In a recent Twitter survey I conducted, nearly 90% of people rated their trust in mainstream media as either “very low” or “low.” And is it any surprise? Ever-mounting media consolidation has narrowed the perspectives the public is privy to, ownership and funding of these corporations are riddled with conflicts of interest, crucial stories keep suspiciously getting buried, and big tech companies are outright censoring and demonetizing independent outlets trying to break through the noise. The media is supposed to function as a power check — and a means of arming us with vital information for shaping the society we want to live in. It’s never been a more important industry. And it’s never been more at risk. In this series, I’ll tackle each factor threatening the media’s ability to serve our democracy — with input from journalists, media critics and professors, and other experts.
* As regulations around ownership have continued to loosen over the last 40 years, the power over the media has become increasingly concentrated. A major culprit is the Telecommunications Act signed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1996, which 72% of the public didn’t even know about and no one voted on.
* Today, Comcast, Disney, AT&T, Sony, Fox, and Paramount Global control 90% of what you watch, read, or listen to. These companies spend millions on lobbying each year to sway legislation in their favor.
* Local news is dying out, with more than 2,000 U.S. counties (63.6%) now lacking a daily newspaper.
* Interlocking directorates — which describe situations in which a board member at a media company also sits on the board at other companies, also create conflicts of interest. Publicly traded American newspapers are interlocked by 1,276 connections to 530 organizations, including advertisers, financial institutions, tech ﬁrms, and government/political entities. These interlocks are only disclosed to readers about half the time.
* More than 30% of editors report experiencing some form of pressure on the newsroom from their parent company or its board of directors. Pressured editors admit to taking a more relaxed approach in reporting practices when covering interlocked individuals or organizations in the news.
* Half of investigative journalists say newsworthy stories often or sometimes go unreported because they could hurt the financial interests of their organization, and 61% believe corporate owners exert at least a fair amount of influence on decisions about which stories to cover.