Comment 54414

By Borrelli (registered) | Posted January 04, 2011 at 12:15:56

Interesting piece, Ryan, and timely given the structural changes that will continue to happen at the Spec, and the media landscape in general.

You ask, "Can they stop thinking of themselves as gatekeepers of authority and start thinking of themselves as fellow community partners?"

A shift along those lines would require a massive, voluntary re-orientation of the news-media organization's place within a discourse, relegating itself to one of many voices, as opposed to THE voice of authority. This decentralization may be desirable to someone like you or I, but its unclear if it can jive with a business model that still relies on major advertisers to generate cash, and established links with the economic and political elite to offer comment (on or off the record) to produce authoritative-looking content.

Not to get overly Marxian here, but there's still a ton of value in Critical analyses of the MSM that are years old. I think it's hard to look at the current dynamics embroiling the news industry without dusting off your old copy of Manufacturing Consent and taking a gander at the Five Filters that distort content, and essentially REQUIRE centralized, top-down editorship.

When advertisers control so much of your operating budget, when sources are fickle and often politicized or partisan, the "truth" runs the risk of endangering the viability of the organization. Industrial MSM orgs need a monopoly on legitimacy and authority to (explicitly or not) insulate advertisers and other power brokers they need to tap to produce content and make money. Ceding authority to smaller players, or other forms of community knowledge/news only serves to chip away at an already fractured readership, depresses advertising dollars, but most dangerously, it creates cultural space for contention and/or dissent over which they have no control.

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