Many who work in the ‘alternative media’ are growing weary of that moniker and believe that a more updated term should be used. Some have suggested ‘the New Media.’ I’m all for it, and I hope it sticks. Whatever name we choose, it is clear that we are overtaking the dinosaur media, the so-called ‘mainstream’ news sources which have dominated the news gathering and sharing arena for so long.
The advent of the internet and the world-wide web has changed everything. When I was growing up, the ‘news’ was what I read every morning in The Washington Post and watched every evening on CBS news and local television stations. With the advent of cable, CNN carved out its niche, but the model was the same. Giant corporate conglomerates , who owned media outlets across the spectrum, controlled the flow of news. It was a top-down model. The 99 percent at the bottom were simply news ‘consumers.’ The could choose to believe or disbelieve what they read or watched, but the options for directly sharing what they knew were few or non-existent.
While I was studying at university in the mid 1980s, one of my professors gave us the Ben Bagdikian’s book The Media Monopoly to read. Bagdikian (b. 1920) showed, in great detail, how all the media sources in the USA, and around the world, were controlled by a few dozen large companies. The pace of consolidation was moving so fast that he was forced to update his book every five years. What was a few dozen companies in the mid 1980s has now become just six: GE, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS. These powerful half dozen corporations control 90 percent of the news.
When I graduated with a journalism degree in 1988, if I wanted to work outside of the grip of these mega-corporations, there were hardly any choices available. However, this article is not focusing on the old, but the new. Starting in the mid 1990s, the new media has slowly but steadily been eating away at the audience share of the dinosaur media- so much so that many of those old media are in danger of going extinct, so rapidly are they losing their customer base.
Through websites, blogging, youtube channels and other DIY avenues, people are directly sharing with each other on a scale never before seen, and directly bypassing the old media channels. The old guard aren’t just becoming irrelevant, they are passing into history. Let us not mourn their passing. “News, Sports, Weather, Gossip, and Crossword Puzzles.” What a joke. As Jello Biafra once famously said,”Don’t hate the media, become the media.”