To understand the role of the media in the collapse of the First American Republic, it doesn’t help to cling to romantic notions of what journalism once was; the days for which some yearn never existed
Admittedly there were differences that today seem almost bizarre. Eighty years ago, 40% of the Washington correspondents surveyed were born in towns of less than 2,500 population, and only 16% came from towns of 100,000 or more. In 1936, the Socialist candidate for president was supported by 5% of the Washington journalists polled and one even cast a ballot for the Communists. One third of Washington correspondents, the cream of the trade, lacked a college degree in 1937.
And what also existed was much more competition in the news industry. By the 1980s, most of what Americans saw, read, or heard was controlled by fewer than two dozen corporations. By the 1990s just five corporations controlled all or part of 26 cable channels. Some 75% of all dailies are now in the hands of chains and just four of these chains own 21% of all the country's daily papers. The situation since has deteriorated further, including the poor financial shape of many newspapers that has put banks and hedge funds silently in charge of them.
Journalists were changing socially as well. In the late 1960s, the Washington Post replaced its women’s section with one called “Style” and before long members of a once scrubby journalism trade were turning up in it as participants at major social events. They were no longer just interviewing people leaving the party, they were part of the party.
Another media factor that dramatically changed the nature of American politics was television. Over time, television transformed politics from a community based culture to one in which you could simply buy your status. Our social culture also became distorted by television until the major things we shared as a society were no longer values as much as symbols like Lindsay Lohan, Justin Bieber, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama
And it was all brought to us by someone. According to CBS, Jay Walker-Smith of the market firm Yankelvich, estimated that in the 1970s we saw about 500 ads a day. By 2009 it was up to as many as 5,000.
The Internet was supposed to save us, but it hasn’t. In fact, the country has moved to the right since its creation. It was a problem that cropped up early, as I described in my 1994 book, Shadows of Hope: