The Emerging Mediascape
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500 channels and still nothing on’ is the gloomy assessment of these two media experts. In fact, what the public receives via TV and internet these days is often worse than nothing, at least where news and information are concerned. Mark Jurkowitz laments the “infinite news hole” pioneered by cable television, and describes mounting pressure on print outlets as technology transforms journalism. Witness the “mega story:” talk-based programs featuring embattled celebrities. O.J. Simpson and Martha Stewart stories are cheap to produce and provide gist for “national water cooler conversations,” says Jurkowitz, but do not add to the public discourse. Jeffrey Dvorkin remembers when “news doctors” eliminated foreign desks to increase network profits in the 1990s. He points to the “rise of opinion makers…who took away the value of fact-based reporting.” This is a dangerous trend, says Dvorkin. A public without basic reporting faces “a dire situation, an age of missing information.” In commercial radio, mass consolidation has left small towns without local news. When a South Dakota town had to evacuate for a chemical spill, authorities phoned the only local radio station in town only to find the phone being answered in San Antonio, Texas. “After 20 years of thin gruel…the public distrust us. We give people informational comfort food and they don’t believe we provide balanced information.”
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