Supporting the Liberal Media

You asked why I said “support” various media outlets when it’s just a subscription and here’s my best answer.

By subscribing and paying money for media you are directly supporting the work they do.  The NYTimes, Guardian, Wasthington Post, and Boston Globe, and many other establishments work very hard to provide useful and insightful information to the population of the world.  Most obtain the majority of operating costs via advertising, but by subscribing not only do you get perks like access to their archives and in some cases like Slate’s Prudence column, you get fun things to read ahead of others.  By being a subscriber you are also showing your support of the serious work these news outlets do.  That in itself is way to find your own voice and to better understand the world around you.  

Then there is the added bonus of not having to hear about the world from talking heads.  The days of Cronkite, Rather and Jennings are long gone.  They have been replaced by talking heads that only care about ratings.  Much like Max Headroom, these talking heads serve only to feed you what the sponsors wish for you to know.  Those sponsors are those who also wish to control the state and they do so by donating generously to politicians.  Think I’m crazy?  Take a look at what advertisers show up next time you watch the 6pm local/national news block.  How many of those corporations are donors to politicians?  An easy way to find out is to just do a web search.  Random example: see an advert for Brawny paper towels?  That means the Koch brothers have approved that news station. 

And let us not forget the narrative frame work of the original TV Series Max Headroom “In the future, an oligarchy of television networks rules the world. Even the government functions primarily as a puppet of the network executives, serving mainly to pass laws — such as banning “off” switches on televisions — that protect and consolidate the networks’ power. Television technology has advanced to the point that viewers’ physical movements and thoughts can be monitored through their television sets. Almost all non-television technology has been discontinued or destroyed. The only real check on the power of the networks is Edison Carter, a crusading investigative journalist who regularly exposes the unethical practices of his own employer, and the team of allies both inside and outside the system who assist him in getting his reports to air and protecting him from the forces that wish to silence or kill him.”  

If you get your “news” fed to you by a talking head with heavy rations of adverts at regular intervals you aren’t really engaging and thus you aren’t absorbing useful information.  Sure you may have a vague knowledge that priests in Boston systemically abused young children but you will not know the details of what happened to whom and how it all came to the public’s attention.  (Of course with the Oscars winning documentary _Spot Light_ millions are now aware of the role the Boston Globe played in bringing this very important story to the world’s attention.)  Yet there are many such ground breaking stories that simply cannot be covered by a 30 or 60 second interval–and that is all network news gives us now.  

Then there is the matter of those network news programs.  They are formulaic down to the last detail.  Each story has the same pacing and overall arc.  Something happened, a reporter is on the scene, maybe they cut to an interview with citizen John or Jane, a question is asked and left to linger, more footage of the event is shown and some closing statement is made.  Back in the station the talking head reads a few news items, if it is a two person team they banter back and forth good naturedly.  Then they tell you what is coming up next after the commercial break.  Cut to a few minutes of commercials complete with promos for what is coming up next on the national news.  Then back to the talking heads with perhaps some weather and sports. Finally a human interest story if there’s time or perhaps a serious attempt at investigative journalism—maybe tonight it’s about a slum lord who is being taken to court.  All told though you just spent 30 minutes of your life watching a lot of commercials and learning very little about the world.  You could have picked up a news paper or gone to a news website and spent half that time and come away more informed—and not subjected to 10 minutes of commercials.  

At the end of the day it comes down to a simple question, do you directly benefit from media outlets such as the Boston Globe, Washington Post, NPR and many others?  Yes, yes you do.  Even if you do not read every section of the Sunday Times or you just peruse a copy of The Atlantic, if you read their reporting you become more informed about the world around you.  When you become more informed you yourself are better able to make connections between various points of information instead of relying on talking heads telling you what to think.  When you become more informed you become more selective about what you read and watch.  Case in point, I won’t even go to a clickbait site that tries to entice me with some celebrity gossip story, nor would I ever read an article from the ultra-conservative Washington Times without reminding myself that it is backed by the Unification Church and thus has an agenda of its own.  Thus as you read and become more informed, you understand why nonpartisan, liberal media (using the definition of liberal as “Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry”) is so important.  Then even if you do not support such institutions directly via subscriptions you understand that the work these journalists do is integral to having a free society.  

We are lucky.  We have some the financial ability to subscribe, so we support the following media outlets:  The New York Times, The New Yorker, Slate, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The Washing Post, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, and NPR/PBS.  

—-I wrote this originally to send to my father who found my use of the word “support” instead of subscription jarring.  Much like a guy I met while overnighting up in Sausalito couldn’t get over my use of the word partner to describe my heterosexual conforming relationship in which we have been together for 10 years but are not married.