Consolidation in the media business and particularly in new media has become a normal course of business. Part of this consolidation has been pushed by corporate interests and those who seek to influence politics like the Koch Brothers, Disney and News Corp. Political coverage across the board it can be surmised has been skewed by these developments.
The independent media has gotten a bad rap from many mainstream journalists. Is this fair? Partly, yes and I will explain why shortly. At the same time the independent media can serve a valuable purpose, one that cannot be covered completely by the mainstream press particularly in these days of diminishing resources, smaller news gathering capabilities, and corporate consolidation of the media industry.
During the course of the last few months I have carefully monitored the media and found some ominous trends. I will preface this discussion by saying I have not commissioned any research or done a formal survey.
I wrote about my disaffection and disenchantment with the Florida political press corps soon after the November 4th elections. My feeling was that Rick Scott and Pam Bondi weren’t asked the truly tough questions by many in the political and capital press. This week some of those issues resurfaced on this website as multiple readers asked where is the statewide press on reporting Rick Scott’s failure to attract high-end business to the state after I had detailed the 16-year Republican campaign to attract business to the state has netted less corporate relocations than Georgia or Virginia, much smaller states by population.
But newspaper writers are trying to do the best they can in a tough environment with limited resources. Many bloggers, on the other hand have a different agenda. On the whole, newspaper writers are still better trained and more objective than bloggers (On this site we promote that we are liberals and not truly objective in the way some other blog writers claim).
Are independent journalists more susceptible to pressure from outside influences than newspaper writers? In my experience, yes. It can be argued that a blogger does not have a publication of repute to fall back on and thus must be much more careful in towing certain lines and pleasing those who give access. Perhaps it is then unfair to compare the bloggers to newspaper writers as a like for like, but still it is a comparison many make.
We have had a strict policy at TFS of not taking paid ads from candidates or campaigns. For example, when we were approached by Progressive Choice about advertising we asked questions that were not answered satisfactorily and thus we did not run the ads. We have run ads without cost for causes we believe in and also for my book “Blue with Envy.” But in general we try and avoid what appear to be conflicts of interest. Unlike most political blogs, we are a progressive site and make no bones about that – our agenda is to promote liberal causes, candidates and organizations.
It is often said that no nobility exists in poverty and the truth of the matter is that monetizing blogs is very difficult. That is why many writers have opted for a different model and in some cases entities seeking to influence the debate have set up or funded blogs that appear to be non-political or non-partisan when in fact they are completely agenda driven. This phenomena extends beyond politics into other realms of society.
This past week, I was placed on the board of the North American Soccer Reporters which is an association of independent journalists with extremely strict standards for admission. We have found in soccer circles recently the influence of corporate sponsorship, public relations firms, Disney, NewsCorp, Comcast and Major League Soccer colluding to create a dynamic where bloggers are LESS INDEPENDENT than those who write for mainstream publications.
It appears from our research that many bloggers seek to get access to a specific MLS team, find work at a PR firm that represents corporate clients or to be hired by networks or websites owned by Disney, News Corp or Comcast. These bloggers often avoid any criticism and the societal questions that consistently come up around the global sport of soccer and the amount of money involved in the game at all levels.
In my new role with the organization which will focus on external communications and messaging (if I am elected to a full term later this month) will center on being an advocate for independence in soccer journalism that steers away from corporatism and is truly balanced and fair. A lot more money floats around the soccer world than around Florida politics, so the susceptibility of journalists or bloggers to being compromised is far greater unfortunately.
Here at The Florida Squeeze we will continue to take our responsibilities seriously. As I have stated above we have a strict policy as far as ads are concerned. However, with our broadening focus on the state in general, we would be happy to consider taking ads that promote Florida and tourism to our state. But the political ads from where we sit are still a dicey situation, and one which we cannot change our policy toward at this time.
This is not meant to impugn the motives of writers who take political ads on their blogs or write for websites funded by outside entities that are trying to influence the process. But I am writing this piece to state that the trend line is away from truly independent journalism in the new media. Blogs were originally created to give an outside perspective one that was truly unique and fresh. However, these days many blogs have morphed into adjunct extensions of corporations, political parties or special interest groups. We will work to not let that happen to The Florida Squeeze.
Thanks to our readers for the continued support and patronage.