To the members of the American media:
Of all the power-players in this system, you likely offer the most hope for the people.
You are uniquely positioned to create accountability within the existing political system. Your role as truth-seekers and fact-sharers gives you the freedom to tell hard truths and to provide an honest voice that can empower Americans to make important decisions for themselves.
You, the Town Criers, were the first news reporters; the ones who kept people informed and delivered trustworthy information to citizens who most needed it.
But you weren’t immune to the power of The Juggernaut, and like us, it enveloped you. It bullied you into choosing sides and participating in the duopoly. As a result, you are no longer independent players, but rather you energize the political division by providing round-the-clock discord and controversy.
You’re in the bizarre position of raising awareness of bad behavior even while your organizations profit from it. Because if we suddenly woke tomorrow to a nation of unity and peace, and there were no divisive stories to report, entire news organizations would have to find a different way of doing business.
As it stands now, you need division in order to survive.
The 24-hour news cycle, the growth of social media, and the huge amount of revenue generated by The Juggernaut have made it profitable for you to celebrate political division.
“An independent media should be the loudest voice for the public interest and the hardest for the parties to control. However, partisanship has become too profitable for the media’s business.”
Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America, Harvard Business School
That same 2017 study by Harvard Business School found that the 2015-2016 election cycle generated $16 billion in broadcast advertising among the presidential, House, and Senate races. (This doesn’t include advertising outside of broadcast television.)
And perhaps worst of all, the study revealed that your political alliances have eroded the public’s trust in your work by 40 points in the years since 1976.
You could reasonably point to the Foot-Soldiers as the drivers of your organization’s decisions, and it’s a fair hit, for sure. You’re giving the people what they want and making a tremendous amount of money along the way. It feels like a win-win, but the cost to our nation is incredibly high.
Like the others, we’re convinced that you never intended to occupy this space. We’re certain that journalists in both trenches value integrity and truth, but they’ve been forced to conform as the price of admission for entering the industry.
Perhaps you can identify with the King-Makers, for whom it’s a scary proposition to welcome different voices into the conversation. And like The Juggernaut, you can’t really point to a single person who’s driving the train, but rather an invisible force that is keeping on the industry on its current track.
Whatever the source, the events of 2020 have reminded Americans that there is power when groups of people unite around a common cause, and we’re working toward the same end here: broader conversations, more viewpoints, common ground, and improved transparency in the political system.
You’ll necessarily be part of that discussion.