Matt Taibbi is one of those writers that makes me think about things in a new way. I don’t always agree with his ideas, but I admire his thoughtfulness in what he writes. In his Substack, he outlines the problems with the traditional news media today and outlines how a new type of media would ideally work.
We need a new media channel, the press version of a third party, where those financial pressures to maintain audience are absent. Ideally, it would:
- not be aligned with either Democrats or Republicans;
- employ a Fairness Doctrine-inspired approach that discourages groupthink and requires at least occasional explorations of alternative points of view;
- embrace a utilitarian mission stressing credibility over ratings, including by;
- operating on a distribution model that as much as possible doesn’t depend upon the indulgence of Apple, Google, and Amazon.
Innovations like Substack are great for opinionated individual voices like me, but what’s desperately needed is an institutional reporting mechanism that has credibility with the whole population. That means a channel that sees its mission as something separate from politics, or at least as separate from politics as possible.
The media used to derive its institutional power from this perception of separateness. Politicians feared investigation by the news media precisely because they knew audiences perceived them as neutral arbiters.
Now there are no major commercial outlets not firmly associated with one or the other political party. Criticism of Republicans is as baked into New York Times coverage as the lambasting of Democrats is at Fox, and politicians don’t fear them as much because they know their constituents do not consider rival media sources credible. Probably, they don’t even read them. Echo chambers have limited utility in changing minds.
Media companies need to get out of the audience-stroking business, and by extension the politics business. They’d then be more likely to be believed when making pronouncements about elections or masks or anything else, for that matter. Creating that kind of outlet also has a much better shot of restoring sanity to the country than the current strategy, which seems based on stamping out access to “wrong” information.
This is smart, but how would it be funded?