When did Mainstream Media get to be a dirty phrase?

I once thought the worst one might say about mainstream media is that it was professional, predictable, at times boring, but usually responsible, generally trustworthy and fact-checked.

Today it is under attack, principally by Fox and talk radio as something disreputable and surely not to be trusted. In fact, listening to the right-wing media it seems they are on a campaign to set themselves up as the only viable alternative to mainstream.

Isn’t there a contradiction in that, or am I missing something? How can the fringe become mainstream in its own right? And why would it? Once it became mainstream wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of being radical in its own right?

Sean Hannity attacks the media weekly (daily) with such vile that it he has become a caricature of a little boy ranting while trying very hard to appear like a sober, elder newsman.  The more he bobs and bops, the more his girlish strop becomes increasingly inane.

Here’s a headline Mr. Hannity – you are every bit as much mainstream media as the next network anchor.  You cant enjoy the kind of publicity, prominence, power and viewership without being part of the mainstream.  Try as hard as you want to deny it, but you have met the enemy – Mr. Mainstream, and you are him.

What’s curious too is the unstated contradiction raised by this.  Michael Savage boasts he is America’s most popular radio talk show (clearly something he wants and needs in order to maintain ratings and advertising revenue) and then attacks everyone else as mainstream.  He wants in as part of the club yet wants no part of its membership?  Fox TV does the same.  They want to be treated as mainstream – part of White House pools and other media seen as responsible, national journalists, and they compete for the purpose of divvying up the advertising pie, but yet at the first chance they get – their personalities say, oh no – not us; we’re not mainstream but we’re different, special, counter-culture.  Isn’t it interesting that conservative voices are today seen as counter-culture?  Back in the old days… that just seems very different.

Look – mainstream or not – the question is what’s wrong with being seen as mainstream – tell the facts, provide insight, do the tough pick and shovel work of stationing reporters all over the globe and the country and provide news coverage of important events, regardless of how they may attract ratings.  Tell the news that responsible editors believe need to be told and understood.  Provide analysis and not rants.  Provide context instead of opinions delivered with increasing angst and volume.  Limit assertions in favor of sound bites and quotes from individuals engaged in the stories, and do so for more than :50 to :10 seconds each.  What value is so short a sound bite?

Mainstream used to be a good thing.  Why now is that the enemy?  Why should it be the enemy?  And why should we – any and all of us – have to decide what news we like on this basis.  News isn’t supposed to be a popularity contest – it was never intended to be a profit center –  but we now spend more time killing the messenger than we do in listening to the message.  It is both wrong headed and dangerous to the Republic.

The message is this – tell me what you have to tell me, don’t boast over how good a job you’re doing at telling me, and stop decrying everyone else for the job they’re doing.  Just do your job – fair and balanced, and I’ll decide.

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Author: Peter Shaplen Productions

More than four decades of experience as a journalist, producer, reporter, writer and professor of news, corporate production, crisis management.

3 thoughts on “When did Mainstream Media get to be a dirty phrase?”

  1. I would argue the term is “dirty” because it accurately describes standard network news that, when compared to the “new media” such as Fox News, proved to be biased, left leaning and sanitized by the doctrine of political correctness. In effect, news that lacked intellectual honesty.

    1. David, thanks for adding your good thoughts here – as I wrote on FB in reply, Surely you would agree Fox is mainstream in its power, importance, prominence? And if the “others” are left-leaning, surely wouldn’t you agree Fox is also tilting to the right?

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