All News Became ‘Fake News’ When ‘The Third Estate’ Became A Circus!

All News Became ‘Fake News’ When ‘The Third Estate’ Became A Circus!
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In The Beginning…

When the First Amendment guaranteed freedom of the press, ‘the press’ consisted of town criers and a smattering of four page news sheets, the latest technology allowing printing on both sides of the paper. With the evolution of the printing press, newspapers flourished. By the 1800’s, published in most major cities. During the Civil War larger newspapers hired war correspondents to report through the newly invented telegraph in short concise text, setting a standard for such reporting that would continue into the next century. With smaller papers unable to afford bureaus outside of their local areas, news agencies were also formed, like the Associated Press and later United Press International.

Early Corruption

Initially supported politically, by the 1900’s advertising revenues replaced party support of newspapers. But not political influence… often banks, businesses and political parties would pay for favorable ‘news’ coverage. On the other hand, newspapers had also been known to extort advertisers with threats of negative stories. During those years the printed word was all powerful, with a monopoly on informing the public.

It’s interesting to note here, that even back then Russia was actively involved in covertly influencing other countries. “Foreign governments, especially Russia and Turkey, secretly paid the press hundreds of thousands of francs a year to guarantee favorable coverage of the bonds it was selling in Paris. When the real news was bad about Russia, as during its 1905 Revolution or during its war with Japan, it raised the bribes it paid to millions of francs. Each ministry in Paris had a group of journalists whom it secretly paid and fed stories,” from the book ‘France and the World Since 1870’ by John Keiger.

Yellow Journalism

At the outset of the 20th century, as newspaper barons Pulitzer and Hearst carried on circulation wars catering to the lowest common denominator, stories became more sensationalized and graphic. Along with the practice of ‘muckraking,’ exposes uncovering misdeeds of the rich and powerful, often with the aid of ‘half-truths’ and innuendo. But the control of information dissemination was about to change…

Wireless Changes Everything

At first, the advent of radio had very little effect on the power and influence of newspapers, but the writing was in the air. Having seen the corrupting influence of advertising dollars, in 1934 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was established in an attempt to force broadcasters to operate in the ‘public interest,’ granting only renewable licenses to the airwaves. In 1938, as Europe drifted toward war, both NBC and CBS radio established their own news divisions to supplement reports from the existing newspaper agencies. In 1943, the FCC forced NBC to sell off one of its two radio networks, relaunched in 1945 as The American Broadcasting Company (ABC). During and following the war, the immediacy of live reports from London, Paris and Berlin, etc., fascinated the American public, and broadcast journalism was born.

Television Takes Its Place

Unlike radio, which could be rebroadcast through existing telephone lines, the establishment of a TV network would require laying new coaxial cable to stations across the country. Which meant it was first only available in and around major cities (much like launching cable TV and more recently the internet requiring modem, then broadband capabilities). But despite the challenges, TV ownership jumped from less than 1% in 1948 to more than 80% by 1952. And the independent news divisions at each network where integral to that growth, as the public came to trust and rely on them for professional, honest, unbiased presentation of the news.

For the next decade, as initial FCC regulations had envisioned, news departments maintained their ‘public interest’ independence from entertainment programming at the major networks, and it was profitable and RESPECTED.

News Becomes Entertainment

In his article ‘What Happened To The News?’ Daniel Hallin wrote, “It was the local stations that first discovered, late in the 1960s, that news could make money– lots of money. By the end of the '70s, news was frequently producing 60 percent of a station's profits. With numbers like that, news was much "too important" to leave to journalists, and a heavily entertainment-oriented form of programming began to evolve.”

Threatened by cable television, heightened competition and paranoia, the corporate conglomerates behind the TV networks lobbied for FCC deregulation while merging news and entertainment to boost advertising revenues. And in the words of Bill Moyers, "When you mix fiction and news, you diminish the distinction between truth and fiction, and you wear down the audience's own discriminating power to judge." In 1976, Paddy Chayefsky’s prescient “Network” predicted the end result

Then Came Cable

In 1980, the launch of Ted Turner’s Cable News Network(CNN) was a game changer. In response, trusted broadcast journalists were replaced with Ken and Barbie as ‘news’ magazines and ‘reality’ shows proliferated along with hundreds of alternative cable channels… all seeking advertising. With the FCC relegated to circus ringleader, the perversion of money and power sent us back to the future “when it bleeds it leads” Yellow Journalism that dominated the 1920s just before the Great Depression.

Also, like the 1920’s, the gap between rich and poor widened, with a growing mistrust of the government along with ‘the media’ feeding us all Bull-ony.

The Digital Age Arrives

As if this decentralization, degeneration, and de-legitimization of news dissemination wasn’t enough, then came digitization. Suddenly with the advent of the internet, we were being fed Spam along with our Bull-ony, and not knowing who was feeding us the stuff! So it’s no wonder that a distrustful public, being fed garbage, could end up swallowing the promises of a President Trump.

L.E. Kalikow's "Sex, No Drugs and Rock n’ Roll (Memoirs of a Music Junkie)" is available in paperback, iBook, Kindle, & AudioBook online.

You can follow L.E. Kalikow on Twitter at @LEKalikow or Facebook at LEKalikowAuthor

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