Internet has weakened power of the national news media

The news is getting to be like the weather: Everybody wants to talk about it.

I don’t mean what’s in the news, but where people get it. To that extent, there is something new about the media. For the first time I can remember, news organizations have their own constituencies.

Mainly, it seems like everybody else versus Fox News, which seems fair since Fox has three to four times the viewership of most of the other cable news providers.

In fact there is another network — about which most of you are probably unfamiliar — called MSNBC, whose main purpose seems to be to say and do enough outrageous things that maybe a clip will get played on Fox News or Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.

This appears to be the predominant way most of these other cable networks transmit their programming to a large audience.

Large, left-leaning news organizations (there’s that redundancy again) find themselves all aflutter that their audiences are steadily drifting away for programming more grounded in reality — shows like, “The Jersey Shore” or “BattleStar Galactica” rather than, say, the “ABC Evening News.”

The question arises: Why we can’t we just get big-time news organizations to tell us the truth and let us make up our own minds? You know, they report, we decide, which sounds like a great slogan with a little jiggering around.

The answer from most of the national media seems theatrical: “You can’t handle the truth!” See how I went all Jack Nicholson on you there. Well, that’s closer to their point of view than you are ever going to get from the perfumed satraps of most national news organizations.

The fact is, truth is singular but perspectives are legion and most people watch and read things that reinforce their existing point of view. This is why the left is infuriated Fox does so well. It is a kind of poll on how they’re relating to the country.

As a classical liberal (in the Milton Friedman/Friedrich Hayek sense), however, I don’t care that much what people want to watch or listen to as long as they don’t make me listen to it with them.  But that’s not enough for progressives, whose idea of news choices is similar to Henry Ford’s remark about color selection for his Model T: “Any color, as long as it’s black.”

But now it’s too late for all of that, and few places do we see the genie more out of the bottle than here in western Colorado. I’m referring to the Internet and its ability to tie faraway people with similar interests together. I can only be thankful Al Gore had the time to invent it.

The national news market is no longer cornered by who buys the most ink, has the biggest antenna or the longest cable. Places such as this corner of Colorado, with scattered populations and the distances of the American West — which people living on the crowded streets of Philadelphia and Boston can only imagine — can now access the news in those places and even areas more distant. They can do it quickly, and without leaving their homes.

Yes, conservatives in the exotic locales of Mack and Pea Green can share news and thoughts almost instantaneously with like-minded people in Miami and Honolulu.

This is bad news for national news organizations that, in the past, seemed to many people in our area as vast, remote and smug. The advantage of distance served them well.

Local media, even when they relied on teletypes and wire services that were actually connected to a wire, had a different role to play — as they still do — reporting on the things that happen right here. A few Eastern news potentates could then impose a liberal, prep-school agenda on a center-right nation without most people even knowing it.

But now, people in remote parts of western Colorado email me stories or videos from all over the country. What is most telling is how often I receive a link or reference to a story out of our nation’s capital from people scattered over our side of the Continental Divide, practically at the same time.

It gives me hope.  In the past it seemed a strategy of isolating center-right America from itself could succeed — but no more.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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