Thornton Hall on Washington Monthly, August 24, 2016:
"Good journalism" as an idea is warped in all the ways you'd expect given it was created when 15 white guys (top editors at 3 networks and approx 12 newspapers) had a 100% monopoly and massive amounts of money to spend.
On "BuzzMachine" August 30, 2016:
How do you stop for-profit media from behaving as if they are for-profit?
Instead, what needs to change are the myths that developed when [network] news was a loss-leader and 15 white guys (~12 papers and 3 networks) created the idea that "good journalism" is the kind that nobody wants. The mid century news monopolies [in print newpapers] created the idea that "good journalism" only happened when college educated white men set out to do good, ratings/circulation be damned.
The result was the "above the public" view that you criticize. And the enormous power of the media as self-fulfilling prophesies.
The myth of mid-century media is what gave Judy Miller the power to kill 100,000 Iraqis.
Once, Will Rogers wrote, IN A NEWSPAPER COLUMN, "All I know is what I read in the papers." A media that gets that that is a joke, and a good one, is much, much less dangerous.
Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo, September 13, 2016:
The key to understanding this phenomenon is to see that it is as much tied to publishing and business models as journalistic conventions. This is not meant in the sense that journalist strive for faux balance out of some hunt for clicks or dollars. It's not nearly so direct or mercenary. The issue is that the contemporary journalistic concept of objectivity is not only rooted in professional and ideological developments of the early 20th century. It is also rooted in changes in the newspaper publishing industry in the middle and late 20th century. As an increasing number of American cities became single newspaper or de facto single newspaper towns, their financial footing became increasingly based on monopoly ad pricing. This made well-known newspapers very lucrative and consistently profitable businesses since they had de facto monopolies over commercial advertising in specific geographic areas. But it also made their business model rest on being the default news source for all news consumers in their region. Obviously there were boutique publications and TV. But before the Internet, this major city and even regional newspaper dominance was a huge fact of the journalism profession and the news business - and one many assumed was the normal state of things.
UPDATE: Another good piece on the causes of false balance comes from Brian Beutler in The New Republic:
The press is not a pro-democracy trade, it is a pro-media trade. By and large, it doesn’t act as a guardian of civic norms and liberal institutions—except when press freedoms and access itself are at stake. Much like an advocacy group or lobbying firm will reserve value judgments for issues that directly touch upon the things they’re invested in, reporters and media organizations are far more concerned with things like transparency, the treatment of reporters, and first-in-line access to information of public interest, than they are with other forms of democratic accountability.
That’s not a value set that’s well calibrated to gauging Trump’s unmatched, omnidirectional assault on our civil life. Trump can do and say outrageous things all the time, and those things get covered in a familiar “did he really say that?” fashion, but his individual controversies don’t usually get sustained negative coverage unless he is specifically undermining press freedom in some clear and simple way.