Is the investigative journalist a thing of the past ?
Updated: Jan 27, 2022
By Staci-lee Sherwood
For many people who came of age watching the evening news and reading the morning newspaper it sure feels like they have gone the way of the dinosaurs or at least are on that path. I remember years ago the news industry wasn’t so hesitant about publishing the truth even if it meant outing a sponsor or friend. Of course this practice has always been a delicate balance between power players who owned newspapers and their friends or frenemies who ran corporate America. The choice between having integrity and courage to support journalists in their pursuit of following money trails and obvious corruption has waned over the years.
The war on journalists is one of the reasons the news industry has become more of a quasi entertainment formula using sound bites to replace actual news stories. The hard hitting news of days gone by have been effectively removed to the point where people under 40 barely remember what watching the ‘news’ at night used to be like. Reporting the truth especially when it involved the government was always a precarious job. However actual attacks including arrest and imprisonment of journalists who dare to write the truth about government corruption, corporate malfeasance or war not only face a loss of a job but possibly loss of their own life. It really has become that bad on a global scale and it doesn’t appear to ever change. Perhaps this is why the public gets snippets of news or more soft fluff stories instead of the raw reality.
Many Americans expect to see dictators of third world countries having journalists who write unfavorable stories dragged off in the dark of night to unknown prisons but bawk at the notion it could happen here. Yet over the years it’s become clear that indeed the fertile ground for such tyranny to grow is being laid if ever so subtly right under their noses.
Add to that the unfortunate trend where most Americans now get their news from the internet. As far back as 2004 studies were showing a consistent decline in the public’s use of traditional established sources for news like television, radio and newspapers in exchange for the online sources many of which do not fact check. According to a study in 2019 done by the Pew Research Center they found that ‘over half of Americans (54%) either got their news "sometimes" or "often" from social media, and Facebook was the most popular social media site where American adults got their news.’
While the internet in general can be a great source for news the trend is disturbing because the public is choosing to go to social media sites for news instead of relying on long established media companies like the New York Times, Washington Post and The Wall St Journal who have their own websites. The danger here is that the public actually seems more likely to be swayed by deliberate misinformation that is not fact checked and put out there by the hundreds of bloggers and writers who write opinion pieces as if they were fact. For years this was a slow creep until 2017 when it suddenly exploded and the notion of real news VS fake news became the story.
Another reason for the decline by the public to go to established media is the fact that instead of being independent most media (tv, radio. newpapers) are owned by a scat few corporations. Currently there are 6 corporate empires that own and control the majority (approx 90%) of the media and they are (source the motley fool june 2021)
The latest merger is AT&T which has since transformed itself from a telecom provider to a major media company with the acquisitions of Time Warner (now WarnerMedia) and DirecTV.While the public is lead to believe they have choices and balance when it comes to news, and anything else they watch that is no longer true. Corporate agenda oversees the news and everything else that goes out to the public. That is the illusion the corporate media likes to foster when they claim there is objectivity in journalism. Fewer and fewer journalists and publishers are willing to go up against their corporate masters.
While conservatives often perceive an openly liberal bias in the media , critics on the left see big, corporate-owned media institutions like The Times as becoming more right leaning. I guess the balance is that no one trusts any news source.
One of the more disturbing trends I noticed over the years is a more tightly controlled practice of not releasing names in a story. The policy of naming names has always been sketchy but has gotten to where it’s a rarity to ever see in print the name of anyone doing something wrong except for celebrities. It’s infuriating to read an article about some atrocity and then get to the end without reading the name of the company or government agency, the name of the person in charge who is responsible for the said atrocity and what the average joe can do about it. For many of us that is THE main reason for the news in the first place. What is the point of alerting the public if you refuse to give them the crucial information they need to do something about it ? Even worse is when this occurs during food or medicine recalls when the writer glibly mentions ‘companies’ but fails to mention what companies are involved so the reader can determine if they have consumed a dangerous product. This seems to be not only unethical but something that should be illegal.
A final thought is this, if we the public still wish to look to the news industry as a trusted source of information we had better start supporting the few independent media companies still left.Free press is the bedrock of any democracy and as more media companies are consolidated under one big corporate umbrella and more journalists are jailed for writing the truth where and who can we look to for the truth ? Has the time come for the public to become their own investigative reporter and whistleblower and have we gone past the point of no return ?
If you would like to investigate on your own about who owns what you might want to try
Below is a chart showing just a small sampling of the consolidation
Also published on Daily Kos on janaury 26, 2022 https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2022/1/26/2076843/-Is-the-investigative-journalist-a-thing-of-the-past