I have been seeing several trends over the past few years. I hope that others are doing the math.
2+2=4. And that’s what scares me.
So here is what I am seeing:
– Fewer and fewer staff photographers and reporters at newspapers across the country = less independent reporting = more reliance on “self-reporting” by subjects. This is often seen in the form of handout photos, whether from the government or from PR agencies or from corporate communications offices.
– Media acceptance of “press passes” as a permissible means of the government deciding who gets a right to report the news, even in a public place + More restrictions on granting of press passes by the government, especially by non-traditional media + the closing and reduction in coverage of many newspapers = Fewer watchdogs of the government and more control of the message by the government.
– More restrictions on access by government and corporate entities + media cooperation by accepting “hand-out” photos = more and more cases of photos appearing in traditional media that are actually manipulated or staged or, at a minimum, edited to make the subject look favorable.
If you add up these three things, then you have this:
fewer independent journalists
+ more restrictions on access
+ more news provided by the newsmaker
+ more manipulation of the “news” by the newsmaker
= a deeper walk down the slippery slope of control of the message by the subject, AND a steep decline in truthful, accurate, reliable information available to the public.
How can a nation make decisions about it’s government without accurate, truthful information. It can’t.
So who’s fault is it?
It is natural for anyone in power to want to control the message. But it is the job of the media to not cede that control. The media is failing. Furthermore, citizens are failing in demanding this of their media and of their government.
I’ll be looking to see how the Obama administration treats access. I am optimistic, but this is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It is something that happens with power. I challenge journalists everywhere to take a bigger stand.
It is our jobs. Don’t be a dunce.