The improvement of internet and other technology and its ready availability to more and more people has revolutionized the structure and population of the media around the world. People that would normally be members of the audience have become the creators of news and vice versa. The lines that separate news makers and people that normally would be making news or expected to make news have blurred significantly and in several different ways. There are many examples of countries that could be focused on for this subject but one of the best is the United States.
There are multiple ways in which the structure of news creators has changed and evolved over recent months and years. One way in which the idea regarding audience and news sources has been altered significantly is the corporate structure of the people that are providing the news. The companies that provide the news have tentacles in areas that would be unheard of just several years ago in some cases.
One screaming example of this is the acquisition of NBC Universal, a major American cable network system with major news operations including two dedicated two news networks and owned by General Electric, by cable conglomerate Comcast. Here one has a company that is in the business of providing cable channels including many that compete directly with NBC's networks including ABC, Fox News and CNN actually owning NBC and its news channels. This sort of ownership structure blurs the lines to say the least.
Another example of concerning corporate structures of companies that provide news shows are companies that have significant presence in both news and entertainment. A sterling example of this would be Fox. Fox has a significant presence in both the entertainment and news spheres with its main Fox network that focuses mostly on entertain and its Fox News channel which ostensibly focuses on news.
A related concept is the structure of these channels that refer to themselves as news channels. For this concept, one can stay with Fox News but they are not the one ones that do this. Fox News' prime time lineup consists of several shows that cannot really be called news shows. Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren can try to put on the face that they are focusing on news stories but all three of the, the first two in particular, have very entrenched belief systems and they do little to nothing to try and hide that fact. The same could be said of NBC News, formerly known as MSNBC, which has at one point or another had the likes of Laurence O'Donnell, Keith Olbermann, Rachael Maddow and Ed Schultz.
Yet another dimension is political blogging sites like NewsBusters, Gawker, and Huffington Post. The latter is a special situation because of their close alignment with American Online (AOL) and Time Warner. The site presents itself as a regular and legitimate news blog but there has been a cavalcade of criticism all over the internet about how the Huffington operation is run and where their motivations and intentions truly lie. A similar arrangement and concern was the relationship between Microsoft Corporation and NBC News. This relationship was recently dissolved but it had continued for a number of years. One would likely have a concern as to whether or how that network would cover stories related to Microsoft or its competitors given the obvious implications of conflict of interest and who the "makers" of the news truly were. One might argue whether Microsoft was the audience or the newsmaker and how this blurs the lines of media structure. A final example is Mike Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, and his involvement in news due to his involvement with Bloomberg News. In this case, you ostensibly have a politician that is able to influence in large part what news does and does not come out about him or his rivals. Even if he is not intentionally engaging in such activity, the implications about audience vs. newsmaker and politics vs. news are obvious (Bercovici, 2011).
A final general concern regarding overall ownership structure is the concern laid forth by many that the rich and powerful have gained control of all of the major news sources and that this can lead to these rich and powerful people being able to decide what is "news" and what is not important. Parties in particular that have sounded the alarm over this are minority groups such as African-Americans who say that their concerns and cultural situations are ignored in general or are distorted and misreported when they are discussed. Many have made suggestions that laws should be passed to dictate who should be able to own what and what should be allowed to be reported on the news. There is also talk of the Fairness Doctrine, which basically allows a competing view to any viewpoint to be voiced on a news show so that there is an opposing voice to anything resembling an opinion. This doctrine was in place in the 1980's but was phased out during the Reagan administration.
The main clarion call that has spurred such raucous and expansive growth in the new media is the opinion that the entrenched corporate media is inherently biased. It is asserted by many that the media is either biased too far to the conservative viewpoint, a common complaint about Fox News, or that the media is too liberal, a common complain of NBC News and newspapers like the New York Times. Both perspectives are condemned as mythology and otherwise inaccurate but both accusations remain (Eaves & Zaleski, 2003). A number or examples borne out by research are readily apparent.
For example, newspapers have been accused of offering very slanted and biased coverage regarding immigration policy in the United States and the accused motivations and causes for this include economic and geographical biases (Branton & Dunaway, 2009). There have even been studies done as to whether news outlets like Fox News and their alleged tactics in misreporting the news are swaying the voting patterns of the American populace (DellaVigna & Kaplan, 2007). Conversely, another study argued that 2011 was a banner year for the "liberal media" and that the media was making a concerted effort to blame the Republican's for all of America's political woes (Scott, Pinkerton, Powers & Thomas, 2011).
Some accusations were broader than that. Some studies alleged an entrenched bias over the years against female presidential or vice presidential candidates ranging from Geraldine Ferraro in the 1980's to the more recent example of Hillary Clinton (Kintz, 2008). Another more broad survey focused on the aggregate news coverage of major news shows and whether they trended towards the liberal point-of-view or the conservative point-of-view. The results of this analysis were mixed as some shows seemingly trended one way or the other or were mostly neutral politically (Groseclose & Milyo, 2005). Psychology journals have even looked at the possible psychological impact of perceived or actual media bias (Babad, 2005). Even further, the economic fallout out from perceived media bias has been assessed (Sutter, 2001).
New Media Legitimacy
Regardless of the motives of the new media, there are a number of major implications as to its motives, its legitimacy and the difference nowadays between the audience and the provider of the news. In time periods like the 1960's and 1980's, it was very clear who news providers were. There were only a handful of people like Murrow and Cronkite that were deemed to be news authorities during their times. However, this state of affairs started to fray when cable news came onto the scene. It started with CNN and then soon expanded to Fox News, CNBC and MSNBC. While this was certainly a game-changer in how people consumed news, there was still an overall feeling of legitimacy from most corners of the media world. Even if these networks were cable only, they were still news operations first with perhaps a little bit of entertainment and punditry mixed in.
However, there have been other changes that revolutionized how we look at news makers and news readers. A perfect example of this was the involvement of the Drudge Report website in the Clinton scandal with Monica Lewinsky. Many credit Drudge with breaking that entire scandal and bringing it to the forefront of the news cycle and the American/world populace. However, one could argue that Drudge is by no means a news figure. He simply runs a website that many would view has a predisposed world and political view and this thus disqualifies him from being a real news source. However, the impacts he has made are not deniable.
In a similar vein are sites like NewsBusters. NewsBusters is as affiliated with the Media Research Council, a group that is unapologetically against perceived liberal media bias and that represents themselves as conservative in political nature with no apologies. While the MRC has not represented itself as a news organization, many have assailed…