How powerful is the news media? How powerful are individual media outlets and journalists?
Probably not as powerful as most of us—whether we are consumers or producers of news—tend to think. Americans of all ideological stripes are prone to see the news, whether for good or for ill, as more important than it really is. Not surprisingly, no one is as susceptible to this notion as the members of my own vocation. What could be more flattering than the idea that our coverage and commentary is actually steering the ship of state?
We live in a time when news coverage has never been greater in volume, but the quality of that coverage seems to be constantly in decline. It’s a kind of informational inflation in which there is too much news chasing consumers and the value of that news is not what it used to be.
But you wouldn’t know that from the way the right-wing critics of the press talk about it. The gang that Donald Trump called “the enemy of the American people” probably couldn’t muster being the enemy of all the Albanians, let alone the whole USA. If the news business was the kind of threat that many on the right claim, one would think that we would have come up with a way to actually, you know, make money and not keep going bankrupt.