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Smart media consumption

October 20, 2016

Rachel Maxwell

Editor-In-Chief | ram049@latech.edu

MAXWELL

MAXWELL

 

People love to criticize the media. While some of these gripes are founded, they often mischaracterize what the media actually are. I often hear people say things like, “the media sensationalizes,” “the media focuses on unimportant issues” or “the media is biased.” But what is “the media?” Is “the media” an evil club whose members all conspire to rig elections and focus the country’s attention on irrelevant fodder? No, the media are comprised of millions of different outlets with thousands of different goals.

 

One thing all of these sources do have in common is that they are profit-driven. Media sources have to keep their lights on, and to do that, they need people to consume what they are producing. To stay in business, online sources need to get clicks, print publications need readers and broadcast stations need viewers. What these media sources produce is ultimately decided by market preferences. Consumers hold a lot of the power when it comes to setting standards for journalism.

 

Let’s say you disagreed with a certain business practice; we’ll use animal testing as an example. To combat that as a consumer, you would only support companies that do not implement animal testing for their products. This same logic applies to the media – if you think an outlet is biased, don’t subscribe to that publication. If you think a source is focusing on unimportant issues, don’t click its links. If you think a network is sensationalizing issues, don’t tune into its broadcasts.

 

In fact, many consumers of media are doing much more to encourage the type of journalism they criticize than to combat it. As much as we all say we hate sensationalized news, that is exactly what gets the highest ratings. As much as we say the media doesn’t focus on important issues, sources that report on the Kardashians usually get a lot more clicks than those that cover, say, the conflict in Syria.

 

Because the media is, by nature, reactive to the people, we as consumers need to examine what we expect from the media and then make a point to back that up with our consumption. Consumers who disagree with animal testing are accomplishing nothing if they continue to purchase those products. Consumers of media have no room to complain about what stories dominate the news if they continue to support those outlets while letting legitimate sources shrivel and die from lack of support.

 

Rachel Maxwell is a junior journalism major from Benton who serves as editor-in-chief for The Tech Talk.

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