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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Yet Another Obit for Mainstream Media

More and more, it appears that the CBS News "memogate" debacle has marked a turning point in the history of the nation's news media. Newsweek's Howard Fineman adds his voice to the list of those who are declaring the traditional "mainstream media" dead, or at least beaten beyond recognition. Much of what Fineman writes echoes what has already been said, but he makes one rather profound observation:

[T]oday's media food fights are mild compared with the viciousness of pamphleteers and partisan newspapers of old, from colonial times forward. Yes, I know: the notion of a neutral "mainstream" national media gained a dominant following only in World War II and in its aftermath, when what turned out to be a temporary moderate consensus came to govern the country. Still, the notion of a neutral, nonpartisan mainstream press was, to me at least, worth holding onto. Now it's pretty much dead, at least as the public sees things.

Instead of blaming the bloggers and other technologies for corrupting journalistic objectivity, Fineman observes that "bias" is actually the normal state of affairs in media, and that neutrality is an abberation. It appears that staking out a political position will be the wave of the future for the nation's media (ever notice how few political blogs are moderate?), and that George W. Bush is merely the first in a long line of highly polarizing political figures.

But who will benefit from this polarized new world? Those who can argue their positions most clearly? Those with the most money and power? Those who have charisma and a flair for showmanship? The sexiest and most outrageous? We'll soon find out.

Source: MSNBC.com