U.S. journalism has hit a new low. The latest round of primary elections happened yesterday. On Monday night, when the polls wouldn’t even open in the affected states for at least 12 hours, the Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the Democratic nominee. This led to other major news media outlets to declare Hillary Clinton the first woman to get the Democratic nomination while the primary elections were still ongoing. I’m sure that the premature declaration of Hillary Clinton as the official Democratic nominee probably encouraged some voters in the affected states to stay home, especially if they were Bernie Sanders supporters. I’m not surprised that there is outrage over the AP’s reporting. It’s almost like the Associated Press is more interested in engaging in propaganda to ensure a Hillary Clinton victory than in actually reporting on the elections in a straightforward manner. This graphic that I got off of Facebook says it all:
As someone who received a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland, I’ve been increasingly aghast as I’ve seen the media decline from an institution that is unafraid to go up against the status quo so it could inform the public to one that actually creates the news. How else can one explain the media’s frequent fascination with Kim Kardashian and her family despite the fact that Kim’s one-time stepparent, Caitlyn Jenner, is the only family member who has actually achieved something that was noteworthy (winning a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal long before Kim was even born)?
For years I’ve sensed that the media is more interested in deciding who will be elected than in just reporting on the elections. I still remember watching the Democratic debate back in 1992 when I felt that Paul Tsongas was the one candidate who was the most effective debater. He made a lot of common sense proposals spoken in a straightforward manner. He really resonated with me in a way that the other candidates didn’t—and that included Bill Clinton. Imagine my surprise the next day when I saw the media practically gushing over Bill Clinton saying that he was the best debater and he won that night’s debate. I was dumbfounded to say the least. I began to wonder if I had even watched the same debate as the news media did. Ultimately Bill Clinton won the nomination and he became president. The only silver lining is that had Paul Tsongas been elected, he would’ve died in office of complications from non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer because he died just two days before the end of the presidential term he campaigned for in 1992.
This year’s elections have hit a new low for the media. Initially the media seemed to be gunning for an election between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush as a way of having a rematch of the 1992 elections between a Clinton and a Bush. But then Jeb Bush dropped out of the race because another person threw his hat into the ring on the Republican side and he excited the media: Donald Trump. The media began to glom on to The Donald’s every pronouncement (like building a wall on the Mexico border and making Mexico pay for it). They parrot his remarks but I rarely see a media person actually grill Donald Trump on some of the finer points of his policy positions.
I know that it’s the effect of media consolidation that has been going on in the U.S. staring in the 1980s but it has been accelerated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This next link has a list of the few media companies that still exist in the U.S. today.
When I was a Journalism major at the University of Maryland, I was taught by the professors that a reporter must always be objective when it comes to covering political campaigns. At the time I was even told about some journalists who take their mission to be objective so seriously that they refuse to vote because they worry that privately supporting a candidate at the voting booth may affect their ability to be objective when doing their job.
Boy have things changed since I graduated. Thanks to media consolidation, most news outlets are now owned by corporations who have no issue with giving financial support to a certain political candidate. Unfortunately this has had an effect on how the media covers the elections. One example is that CNN frequently gives fawning stories about Hillary Clinton while ignoring her main rival in the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders. As the links posted at the top of this Reddit thread points out, there’s a reason for the fawning coverage at the expense of doing any serious stories about her policy positions: CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, has made large donations to her campaign.
Of course this has had an effect on journalism overall. Just doing a Google search on “journalism job losses” brings up all kinds of stories about the decline in journalism not only in the U.S. but in other nations as well. A few months ago I wrote in this blog about a man who committed suicide near the Mother and Child statue in Greenbelt, Maryland. I later learned from people who actually knew the guy in real life that after he received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy he initially started his civilian career as a photojournalist until he kept on getting laid off and he had a hard time finding a new job in that field due in large part to media consolidation. He went back to grad school in an effort to change his career. Despite earning a Masters degree in Criminology in 2014, he wasn’t able to find a job in his new field so he had a harder time paying his bills and he ended up doing what he did back in March.
Not only has media consolidation messed around with people’s livelihoods but it is also affecting the U.S. elections in such a shameful manner. It was so blatant that the media preferred Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee early on that I rarely heard stories about her other rivals. I knew Martin O’Malley was running because he’s the former governor of my home state (Maryland). I also knew about Jim Webb running because he is the former Senator from the state that borders my home state (Virginia). So there were local media coverage of both men even though it was largely absent on the national level. However, I never knew that Lincoln Chaffee was also running in the Democratic primary until the night I saw the first Democratic debate last October and I saw him on stage. Both Chaffee and Webb dropped out after that first debate. Martin O’Malley held on for a few more months but most of the media ignored him and he ended up quitting as well. Bernie Sanders is holding on but it’s due to how much he has resonated with people on social media. If it weren’t for social media, I’m sure that Bernie Sanders would’ve been just as ignored as Chaffee, Webb, and O’Malley were.
There are times when I actually regret studying Journalism at the University of Maryland. Had I known then what I know now, I definitely would’ve either done Journalism as a minor with an entirely different major or do a double major with Journalism and one other major that’s unrelated to the Journalism field. There is no way in hell I would ever consider doing Journalism as a sole major like I did because I never got any paid work that’s directly in my field. Journalism was always relatively a challenging field to break into but it has gotten worse thanks to media consolidation. If any high school student ever tells me that he or she wants to major in Journalism in college, I would tell that person one thing: DON’T!!!
UPDATE (June 16, 2016): According to this link a Twitter user known as Guccifer2 has been making a series of exposes regarding how the media and Hillary Clinton’s campaign are literally working together in collusion to swing the election her way and she becomes the first woman to occupy the White House as president. You can see the exposes unfurl in real time right here on Twitter. Guccifer2 also has a blog where you can view those documents that he/she has uncovered so far.
UPDATE (June 20, 2016): Mediaite.com has its own story about Guccifer2 and how the media and the DNC conspired to elevate Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee regardless of how the primary voting turned out.