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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Future of the Mass Media

  • Author(s): Massing, Michael
  • Sheer, Robert
  • et al.
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Michael Massing argues that the news media is being adversely affected by the internet because of declining advertising revenue. As a result newspapers and television networks are cutting staff, especially foreign correspondents. The top-tier of newspapers has been adversely affected but second-tier newspapers like the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun have been devastated. As a result there is a greater reliance on fewer reporters and fewer areas of coverage. In order to increase revenues newspapers have begun to cater to affluent audiences. Thus, they have larger business section and fewer reports on poverty and labor/working class issues. Massing outlines some of the structural forces at work with reporting including the general gravitation pull to the political right as a result of constant attacks on the “liberal media” by pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, the influence of public opinion on what gets investigate and how it is reported, and the over-reliance of the press on Washington insiders. He also takes up the reporting on Iraq and concludes that the internet cannot replace a large news organization with “deep pockets”.

Robert Scheer is not pessimistic about the media today because many forms of it have continued to sell like books and movies. Radio is also vibrant. He concedes that newspapers are in trouble and may need a new business model. Likewise, blogs and news aggregators like the Huffington Post and Truthdig are also trying to build economically viable ventures. Further, he argues that the internet has facilitated much more research, made access to news instantaneous and offered more perspectives on current events. He credits the media with ending the idea of US empire through exposing its costs, delegitimizing the idea of the US as a “city on a hill”, and questioning the central role of markets in US society. He notes that there are a good many excellent journalists active today and journalism could be even better if academics wrote more broadly, if large corporations did not dominate the big media outlets, and if there was greater public control of the media.

The accompanying audio files provide the complete recording of the two talks.

Main Content

Massing talk


Sheer talk