Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Slow, Agonizing Death of the Establishment Media

Critics have long charged the major television networks and the print media, lead by The New York Times, with a decidedly anti-market bias. One would have thought that the establishment media might have responded with more balanced coverage if for no other reason than to satisfy their customer base. Instead, they have merely substituted more (biased) opinion for information, further irritating their critics. Not surprisingly, the establishment media has suffered a substantial loss of market share to alternative news sources. It seems that the media’s anti-market bias has blinded it to the realities of the market.

Apparently giving up any hope of reaching most of educated America, the media’s response has been to “dumb-down” its coverage to gain market share. Listening to the major news networks today is much like attempting to catch a glimpse of the Olympics through all the sappy personal interest stories. Instead of hearing economists explain the reasons for rising gas prices, we are treated to snippets of conversations with individuals expressing their frustration while pumping gas. There is precious little news content left. The same is increasingly true on the pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. The latter recently carried a front page story that begins with the personal travails suffered by individuals as a result of gas prices. Some local channel operators have confided in me that the de facto education level of the target audience for network and local news is 8th grade (or lower)! It can’t be much higher for the print media.

Educated Americans hungry for information are increasingly turning to the internet and highly specialized news sources. As a consequence, the establishment media is becoming more and more irrelevant to those who lead the country. This may partially account for why their business coverage is becoming increasingly more hostile (and less informative).

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