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No surprise traditional media are struggling to hold an audience

Nowadays, with more PR people than journalists churning out the news, it’s everyone’s job to help those in publishing get it right. Our democracy depends on it. So even though I’ve been on one side or the other of the journalistic fence for more than 30 years, it’s not pure selfishness that drives my fears regarding the fate of what we now call the “traditional media.”
 
Underlying my fears is a rising sense of frustration. Every day I search the local editorial and commentary sections for voices that sound like me (educated, affluent female, not a woman with a male persona, just a woman who cares about what most women care about).
 
In the May/June 2005 issue of Extra!, which is published by FAIR, a group that advocates fairness and accuracy in reporting, Julie Hollar’s column, “Opinion omission: Women hard to find on op-ed pages, TV panels,” reported that women opinion writers make up only 19.5 percent of the writers for opinion pages in the Los Angeles Times, 16.9 percent at the New York Times, and 10.4 percent at the Washington Post. But the media filter that’s kept people like me largely off the opinion pages is still in full force, despite the obvious hints editors should be getting from the enviable popularity of social media.

Some accused the airlines of management failure when they couldn’t survive the past decade’s ferocious increases in industry competition. The same accusation could be hurled at members of traditional media management for their failure to see what’s been staring them in the face every morning when they turn on their computers.

If anyone is responsible for the demise of quality media content, it’s the old-school media managers who should have figured out much sooner that more people want to participate in the media; they don’t want news about an exclusive few (mostly white males).
 
Media managers must begin targeting today’s target audiences and stop pandering to kids who are too busy with Facebook to care about the world beyond their immediate peer group.
 
If traditional media management would focus more on news that’s relevant to women like me, and to people of color, the young and the old, rather than a narrow strand of our diverse population, maybe it could save itself from extinction.
 
Lynn Nelson is a public-relations consultant and an adjunct instructor at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She can be reached at lnelson@linpr.com

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Minton McKarkquey on 11/10/2009 - 08:43 am.

    I also feel disenfranchised in that traditional media doesn’t listen to me. We need more white males in their 30s to represents my right wing-leaning views, and I’m often suspicious that many of the ‘women’ that appear in newspapers and TV may be working for the reds.

  2. Submitted by Bob Collins on 11/10/2009 - 08:52 am.

    I don’t know if that’s the way you intended it but the most illuminating aspect of your commentary is that you search for voices that are just like yours. Doesn’t that rather defeat the entire point of editorial and commentary sections?

  3. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 11/10/2009 - 09:42 am.

    I looked at the date on the above article three times and thought… maybe this “Community Voices” article had been pulled out of an old news archive or ‘morgue’, from some time back around, maybe, Nov 10, 1953…? Sorry, my mistake…2009?. So it goes…

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/10/2009 - 09:49 am.

    Astonishing.

  5. Submitted by myles spicer on 11/10/2009 - 12:29 pm.

    This is an incredibly simplistic view of the media which is in huge transition, and has a wide range of facets/challenges.

    To me, the traditional newspapers are weak — not because of editorial content — but the simple facts of expensive distribution (thus Minnpost).

    The TV suffers from being voracious for content; and after 50 years in the ad business, it actually suffers from too MANY women. Nearly all the channels now have youngish blond women who are not journalists at all. They are designed to be attractive “presenters”. All the local channels also have at least a 50/50 mix of females.

    I also dispute that most of the media is “liberal” — I did an analysis on this subject about a year ago. Without going into details, the national media is highly consolidated… and those not owned by News Corp (Murdoch) are virtually all owned by major corporations (not likely left wing candidates).

  6. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 11/12/2009 - 05:54 pm.

    Absolutely right, Myles Spicer.

    The right-wing media have spent so many years (over twenty by my count) telling their listeners and viewers that all other media have “liberal bias” that the poor naive audience members (especially the younger ones) believe it.

    Hence all the comments in the online edition of the Strib about “the Red Star.” (I wonder which KTLK guy thought up that inaccurate quip.) I proudly admit to being left of the U.S. mainstream, and I really have to scratch my head at that one. When a reader calls the Strib “the Red Star,” I immediately know that he has never seen an example of the REAL leftist press.

    The fact is that NO ONE in the mainstream media is as far left as the KTLK crew, or even Fox News, is to the right. No one.

    “But what about CNN?” pouts the conservative.

    Really? Have you watched CNN lately? I haven’t, because every time I turn them on, they’re obsessing about the latest show biz scandal.

    “But what about Bill Moyers?” grumbles the conservative.

    Well, there are two HUGE differences between Bill Moyers and Bill O’Reilly. First of all, Moyers asks his guests intelligent questions instead of proclaiming his own opinion and asking the guest to respond to it. Second, in thirty years of seeing him on TV, I have never once seen him treat a guest rudely or shout anyone down.

    As Mr. Spicer points out, almost all media in this country are owned by the same few major corporations, so they’re hardly likely to spread left-wing politics.

    If they spread any kind of liberal values, it’s in the behavioral area. They tend to be anti-racism, anti-sexism, and pro-gay rights. When it comes to economics and politics, though, it’s conventional wisdom all the way: American workers are too demanding, unions are bad, outsourcing is good for Third World countries, and it would be impossible to reform the Electoral College system or have more than two political parties, just because. This is not a “liberal bias.” This is an affluent bias, because the rich have always been laissez-faire on personal behavior and interested in keeping the lower classes in line.

    But the mainstream media do something else that is much more harmful: They feed the American people mindless trivia instead of information. People who couldn’t tell you whether it’s Canada or Mexico south of the border can recite Michael Jackson’s life story minute-by-minute, and those who don’t know the name of their Congressional representative can recite the names of all the Super Bowl champions.

    If any of you cling to the notion that the mainstream media have “liberal bias,” I have a challenge for you: Go to the websites of some real leftist political parties, such as the Greens, the Socialists, the Communists, and others and read their positions on the issues. Then go back and look at the Strib and CNN and try to say with a straight face that the Strib, the New York Times, and the Washington Post have a “liberal bias.” See what they say about Obama, and you’ll be embarrassed at the memory of having called him a “Marxist.”

  7. Submitted by Lynn Nelson on 11/13/2009 - 09:15 am.

    I am thrilled to see such caring and insightful comments (for the most part), so I pose the big question:

    What can mainstream media do to save themselves?

    we need our watchdogs and we need to reduce redundancy so we can approach our enormous social issues with clarity and intelligence.

    While we fiddle, talented, passionate people are losing their jobs, and more drivel cannot replace them.

    I appreciate your thoughts.

  8. Submitted by William Hansen on 11/19/2009 - 05:35 pm.

    How about a small tax on all for profit media that would be put in an iron clad trust for public interest news gathering and propagation? Obviously, it would have to be insulated from political interference and have strict eligibility guidelines.

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