Superficial and Shallow Media

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In the old democracies of the western world, we are flirting dangerously with an attitude of indifference towards democracy and this is reflected in the media.

Newspapers without conviction

Previously, people with conviction and opinions were the prime movers of the newspaper world, which meant that what drove the newspapers' work was an engagement in how society was developing. Nowadays, those who are behind the news media can just as well be companies that only go into the media business to make money.

One example in some places in Europe has been the many free newspapers funded by advertising that have been competing with the old newspaper houses since about 2000. The free newspapers staked everything on easily digestible news that people didn’t need to pay for. At the same time, people were getting used to being able to read the news free online. Together, this has meant an undermining of the economies of the serious newspapers, which in turn has damaged deep, critical journalism. It’s expensive to do thorough research on complicated stories and, when no-one can afford to do critical journalism any longer, it becomes difficult to keep track of whether the political system is working.

Advertising and sensation

As society becomes more commercial, so does the news coverage; this applies to all media. Advertising is playing an increasingly important role and is exerting a growing influence on the content. It could be argued that advertisers don't have a direct impact on the actual journalistic content, but marketability is having a decisive influence on the form and on the overriding strategies for the content. Even in democracy's own news channels, the public service channels, audience numbers are playing a greater role.

Because of competition for the largest number of recipients, the trend is towards shorter and shorter news flashes in newspapers and on the radio, television and the internet. In this way, the major perspectives and depth are disappearing in the dissemination of news and the overall news picture is becoming fragmented. This means that the democratic debate is increasingly becoming about individual cases, which is preventing a proper debate about the major trends in the development of society. The focus is also shifting from content that might seem complicated over to "screen charmers" in the flow of news.

From here, it's not far to a press which is overflowing with sensational stories and content that is really nothing more than gossip. Democracy cannot be built on that.

Next chapter: Intellectual Poverty I - Universities and Politics