Editor’s Note: The People’s Press

| May-June 2009

You are not especially smart or particularly discerning. Nor are you a valued community member or an individual who deserves a voice.

You are a decimal on a spreadsheet: a “consumer,” a “pair of eyeballs,” a “user.”

At least that’s how those who control an ever-larger percentage of the news media refer to you—their readers, viewers, and listeners—when they’re making decisions regarding how to allocate limited resources and formulate content.

When media executives are sitting in the front office, frantic to serve unforgiving shareholders or stave off groups of anxious investors in the midst of an economic meltdown, there is no time for conversations about the role of the press in a free society. That sort of discourse is a luxury, something for journalism students or media critics and their ever-expanding audience of unemployed peers. In today’s marketplace, the quest for objectivity is folly; great storytelling is a romance language; in-depth reporting is as overpriced as it is unnecessary.

The goal is to either create (or repurpose or repackage) a risk-free product for the masses or pander to affluent, ideologically narrow niches. Anything that increases “audience share” and attracts advertisers, marketers, and brand managers who want to do the same.

And here’s the real kicker: The media’s decline is no one’s fault but our own. Sure, blaming the fall of our Fourth Estate on a combination of greed and opportunism makes for pithy party conversation—that analysis has even sold a few books. It’s those of us who complain the loudest, however, who both have the power and are duty-bound to facilitate a renaissance.

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