media) as a whole.

How does it look out there to you?