The Fourth Estate :: Hubris and Its Aftermath – Going… going…

19 07 2011

The Fourth Estate is in tatters and is on the verge of collapse.  The casual observer must watch to see what will take its place.  Consider the fact that a newspaper with distribution greater than the Wall Street Journal was shuttered in a heartbeat, having gone from the financial pillar of a global empire to a marginal performer guilty of the most egregious  violations of the public trust.  The same leaders of the Fourth Estate who pompously accepted the attentions of politicians are now forced to respond to inquiries into their misdeeds from those same politicians.

Consider the fact that newspapers around the world have slashed their professional senior staffs in less than effective cost-cutting measures.  “News” as Generation Z has come to know it, is pooled information provided in headlines and snippets focused upon “first to the market” accomplishments as opposed to in-depth, accurate research, analysis, unbiased reporting, and precise editing.

A recent example:  The same story, under different headlines, appeared January 26, 2012, in the Palm Beach Post and on WPTV:

Judge: Jupiter couple must pay $1.6 million for cutting down mangroves

There was a time when such an act would be reprehensible.  The goal would be to find a different “angle.”  Statistical information about the potential impact of the act, background information about the perpetrators, comments from neighbors, etc.  The content of these identical stories mirrors the content of previous articles.  The only new information is the latest penalty handed down.  The remainder of the article(s) is nothing more than a rehash of old news.

While we are bombarded 24/7/365 with up-to-date information in digital, audio, video, and print format, the content is watered-down and lacks detail.  Whether inexperienced, novice “reporters” are incapable of securing in-depth data, or whether legal departments restrict the information that can be shared, the result is quantity over quality.  Consumers are bright enough to choose to forego the expense of newspaper subscriptions when there are less costly sources of bird cage liners.

The most important question:  What’s next?  Will small, tightly managed, extremely private sources of genuine news be securely provided to a carefully selected clientele?  Will news recipients have to sign “hold harmless agreements,” and will the cost of those services make access prohibitive to all but the most wealthy?

 

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