First, it was centrist Bari Weiss, who left The New York Times and penned a scathing letter about her former employer. Now, it’s left-leaning producer Ariana Pekary, who recently announced her departure from MSNBC and outlined her reasons in a blog post that took aim at media on both sides of the political spectrum.
In her post, the producer sounded a clarion call over the deleterious impact that the corporate media is having on American society, one that harkens to even worse consequences if the trend does not change. But the question must be asked: Is it too late?
Ariana Pekary Blasts The Media
Pekary’s last day at MSNBC was July 24. She described her struggle with the decision to leave the progressive news network, especially since she did not have another job lined up – but she couldn’t handle it anymore. “The problem is the job itself. It forces skilled journalists to make bad decisions on a daily basis,” she wrote.
She then explained why the current state of media reporting is dangerous due to its reliance on stories designed to push ratings rather than inform the public. She wrote:
“As it is, this cancer stokes national division, even in the middle of a civil rights crisis. The model blocks diversity of thought and content because the networks have incentive to amplify fringe voices and events, at the expense of others … all because it pumps up the ratings.”
She continued, noting that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the media’s “focus quickly became what Donald Trump was doing (poorly) to address the crisis, rather than the science itself.” Even worse, she pointed out that media outlets preferred to focus on politics rather than solutions. “As new details have become available about antibodies, a vaccine, or how COVID actually spreads, producers still want to focus on the politics. Important facts or studies get buried,” she complained.
To illustrate the seriousness of the matter, she stated that “this cancer risks human lives, even in the middle of a pandemic,” and noted that “the primary Context and factual data are often considered too cumbersome for the audience.”
Is There A Solution?
Pekary’s summation of the state of the corporate press seems apt, especially to those who pay close attention to news outlets on both sides. It has become abundantly clear that the reportage of these entities is more focused on earning ratings by selling outrage to a populace that has become addicted to political furor. The media has become a political pusher on the corner who is all too willing to help us get our daily fix of “What the hell is wrong with these Trumpers/SJW’s?”
…they convince their viewers to define the other side by the voices of their radical minorities, not their moderate majorities.
As Pekary points out, the media maintains a steady injection of outrage by focusing on the fringe elements of the opposite side while pretending the regular, sensible, rank-and-file folks don’t exist. In this way, they convince their viewers to define the other side by the voices of their radical minorities, not their moderate majorities.
The producer suggests that media outlets should “contemplate more creative methods for captivating an audience.” This would mean publishing stories that aren’t only intended to bump ratings, but also to teach and inform the public. She points out that “occasionally, the producers will choose to do a topic or story without regard for how they think it will rate, but that is the exception, not the rule.”
According to Pekary, the crux of the matter is “the desire for news outlets to charge more money for commercials, as well as the ratings bonuses that top-tier decision-makers earn,” and that this causes the leadership of these organizations to “relapse into their old profitable programming habits.”
This all sounds nice, but is it too late to promote positive change in the news media? Such a change doesn’t seem likely given the fact that peddling outrage is an easy way to make a profit. Like drug dealers, the press has no problem selling a product that is killing American society if it means they can make a quick buck.
Moreover, as long as the American public continues to return to their preferred outrage dealer, there will be no incentive for news outlets to change their ways. Unfortunately, it seems that it is too late for establishment media companies. However, the advent of alternative media and independent journalism offers a solution, especially if more journalists like Weiss and Pekary speak out against the Fourth Estate.
The internet has essentially democratized journalism. One doesn’t need to be employed at a mainstream media organization to engage and build an audience. Now, many online news outlets exist that can offer more nuanced views of the issues. Yes, some of these sites peddle the same outrage as the big boys. But now, the public has more options from which to choose when it comes to consuming content.
Perhaps independent outlets can become the panacea for the cancer that has metastasized in the body of journalism. If more individuals become interested in seeking truth rather than a narrative, it would present a significant benefit to American society. Perhaps it could finally bring about a better-informed public and a culture of reasonable debate on the issues.
Read more from Jeff Charles.