Media are not your friends

Mike Masnick capably unwinds jargon, posting several times per day at the well known Techdirt. Here’s his exploration of our current sad media:

Tim Lee recently highlighted an interesting, but worth exploring, aside made by Will Wilkinson, talking about the concept of “journalistic capture.” You are (hopefully) aware of the concept of regulatory capture — whereby regulators effectively become tools of the industries they regulate. There are a variety of reasons behind this, in part due to the fact that industries will always have more advanced lobbying activities rather than consumers or other parties, but also due to the fact that there’s often a revolving door between regulators and the industries they regulate. That’s why industry lobbyists all too often write the bills that regulators introduce and pass. Regulators are all too happy to allow this to happen — as their main source of information about those industries comes straight from the industry reps themselves. Thus, the “need” for any particular piece of legislation is quite often presented from the industry’s viewpoint directly. Basically, since the industry controls the flow of information, the laws come out in their favor. Regulatory capture at work.

Wilkinson’s point is that something quite similar often happens with journalists and the industries or individuals they cover.

Basically, the journalists are almost entirely reliant on their sources within the industry to provide the information necessary for reporting on that industry. Thus, the insiders are able to shape the story and often have it come out to their advantage — just like laws and regulatory capture. It’s certainly not a new concept to think that journalists often become too chummy with the industry insiders they cover — but thinking of it in terms of “journalistic capture” is quite an intriguing concept which deserves more widespread recognition and discussion — especially in an era where so many people distrust journalists and are looking for sources they feel aren’t as biased.