When history looks back on the COVID-19 pandemic, it will look extremely unfavourably on a number of our institutions, but none as much as the media industry and in particular the mainstream media which will never be the same again.
For the most part, the mainstream media has parroted whatever information it has been fed by public health officials whose only agenda has been to scare the masses into compliance. And while that hasn’t been true in every case – there has been the odd columnist and editorial writer who has taken the public health officials and elected officials to task for their questionable decisions – it has been true for most daily newspapers and cable news networks.
And when they try to step out of the box by reporting on information fed to them by a pharmaceutical insider, or from a scientific study of questionable origin that hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, they usually get burned without feeling the need, or responsibility to correct their misstep.
As a result of both of the above points, the industry’s credibility has seriously eroded over the past two years. It’s no wonder then that more and more people are turning away from mainstream media and toward social media to get their “news” and information.
It’s laughable if not downright depressing to read stories in the same mainstream media bemoaning the fact that they are losing readers and viewers to Google, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. They created the problem in the first place.
It reminds me of the early 2000s, when the first exodus from main-stream newspapers began. While it was happening, the very same newspapers were running headlines like “More and more advertisers are turning to social media”, and “Social media platforms becoming the primary news source for Canadians”. It turned out to be self-fulfilling prophecy. But it wasn’t nearly as damaging as what is happening today.
Back then the exodus wasn’t over credibility. It was over the desire for quick, fast and simple. And a lot of people made the switch from newspapers to 24-hour, 30-second sound bite news channels.
Today, even those same news channels are being rejected by the masses. And it’s not so much that listeners and viewers are turning their radios and TVs off, or that readers are refusing to buy newspapers, it’s just that they don’t believe what they hear, see and read anymore.
I shudder to think what’s going to happen when the next massive crisis occurs and the facts – even if they are properly reported – aren’t going to matter anymore because nobody believes them.
These are dark days indeed for a number of reasons and none more so than the death of mainstream media. Let them not ask for whom the bell is tolling. It tolls for them.