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Tales From Why Mainstream Media Don’t Matter Like They Used To

Two incidents highlight their declining ability to just plain report. That’s BECOME the news story in many situations

Recently, I wrote about the way mainstream media (MSM), facing a steep and steady decline in profitability, public interest, and public trust, have reached the point where politicians can ignore them with impunity. The politicians haven’t changed; rather, the voters have. MSM probably don’t play nearly as big a role in how voters (and consumers) make up their minds today as do social media — after all, social media is where the advertising dollars have gone, and it’s probably no accident…

No longer needed for basic information, MSM now mainly advertise the views of a social elite to the public. A longtime newsman recently mourned the loss of objectivity, but the transition to upscale soapbox has made that loss inevitable — and irreversible.

Two recent events in the hapless, now unstoppable decline — may help us understand where we ourselves are today. Two come to mind:

In a recent piece at CommonSense, Jesse Singal dissects the way in which MSM fell for a racial abuse claim lodged by a black player on the Duke University women’s volleyball team, playing against Brigham Young University (August 26) in BYU’s arena at Provo, Utah.

Unsurprisingly, major media outlets were all over this story. The Times’ coverage set the tone, with the Washington Post and CNN and Sports Illustrated and NPR all publishing similar articles, alongside the predictable think pieces.

Jesse Singal, “How the Media Fell for A Racism Sham” at CommonSense (September 15, 2022)

Briefly, the story collapsed after a student newspaper started making local inquiries. But, as Singal points out, the big story was not the unsubstantiated accusation itself:

All the journalists who credulously reported on this event were wrong—and it was an embarrassing kind of wrong, because the red flags were large, numerous, and flapping loudly. Richardson and her family members reported that racial slurs had been hurled with abandon, loudly and repeatedly, in a crowded gym filled with more than 5,000 people. But the journalists covering this incident never stopped to notice how odd it was that none of these vile slurs were captured by any of the thousands of little handheld cameras in the gym at the time, nor on the bigger cameras recording the match. Nor did they find it strange that in the days following the incident, not a single other eyewitness came forward—none of Richardson’s black teammates, and none of the players for either team.

Jesse Singal, “How the Media Fell for A Racism Sham” at CommonSense (September 15, 2022)

That’s a critical development.

Let’s say we choose to substitute pious cynicism for the traditional journalist’s skepticism (= “The story supports what we believe so it’s too good not to be true”). Well, fine. But a story with that many holes is bound to collapse, and fairly soon too. It’s a bad investment even for ideologues. The complete absence of normal critical-thinking skepticism suggests an absolute decline in media skills.

People who are concerned about actual instances of racism would be poorly advised to rely on the MSM for information about them.

Our second incident is a curious story from Canada, in which a news reporter with a national TV channel actually started heckling the speaker at a press conference:

The reporter, David Akin, is not an indie. He is with mainstream channel Global News. Pierre Poilievre, the heckle-ee, so to speak, is the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

The background to the Canadian MSM’s unabashed hatred for Poilievre is not just that he is conservative. For them, much worse is his campaign promise to end lavish funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The CBC employs many journalists but is watched by only a small percentage of Canadians. There’s a parallel here with Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, who gives the U.S. MSM short shrift.

Both politicians know that, however the voters tilt, the MSM’s influence matters much less than formerly. Watch for more instances of this type of political calculation.

And the fallout… ?

At one time, a representative of a major news organization would not heckle. It wasn’t virtue on his part; it was because those who can destroy need not merely disrupt. But perhaps it’s got to the point where the MSM reporter no longer has any sense of power.

You may also wish to read: Newsletter group creates alarm plus demands for censorship Substack is getting a lot of ink these days — raising both hope from readers and hand wringing from old media. The surprising thing about “controversial” Substack is that it is a restoration of the very old idea that we should pay a small amount for the content we want.

Denyse O'Leary

Denyse O'Leary is a freelance journalist based in Victoria, Canada. Specializing in faith and science issues, she is co-author, with neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul; and with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor of the forthcoming The Human Soul: What Neuroscience Shows Us about the Brain, the Mind, and the Difference Between the Two (Worthy, 2025). She received her degree in honors English language and literature.

Tales From Why Mainstream Media Don’t Matter Like They Used To