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Foreclosing On the Fourth Estate Essay

According to a recent study by The Pew Center of Charitable Trusts titled The State of the Media 2008, the traditional perception of the perpetually hectic newspaper press room which was so brilliantly brought to life in the 1971 Billy Wilder film adaptation of the 1928 hit Broadway comedy The Front Page, is soon to be no more (State of, 2008). It seems as if in the environment of today the Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau characters might easily find themselves on the unemployment line.

Of the hundreds of thousands of jobs that we have seen hemorrhaging from out of the American economy over the last eight years, newspapers have been amongst the hardest hit; suddenly forced to drastically cut their staffs. This is more than just a symptom of the enormous economic downturn. It represents a seismic shift in the way that the news is delivered and by whom. No longer does General Electric (NBC) Disney-Viacom (CBS) Murdoch News Corporation (FOX) Time Warner (CNN), or any number of other big name corporate MSM (Mainstream Media), hold tyrannical sway over what is deemed newsworthy.

The presidential campaign of 2008 has seen a vast insurgency of online newsrooms overtaking the traditional platforms of television and newspapers. We are quickly moving into a new era beckoning the arrival of the full democratization of what was once traditional MSM content. What is considered newsworthy, is in the hands of the public more today than ever before. Over just the last eight years, this trend has begun to evolve as a consequence of three separated developments which have impacted the cultural, political, and technological landscape of American life; each of which can be measured as an aspect of the burgeoning of a brand new age.

What is true is that the cultural and political landscape in the United States has changed considerably since 911. Furthermore, the New Global Information Age has taken a decidedly large technological leap forward. The signs now point to a vast promising new age of massive innovation and multinational exchange. Hopefully, America will lead the way. Culturally, while the Baby Boomer Generation has begun to increasingly negotiate a rather sedate senior lifestyle, Generation Y has begun to come of age.

For a great many of these youth, the most significant events of their formative years was the shocking tragedy of September 11, 2001 and the war in Iraq; now largely viewed as a terrible and costly mistake. Suddenly, at a time when many youth have just reached an age of responsible adulthood and are now able to vote, the enormous historic significance of the 2008 election has signaled a once in a lifetime opportunity to really have a stake in their own future.

The great sense of power that has engendered has helped to let loose a fervent stream of youthful innovative creativity. Understandably, this has also become an era of great civic involvement nationwide, cutting across all demographics. This level of public engagement in a presidential election has not really been seen since the era of Watergate. The striking impact of the Barack Obama Campaign should not be overlooked in all of this. Capitalizing upon this remarkable sentiment has always been a significant aspect of his campaign for change.

Politically, by this year Bushspeak, the notorious tactic of manufacturing reality by repetitive falsehood (Kellner, 245) and the Republican strategy of using national security against the Democrats almost like a bludgeon, based upon the traditional perception that they alone had the mettle to protect the country in a time of crisis, could no longer hold water. The Karl Rove strategy of attempting to divert the nation’s angst into a sense of wanton nationalism has also quickly fallen by the wayside.

(Chromsky, 120) The use of scurrilous ultra patriotism profusely expressed in the campaign slogan ‘County First’ has fallen on deft ears for a majority of the public in the face of the their universal desire for true tangible change. Bush the Younger’s handling of the war in Iraq and his handling of the economy has ultimately caused severe damage to the Republican brand. After 911, for most of the nation, the whole nature of what it actually meant to be an American had suddenly been thrown open to question. More importantly, within this vast sea of public anxiety was a growing widespread feeling of political betrayal.

This could be seen manifest not just towards the Administration, but also to some extent towards the corporate media who continually refused to bring the government to task on some of the most significant issues of our time. During the 2000 election, the MSM seemed to be more interested in reporting the stylistic mechanics of the campaigns rather than on investigating the records of the candidates. The press often seems more involved in presenting a carefully scripted polarizing drama for the sake of entertainment, rather than simply reporting that which should have been of real concern.

The public has been growing increasingly cynical of the corporate press (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 142). Voters no longer seemed to matter to them anymore. With the dawning of the 24 hour news cycle, the election of 2004 only seemed to feed the growing cynicism of the corporate press. This was a gross misreading of public engagement in the political affairs of the nation. Nevertheless, by 2008 the corporate media had lost much of its Madison Avenue mojo. The most significant aspect of this change in how we receive the news today and most likely will increasingly receive it tomorrow is the birth of what has been called Web 2.

0. It is the difference between the technology of yesterday and the technology of tomorrow. However, the internet and specifically blogging has essentially restored the classic public square where partisans could at one time gather for a hearty discussion of what was important to them without the filter of simply being told what they should be concerned with. In an article titled The Blogosphere as Coffeehouse Douglas Trunbull writes “Blogging has restored the public intellectual sphere that has been lost for most in America (Trunbull, 2001)”.

Moreover, this year has seen the rise of a new multi-platform type of ‘microblogging. ’ Today, social networking websites like Twitter, Digg, Delicious, and countless others allow users to actually join in on a public discussion and add their own content to a continuous stream of information if they chose. This feed can then be downloaded on multiple platforms if they choose to do so. The popularity of websites like Facebook and Myspace has given way to an entirely new commerce of instant messaging.

What is news on an intimate level and worldwide can now be instantly downloaded to everything from a notebook computer to a cell phone using SMS technology. It shall become increasingly impossible for network news programs to compete in a fast moving highly innovative environment. The majority of the new internet newsrooms have already begun to integrate microblogging into their sites. Fortunately for Time Warner, Rick Sanchez and Don Lemon have also caught up with this trend and have integrated this innovative culture into their shows on CNN News. This is clearly the wave of the future, and corporate America has begun to take notice.

The speed of the 24 hour news cycle and the growth and the competition for readership from what are today numerous popular news-driven websites (like Huffington Post, Real Clear Politics, and Politico), all of which are arguably on a profession par with any of the other corporate television newsrooms in the nation, has completely changed the journalistic landscape. Indeed, within the last fifty years the corporate media has for the most part been able to bask in its unchecked power. Often gregariously known as the Fourth Estate, it would appear overtime that who was to be elected president was only that who the corporate media favored to win.

More or less what we have witnessed overtime is an industry often posing as an objective observer, while all along acting to manufacture and mold reality. With the birth of the new media, it is more than likely that this will become somewhat a thing of the past. Perhaps what we are witnessing is an industry that has simply come full circle. It was in fact nearly a century ago when Madison Avenue introduced the newspaper industry to the operative modern science of corporate advertising (Ewen, 62). One can only imagine how this commercial boom affected the journalistic integrity of the MSM at that time.

This was actually the era that set the scene for the Billy Wilder movie. Jack Lemon plays Hildy Johnson, the star reporter of the Chicago Examiner. On the eve of his wedding he finds himself back in the sordid enclave of his old newsroom. He has vowed to quit the trade after coming to the realization that his whole career has been a lie. As the quickening pace of the plot revolves around political intrigue and murder, he grapples with the urge to write just one more blockbuster story. What shall he do?

BIBLIOGRAPHY Chromsky Noam, Hegemony Or Survival: America’s Quest For Global Dominance Henry Holt and Company 2003 Ewen Stuart, Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture Basic Books 2001, Douglas Kellner, Media Spectacle and the Crisis of Democracy: Terrorism, War and Election Battles Paradigm Publishers 2005 Kovack Bill and Tom Rosenstiel, The Element of Journalism What Newspeople

Should Know and the Public Should Expect. Crown Publishers 2001 The Project for Excellence in Journalism, State of the News Media 2008 (The Pew Research Center of Charitable Trusts. March 17, 2008) http://www. stateofthemedia. org/2008/narrative_overview_eight. php? cat=1&media=1 Turnbull Douglas, The Media History Project. The Blogosphere as Coffeehouse. University of Minnesota 2001 http://www. mediahistory. umn. edu/archive/blogging. html


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