Bernie Sanders penned an op-ed today in the Columbia Journalism review. He bent over backwards to praise real journalism, but noted that it basically doesn’t exist anymore thanks to greed. He blames Big Tech and the consolidation of media companies for this problem, and frankly I agree with him.
Big Tech came at a time when newspaper ad revenues were tanking and media companies simply never got digital revenue where they needed it to be before Big Tech came along and did it for them. Only they kept all the money.
The op-ed is a little long and has too much brown nosing to journalists, but it is good to see Bernie Sanders proposing two interesting solutions that are realistic and not a socialist pipe dream. He wants to go after Big Tech with antitrust law and prevent massive consolidation mergers of the remaining big media companies. Read an excerpt from the op-ed below:
WALTER CRONKITE ONCE SAID that “journalism is what we need to make democracy work.” He was absolutely right, which is why today’s assault on journalism by Wall Street, billionaire businessmen, Silicon Valley, and Donald Trump presents a crisis—and why we must take concrete action.Real journalism is different from the gossip, punditry, and clickbait that dominates today’s news.
Real journalism, in the words of Joseph Pulitzer, is the painstaking reporting that will “fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, [and] always fight demagogues.” Pulitzer said that journalism must always “oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.”
When we have had real journalism, we have seen crimes like Watergate exposed and confronted, leading to anti-corruption reforms. When we have lacked real journalism, we have seen crimes like mortgage fraud go unnoticed and unpunished, leading to a devastating financial crisis that destroyed millions of Americans’ lives.Real journalism requires significant resources.
One reason we do not have enough real journalism in America right now is because many outlets are being gutted by the same forces of greed that are pillaging our economy. For example, two Silicon Valley corporations—Facebook and Google—control 60 percent of the entire digital advertising market. They have used monopolistic control to siphon off advertising revenues from news organizations.
A recent study by the News Media Alliance, a trade organization, found that in 2018, as newspaper revenues declined, Google made $4.7 billion off reporting that Google did not pay for. At the same time, corporate conglomerates and hedge fund vultures have bought and consolidated beleaguered local newspapers and slashed their newsrooms—all while giving executives big payouts.
Today, for every working journalist, there are six people now working in public relations, often pushing a corporate line. At precisely the moment when we need more reporters covering the healthcare crisis, the climate emergency, and economic inequality, we have television pundits paid tens of millions of dollars to pontificate about frivolous political gossip, as local news outlets are eviscerated.
Today, after decades of consolidation and deregulation, just a small handful of companies control almost everything you watch, read, and download. Given that reality, we should not want even more of the free press to be put under the control of a handful of corporations and “benevolent” billionaires who can use their media empires to punish their critics and shield themselves from scrutiny.
After all, TV networks that rely on $4.5 billion a year of pharmaceutical ads may be thrilled to sugarcoat our current dysfunctional health care system—but they will never provide a consistently fair hearing for something like Medicare for All, even though polls show that a majority of Americans support such a proposal.
Corporate media organizations sponsored by fossil fuel industry ads may gladly provide a platform for guests who insist that our current oligarchic economy is just great, but as studies show, the same outlets often downplay or omit coverage of the climate crisis that those advertisers are helping create.
And news outlets owned by Disney and Jeff Bezos may happily tout Disney films and Bezos’s plans for space exploration, but we cannot count on them to consistently and aggressively cover workers’ fight for better wages at Disney- or Bezos-controlled companies. In fact, in one instance, we saw that The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, tried to punish a reporter because he spoke out for better wages at the newspaper.
We need to rebuild and protect a diverse and truly independent press so that real journalists can do the critical jobs that they love, and that a functioning democracy requires.
Finally, when it comes to Silicon Valley, I will appoint an Attorney General as well as Federal Trade Commission officials who more stringently enforce antitrust laws against tech giants like Facebook and Google, to prevent them from using their enormous market power to cannibalize, bilk, and defund news organizations. Their monopoly power has particularly harmed small, independent news outlets that do not have the corporate infrastructure to fight back.
Our constitution’s First Amendment explicitly protects the free press because the founders understood how important journalism is to a democracy. More than two centuries after the constitution was signed, we cannot sit by and allow corporations, billionaires, and demagogues to destroy the Fourth Estate, nor can we allow them to replace serious reporting with infotainment and propaganda.
We must take action—and if we do, I know we can be successful. We can and will restore the media that Joseph Pulitzer and Walter Cronkite envisioned, and that America so desperately need