In recent years, the corporate media business has changed much when we examine its structures and strategies. The media companies have benefited from these changes in market terms insofar as they have produced large profits. On the other hand, the same changes have resulted in the consolidation of media ownership. The consolidation of media and corporate influence has led to a steep decline to investigative journalism.
Corporate media puts more emphasis on profits, thus, engendering disgust and distrust among the citizenry, to whom the media fraternity must answer. I do believe that a vibrant journalistic culture is necessary for a healthy democracy to strive. Without it, the body politic would be corrupt as corporate wrong doing will continue unchecked. In this paper, I will discuss the impact of corporate media on decline of investigative journalism, and corporate media trivialization and sensationalism.
Corporate Media and the Decline of investigative Journalism
Investigative journalism is the essence of journalism as it goes beyond description and attributed opinion to uncover information, typically about powerful organizations or people. It requires journalists to employ their professional investigative skills to gather well informed stories. However, this investigative journalism is under serious threat. This can be attributed to a number of reasons which include: one, the process of corporate media consolidation and globalization has led to a number of independent news gathering firms to reduce in proportion to the growth of large multinational corporations.
These corporations engage businesses and government at different forums, for instance, they frequently seek political approvals for mergers and acquisitions. For this reason, a news media is less likely to be interested in announcing news that might be uncomfortable to the very government from which it is seeking authority to expand its business (Croteau, 2005). Two, in a vicious world of global corporate media competition there is more pressure to reduce expenditure and more emphasis on maximizing profits. Investigative journalism is the most expensive and riskiest form of reporting, because it is labor intensive.
Journalists today are more constrained financially, and therefore find it easier to spend a shrinking budget on chasing prominent politicians, celebrities, or the royals; third, the increased competition for viewers and readers has put more pressure for media firms to go for populist goods that would attract or retain viewers; and four, the opportunities for learning the essential skills for investigative reporting has diminishing (Croteau, 2005).
The public views journalism as a cultural authority, that is, power gained by social institutions trusted to provide public services (Herman, 2002). The cultural authority of journalism, such as, the authority to describe news events, exists only when the public believes that journalists are credible. Other vital professionals such as doctors, lawyers, teachers and others have their own cultural authority. For example, a doctor has cultural authority to analyze health matters and how medicine should be practiced, as well as to diagnosis illness on those who are sick. Journalists on the other hand, have cultural authority to define news and to determine what is good for the public to know.
The moral authority of journalists is to determine when something or somebody is right or wrong, good or bad. However, the consolidation of corporate media has caused setbacks to the authority of journalists to conduct investigations of fraud, corruption, waste, abuse of power and others (Croteau, 2005). The setbacks to journalistic cultural authority and credibility emanate from the economic and structural factors, such as, corporate media organizations whose intentions are to reduce expenditures or attract the advertisers (Herman, 2002).
Corporate Media Trivialization and Sensationalism
The consolidation of corporate media has resulted to a media that is not substantive and has become increasingly trivial and sensational. Corporate media strive on the rule that, in both entertainment and news, a certain amount of shock values attracts more attention and advertisers. These leads them in producing sorts of programs that are logical end products of the corporate pursuit for profits.
These cheap programs produce and generate considerable audiences and advertiser revenues. They may include programs featuring, talk shows, and sexual scandals of prominent people, wrestling, and others. These programs lack the sense of serving the larger public interest through provision of substantive content. Consolidation of media results in corporate to emphasize more on profits, to the disadvantage of public service interest; I can expect such programming reaching new levels of sensationalism (Herman, 2002).
Croteau (2005) states that local television news has developed a reputation for featuring little hard news, almost no investigative news, and lots of entertainment, with suppressed human interests, sports, and weather. The current media practices do not encourage the development of independent media content. Instead, it has resulted in a media that is extremely constrained. For instance, one type of this constraint occurs when corporate media commercial interests pervade decision making about the media content (Croteau, 2005).
Some limitations that come from the primacy of commercial interests are inscribed in the very routines of news gathering. The corporate media as commercial news organizations, strive to produce credible news coverage at the lowest cost possible.
Therefore, this has led to practices where journalists rely on sources from outside to supply them with stories. They are able to fill their broadcasts and newspapers with routine news materials from government and private sector. Reliance on such sources implies that it is more difficult to gain access to the news media for those who are not within the corridors of power. It also implies that media organizations are less likely to engage in costly investigative journalism that needs greater investment of time and resources, with no guarantees of suitable stories at the end (Cohen, 2005).
In sum, I wish to reiterate my full support for public service journalism. Public service journalism can resist the entertainment lure of news that increasingly affects commercial media organizations. A giant public service organization such as the BBC, has to find sometimes uncomfortable compromise between making news accessible to viewers and while not surrendering to the more trivial or sensational tendencies of some of its rivals. The consolidation of corporate media as key providers of news has brought at the fore concerns about the impact of journalistic quality processes.
This trend has replaced the normative content of news, that is, objective information about issues of public interest, and fully resourced investigative journalism, are in sharp decline. The rise of a cultural form that is more like entertainment has adverse consequences for the integrity of the public sphere and the management of society, insofar as it denies the public of the information necessary for them to make rational choices on important matters. Consolidation of corporate media has trivialized serious issues, marginalized vital information, and has led to mass apathy and cynicism about the world (Croteau, 2005).
Croteau, D., & Hoynes, W. (2005). The Business Media. New York: Pine Forge Press.
Cohen, E. (2005). News Incorporated. New York: Prometheus.
Herman, E., & Chomsky, N. (2002). The Political Economy of Mass Media. Michigan: University of Michigan.