33 media issues in one chart

33 media issues in one chart

One of the hallmarks of democratic society is a healthy, free-flowing media ecosystem.

Historically, this media ecosystem has included various mass media, from newspapers to cable television networks. Today, the internet and social media platforms have greatly expanded the scope and reach of communication within society.

sure, journalism plays a key role in this ecosystem. Quality journalism and the unprecedented transparency of social media keep power structures in check — and sometimes these forces can drive real societal change. Reporters bring us news from the frontlines of the conflict and uncover hard truths through investigative journalism.

However, these positive impacts are sometimes overshadowed by harmful practices and negative externalities occurring in the media ecosystem.

The graphic above is an attempt to catalog issues within the media ecosystem as a basis for discussion. Many of the issues are easy to understand once identified. In some cases, however, there is an interplay between these issues that is worth exploring in more detail. Some of these cases are listed below.

Editor’s Note: See the end of this article for a full list of sources. If we missed an issue, let us know!

Explicit bias vs. implicit bias

Broadly speaking, prejudice in the media can be divided into two types: explicit and implicit.

publishers with explicit prejudices will openly dictate the types of stories covered in their publications and control the shaping of those stories. They usually have a political or ideological leaning and these outlets are used narrative errors or wrong balance in an effort to advance their own agenda.

Unintentional filtering or skewing of information is referred to as implied bias, and this can manifest itself in a number of ways. For example, a publication may ignore a topic or question because it would reflect badly on an advertiser. These are called no fly zonesand with the financial woes of the news industry, these no-fly zones are becoming more and more treacherous.

Misinformation vs. disinformation

Both terms imply that the information passed on is not factually founded. The main difference is that misinformation is unintentional and disinformation is intentionally created to fool people.

Fake News Stories and concepts like deepfakes fall into the latter category. We broke down the full spectrum of fake news and how to spot them in a previous infographic.

Simplify, simplify

Mass media and social feeds are the ultimate Darwinian scenario for ideas.

Through social media, stories are shared by many participants, and the most compelling frame usually wins. Most of the time, it’s the pithy, provocative posts that spread the most. This process takes an idea out of context and potentially distorts its meaning.

Video clips shared on social platforms are a prime example of this context stripping in action. An (often shocking) event occurs and sparks a tremendous amount of discussion despite the complete lack of context.

This unintentionally encourages viewers to stereotype the people in the video and to bring our own preconceived ideas to the table to fill in the blanks.

Media representatives also look for powerful story angles to grab attention and prove the point they are making in an article. This can cause cherry picking facts and ideas. Cherry picking is particularly problematic because the facts are often accurate, meaning they make sense at face value, but lack important context.

Simplified models of the world make for compelling narratives, such as: good versus evilbut situations are often far more complex than meets the eye.

The News Media Squeeze

It’s no secret that hard times are ahead for journalism. Newsrooms work with much smaller teams and budgets, and one result is ‘churnalism’. This term refers to the practice of publishing articles directly from news services and PR publications.

Churnalism not only replaces more rigorous forms of reporting, but also serves as an avenue for advertising and propaganda that’s harder to tell apart from the news.

The increasing sense of urgency to increase sales creates other problems as well. Behind it are increasingly high-quality content paywalls.

The end result is a two-tier system where subscribers get thoughtful, high-quality news and everyone else gets shallow or sensational content. That every body else not only people with lower incomes, but also predominantly younger people. The median age of today’s paid news subscribers is 50, raising questions about the future of the subscription business model.

For outlets that depend on advertising, desperate times have called for desperate measures. User experience has taken a back seat to ad impressions Ad Clutter (e.g. autoplay videos, popups and prompts) that break up the content at every corner. Meanwhile, third-party trackers are still watching your every digital movement in the background, despite all the privacy-enabled prompts.

How can we fix the problems with media?

With great influence comes great responsibility. There is no easy solution to the problems plaguing news and social media. But the first step is to identify these issues and talk about them.

The more media literate we collectively become, the better equipped we will be to reform these broken systems and push for accuracy and transparency in the channels of communication that hold society together.

Sources and further reading:

Veil of Distortion: How the News Media Distorts Our Minds by John Zada
hate inc by Matt Taibbi
consent to manufacture by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky
Truth Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Their Trail by Bruce Bartlett
Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare by Thomas Rid
The chirping machine by Richard Seymour
After the fact by Nathan Bomey
Ten Reasons to Delete Your Social Media Accounts Immediately by Jaron Lanier
twitched by Roger McNamee
Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of American Conversation by Andrew Marantz
Social media is broken by Sara Brown
The US media’s problems are much bigger than fake news and Bharat N. Anand’s filter bubbles
What’s wrong with the news? by FAIR
Is the media doomed? by Politico
The Implied Truth Effect by Gordon Pennycook, Adam Bear, Evan T. Collins, David G. Rand

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