Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Return of Yellow Journalism

Something I have followed with great interest is the declining state of the media. Major newspapers are closing their doors, cutting services and laying off journalists. In Canada, and many other places, we cannot rely solely on the traditional media to hold governments, businesses and individuals to account. For me, for a long time, we have been entering an unsettling period where accountability is in steep design and we may be living in a post-media socio-political world shortly.

And then something strange began to happen. In the wake of the Trump election I heard that the New York Times has been growing and the Washington Post announced a massive expansion. To be clear I do not believe the Times or Post participate in yellow journalism. The sad reality is that Donald Trump is so divorced from reality that straight edge journalism now comes off as scathing criticism.

We certainly live in interesting times.

It's not merely the success of the Times and Post that make me think we may see a transformation in media in the coming years. The proliferation of fake news and other dubious information sources, including Canada's own Rebel Media, points to the fact that people want a point of view and an agenda with their information. Psychologist can prove with stacks of papers that people get psychic and social pleasure from information confirming their biases and worldview. It's not merely the right. I caught a CBC news item about the growth of left-win political podcasts in the last few months. John Oliver is no doubt a trusted authority to many around the world, but his politics are fairly transparent.

This is, of course, nothing new. Fox News has been on the air for decades. News magazines and periodicals have with a clear bend have been part of the mainstream decade for more than a century. The problem is that the so-called neutral media will be increasingly outflanked by their more partisan colleagues. Anti-Trump consumers of media want to read how he lies, not that he misspoke or was inaccurate. His defenders want to hear about how the Muslim ban was overturned by activist judges and that Americans have a right to defend their borders.

Early journalism was all yellow. The high-minded, unbiased image of the press is a relatively modern phenomenon. Most newspapers originated as the mouthpiece to a particular political faction or party. Oddly enough I find I have fewer problems with this than I at first imagined. There are definitely problems with this drift, no doubt. However, as we move forward, I would much prefer to live in a world of yellow journalism than no journalism at all.

No comments: