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The tectonic changes of our time could be most profound in the world of information and media. The market for print journalism has dried up almost overnight with the instant availability of every imaginable flavor of internet information. Why read an editor's guess on what we're interested in when we can choose our own news? It's only just around the corner from choosing our news that we want to choose our facts and many of us are there now.
The newspaper ownership model has shifted from family ownership in pursuit of public service. A new breed of owners eyed newspapers with profit on their mind, which played out over decades into major publicly traded companies looking for Wall Street year-over-year profit from the investments they'd made. Like business trends over the same period of time creating too big to fail, there has been substantial media consolidation, with fewer corporations owning where we get our information. (Here's a resource for who owns what.)
While broadcast journalism might be marginally more healthy, a world of trouble is afoot there as well. The current trend began when the financial success of 60 Minutes got attention from entrepreneurs wanting to make a profit delivering news that had up until then been a public service for the organizations producing them. Then the advent of the 24 hour news cycle meant that a ratings race was on. Stations began producing the inexpensive & highly rated content we want (O.J. Simpson and horse race politics) instead of the expensive content we need to function as citizens (public policy analysis and watchdog journalism).
Angry opinion journalism is on the rise, with its purveyors concerned with ratings rather than fostering constructive citizenship. Professional carnival barkers make seven digit careers surfing the wave of hostility they grow with every mouthful of fury. They warp what were once perfectly useful ideas, when understood in moderation, into black and white caricatures of ideas, so oversimplified they become effectively useless in solving real problems. These entrepreneurial yellers build for us such a fundamental misunderstanding of (and contempt for) people who think differently than we do, we've stopped bothering to listen to each other. Yet we watch them on TV in droves.
Different political camps complain of media bias against them, so that the credibility of news outlets is seen entirely through a lens of partisanship (we've given you a taste of this to assess for yourself on the left of this page in latest from the left and right RSS feed boxes). The New York Times is the ultimate if you're liberal and "a rag" if you're conservative. Fox News is "fair and balanced" if you're conservative and "Faux News" if you're liberal. (See Village Square 101 on the Hostile Media Phenomena .)
We hope that projects like We the Wiki serve to help drive support for civic journalism. Because when journalism is dead, democracy isn't far behind. We hope we're not the generation that has to turn off the lights.