The conversation goes like this: Budgets are slashed; layoffs follow, all because of a broken model – a model based on advertising revenue and subscription rates. Advertisers are pulling out because subscription rates are declining; subscription rates are declining because people are migrating to free online stories.
Since all this is happening, the industry needs to push stories that will sell – while this is no different from previous decades of journalism (it’s always about the bottom line), the noise that has risen from the dredges of society has crescendoed.
So we now see more stories about Carrie Prejean and Balloon Boy and Octomom and the Salahis’ than we do about Afghanistan or Iraq. Maybe since we’ve been inundated with such terrible news over the past 14 months, these emotionally driven, universally annoying stories help us escape from our realities and unite us in hatred for these attention whores.
But therein lies the problem: if the audience clamors for these ridiculous stories, are we just burying our heads in the sand when it comes to the important stories? Are we missing opportunities to raise public discourse, so when we actually do have a national debate (healthcare?!) we don’t resort to the undisciplined, uneducated vitriol we saw this summer?
As much as the media is at fault for propagating an agenda, we, the consumer are just as guilty. We should be demanding more important stories; we should be held accountable for causing journalists to cover attention-seeking miscreants instead of stronger stories.
All of us have a stake in the floundering journalistic business model. If we don’t step up our intellectual curiosity, the only stories we’ll see will be empty, vapid pieces of some reality TV personality.