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DigitalBlue's avatar

Can you tell me how the news has evolved in the US over time?

Asked by DigitalBlue (7072points) September 25th, 2012

Yesterday, I had a conversation with my father, and he was telling me that there was a time when the news media didn’t make a profit. He may have even said that it wasn’t legal for them to make a profit (but I’m not 100%), and that changed over time when our major news sources were purchased and turned into very profitable businesses.
Is that true?
How much has changed about “the news” over time? Are there other interesting news facts that you know and care to share?

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11 Answers

Pazza's avatar

Like all news outlets, I would imagine that the reporters went into the field of investigative gernalism because they had specific personality traites ie, nosey, and wanting the people to know what was really going on.

Once big corporations and government get incolved it becomes a political propaganda arm, and a means to make giant profits whilst simultaneously keeping the public entertained so that they don’t ask the wrong right questions.

Sometimes snipits of news that they don’t want in the public domain do slip out.
But only thanks to the likes of youtube:
Paul Flynn MP Suspended from Parliament After Calling for Afghanistan Withdrawal
Lord James of Blackheath: 15 Trillion Dollar Fraud Exposed in UK Parliment

I didn’t see either of these in the main stream media.
Odd that.

Judi's avatar

I remember that there used to be an equal time rule. If someone gave an opinion they had to give equal time to an opposing opinion. I think cable changed everything.

wundayatta's avatar

Different countries have different histories. However, in almost all countries, the news started out as a profit making venture. We’re talking about in the 1600s through the 1800s.

The only time I can think of that your father may have been talking about starts in 1915 with the communist revolution in Russia. After that, until the end of the Soviet Union, news outlets in the Soviet Bloc, and indeed, in China today, were owned by the state, and didn’t have to make a profit. They also parroted the official state line on everything.

In the US, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was set up sometime in the sixties or seventies, I think. Both public television and public radio set up news divisions, and these did not have to make a profit.

Except that even a non-profit is a for-profit in the sense they have to take in more money than they spend. It’s just that they are supposed to plow the money back into the business instead of giving it to shareholders. So I would argue there really never were any non-profit news outlets in the US.

The way public media works in the US is that instead of selling advertising as their main form of revenue (and they do sell some advertising, even though they weren’t supposed to), they beg for money from listeners and viewers.

Supposedly, with a combination of funding from listeners, corporate sponsors and government, they are more independent and can report in any way they want. In reality, they are more conservative than most other media outlets—rivaling even Fox news.

They did a show on this recently on “On The Media.” Ironic, no? They are accused of having a liberal bias by conservatives but when academics measure them in an unbiased way, they find that public radio has a conservative bias. Show you what happens when you are the squeaky wheel.

Ok. That’s just a short overview of public media in the US. The question you asked could be answered with several books, and I’m not writing a book because you probably won’t even read this much. But we could talk about the for-profit media—TV news, radio, magazines, and newspapers. Each has its own colorful history.

Pandora's avatar

It stopped being unbiased and it’s all about being a celebrity and they are more invasive than ever. Instead of reporting about politics it has join into politics and sides with the candidates that agree with their agenda. They are no longer reporting the news. They are making it.

JLeslie's avatar

The news used to be a loss leader on the networks. Channels like ABC, NBC, and CBS. I think probably it was viewed more as a public service.

I believe it was during President Reagan’s presidency we got rid of laws that required news to be neutral and balanced. There has been outcries for balanced journalism, but the republicans mostly have been against it, because they believe media to generally be liberal leaning, and they have done so well with their right wing TV and talk show personalities.

Personally I am hoping the American public grows weary of the slanted politcial shows and it dies off eventually.

JLeslie's avatar

Here is info on the Fairness Doctrine regarding journalism.

CrayCray's avatar

Less about facts, more about fun.

snowberry's avatar

The news nowdays is mostly propoganda or hyped up human interest stories. I don’t watch the news anymore because I can’t believe it’s true. Been there, seen/experienced too much to think so anymore.

Makes voting for an election even more of a challenge.

YARNLADY's avatar

Where, pray tell, did your father think William Randolph Hearst got his money, if not from profit making news.

Newspapers were generally free in the early days, but the profits came from advertising and special interests, such as political parties. Ever since the early colonies, newspapers have profited from politics.

When television came into being, a whole new set of millionaires created themselves.

wundayatta's avatar

Also, anyone who thinks that papers are extraordinarily ideological these days needs to study the papers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I think those were the days when the term “yellow journalism” was coined.

Coloma's avatar

Good ol’ Walter Cronkite said it best….” and that’s the way it is.”

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