Many an elderly former television network broadcaster doubtless engages in ever-recurring conversations while sipping his favorite evening libation.
“Remember how we once ruled the airwaves?” might be one such conversation starter.
“Yeah. In the old days we could say it on the evening news and by noon the next day public opinion would begin to come around,” the commiserating drinking partner might say.
I can imagine a Dan Rather type and some other no longer relevant propagandist lamenting as the tonic and gin or bourbon on the rocks burns a liquid trail down their once golden throats.
“Those were the good, old days,” one of them shakes his head, blinks, and calls to the barmaid for a refill.
“There’s no leadership to ever bring those days back,” I can hear the other irrelevant former anchor saying. “Now they all go their separate ways… There are far too many of them to ever come together.”
“It almost makes you see the need for the power of dictatorship…for the good of the republic,” the Dan Rather-type says, taking the first sip from his newly refreshed adult beverage.
“Yeah. We used to at least have that kind of influence over public opinion… for the good of the republic,” the other, ageing broadcaster puts in.
They must dream happily of when they and their network colleagues had the three network monopoly. Now, it must be a nightmare that they live through daily. Their personal influence is no more—the power of their profession significantly diminished.
That this is the case is plainly presented in polls taken about how America’s people feel about that profession. Always, news media, as being trustworthy in the eyes of the public, ranks very near the bottom of those polls.
If there ever was a question about why that ranking is so low, we need only think on the past three years or so.
It would almost seem that our two, ageing, former anchors need not worry for a second about the ability of the news conglomerate to speak with the power of one. The mainstream news media have coalesced in a way that ABC, CBS, and NBC could have and would have never done when they had, collectively, nearly sole power of the air.
It is true that today’s now fractionalized mainstream news media, as individual news forums, draw infinitesimally small numbers of viewers in comparison to numbers drawn by the big three networks during the good old days. But the power exerted by the new collective –the fractionalized mainstream media— is, I’m convinced, even more powerful than that wielded by the big three those years earlier.
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