One of my closest personal and professional friends sent me a text today asking a very innocent question about the state of the digital world in media. I gave him my opinion that most media still don't know how to use the digital universe properly, and that, in general, the audience doesn't care.
Then something happened, and I went off on a rant, that had very little to do with what he asked. Here's what I told him (with one or two edits).
Media organizations need to take their heads out of their digital asses and start doing things that will actually build loyalty. You know why the right wing media is so successful? Because they've taken a side and defend it. They are outspoken to an audience that is craving leadership.
Main stream media is too afraid to really take a side because history has told them to be impartial. So the right hates them because they are told to. The left hates them because they perceive silence as cowardice or acceptance of what is happening. And people in the middle are just lost, so they've stopped caring. People who hate the right have nobody to trust.
You know why Colbert is suddenly so popular? Because he's taken the gloves off. Taking sides is risky, and most main stream media are too afraid of failure to take the risk. That's a shame... because the first one to step up will certainly face the pain, but the rewards could be huge. Journalists have forgotten the Washington Post of 1973.
That's where I caught my breath and stopped. But here's more.
For decades, conservatives have called the media too liberal. Liberals have called the media too conservative. And for decades most journalists were fine with thinking that if both sides hated what they were saying, than they were indeed being neutral and they could sleep at night. Cable news and the internet have changed that, because that thinking was grounded in an assumption that real facts were the basis of news universally. Today we know that lies lead the way. And most of us understand that a lie told often enough will convince people it is true.
Then there are the crusty old-timers who will recoil in horror, saying Cronkite or Murrow would never condone advocacy. I think that's wrong. First of all, this is 2017. Not 1960. Secondly, I think Cronkite and Murrow understood right from wrong much better than most journalists do today, and would understand the greater good of taking a stand to keep the world from crumbling into pieces.
I spent most of my life in television news, and, for the most part, I believe what I did was honest, correct and had a purpose. But now I get to see things from the other side, in a new reality. I firmly believe the spread of ugly hatred and bigotry spreads unchecked because nobody is trying to stop it. The right wing media fans the flames because their roots are based in hatred and because it's profitable. Main stream media are too afraid of offending anybody to take a hard stand against the hatred, so they watch it burn, broadcast the tweets, and quote mindless drivel from mindless bureaucrats, without doing a thing to make things better.
My friends in the business might disagree, saying they send tweets decrying the violence, ask "probing" questions on the air, and wonder aloud why this is happening. They do those things on the day it happens. And maybe the day after. And then they go away. Silence about our world and the hatred that continues to spread until the next bloodshed claims a life or three. And then it's time to set the timer for righteousness.
The right wing media knows better. They sow their seeds of hatred and anger and division 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The message never waivers. Anybody who isn't a white male bible thumping heterosexual with an anglo name is the enemy. They're doing it non-stop, on the air, online and on your phones. They have the tacit support and approval of the administration and the administration's party.
So, going back to the question that started all this. What new and interesting digital breakthroughs are out there to engage the audience and get them to "join the conversation"? None that I know of, but it really doesn't matter. The main stream media isn't leading a conversation that their viewers and readers want to be a continuing part of. The media want us to Like them, Retweet them and Follow them. But so far, the main stream media hasn't learned what the right wing media know all too well. You can't lead anybody if you don't have a destination in sight.
(As an aside, I started this blog about 12 years ago and have let it sit and gather dust for the last five or six. I've taken down most of the old dusty posts, which don't mean much anymore, but left a few, just because.)