The media has for most of our history played their role as an independent viewer, reporting to the people on what was happening at the local, state, national, and international levels. Although somebody was always questioning one aspect or another of their reporting, generally the media, in most cases, provided the available facts so critical for a democracy to succeed. But this seems to have changed. Journalism used to be about getting the story out. Today it is tied much more to selling advertising, getting clicks, making money, and cutting staff—particularly investigative reporters. The latter is particularly true of our newspapers here in Kansas.
We too often have news dominated by what is sensational and exciting versus what is of real importance for our future. Whatever brings in the most advertising dollars will garner the most coverage. In our current dog-eat-dog environment, I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised, but if you have grandchildren like I do, you kind of wonder what their future might be like.
As one plays with the TV remote on almost any given evening, flying through the channels just to see at a glance what might be happening, the odds are quite high that the subject matter will focus on tweets, outrageous behavior, investigations, self promotion, and the latest sensational revelation. The main question I always have is: What is going on that seldom, if ever, makes the news? Unless one takes in a lot of media—likely spending all day scrolling through the New York Times or Washington Post—you can be sure you are missing every day critical actions by the federal government where transparency would likely have altered the outcome.
In particular, the television media's fascination with covering the then-candidate and now current President has had a huge impact. They certainly gave him an advantage in the primary over much more qualified candidates and then did likewise in the general election. But now, as blanket coverage continues and his approval ratings seem to rise, we will soon be faced with a second term possibility. Either the press grows a spine and starts reporting more again on substantive issues and not who tweeted what, and the Republican Party comes to their senses, or we have even more real trouble ahead.