Newspapers find themselves stuck between opinion of their readers and the power elite
The march to war continues on as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to debate military action in Syria. The disconnect between representatives, who appear to favor military action, and their constituents, which polls find are against it, is not very shocking. But the media is also facing a disconnect, which most media outlets cheering on the military even at the cost of alienating viewers and readers.
CNN has been the most obviously pro-war, with Christiane Amanpour hyperbolic in her urging action. CNN, it appears, does not want to be outdone this time by Fox News.
Many newspapers have found themselves in a tough situation, their instincts telling them to urge for war, while knowing their readers are less eager. It is a reflection of the fact that the media is owned by a very wealthy elite, tied to the power structure, while the consumer reflects the nation as a whole.
The New York Times has tried to hide its support for war with words of caution for the administration. “Though Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons surely requires a response of some kind, the arguments against deep American involvement remain as compelling as ever,” the Times wrote late in August. Since then, the Times has offered advice to the President on how to persuade the nation and lawmakers to support war.
Roy Greenslade noticed the dilemma at the UK’s Sun. He mocks the paper’s wishy washy support for war, while “representing the views of its war-mongering proprietor.”
In the US, the Murdoch press has sensed the disconnect with readers and has chosen to focus on the President’s move to consult the Congress. At first criticizing the President for going it alone, without Congressional approval, the Murdoch press found it not at all difficult to turn around and now accuse the President of being a weak leader, unable to act without political cover. It plays well with an audience conditioned to view anything the President does as evil.
Two decades ago, when the common wisdom of the newspaper industry was that local news is what would keep readers, the idea was that a newspaper’s editorial board would be more in touch with its audience if it was tied to its community through local news coverage. That attitude feels almost quaint today when newspapers are gutting their newsrooms and depending on wire services and aggregation to fill its pages with content. But the question remains, how can a newspaper reflect its readers when it has fewer and fewer ties to its community? These are the times when the growing disconnect becomes more obvious.