The Media Divide

A Washington Post opinion piece today defines a gap between two kinds of Web junkies: the entertainment fan and the news addict.

The article’s author, Markus Prior, worries that news-addicts will have only “exclusive exposure to outlets all biased in the same direction.” News broadcasts no longer have to be fair and balanced because they cater to a specialized audience. Outlets like Fox News provide their audiences with only the news they want to hear–essentially creating red news and blue news (for those who believe in the bifurcated political rainbow).

Meanwhile, the entertainment fans, Prior notes, “never consciously weigh the pleasure of constant entertainment against the cost of leaving politics to news junkies and politicians.” The business of politics is left to a biased few, while the remainder of Americans avoid or ignore the news and politics at all costs. And as Prior notes, politicians pay more attention to voters.

Blogger Chuck Tryon at the Chutry Experiment criticizes Prior’s article, speculating that there isn’t all that wide of a gap between entertainment and news. Tryon also picks on Prior’s unstated assertion that media choice is voluntary. As Tryon points out, “Network TV shows, Hollywood films, and other media alternatives have the capacity to attract our attention in ways that are more difficult for “news” shows that often rely on relatively limited budgets.”

More evidence of a fracturing society and a fracturing Web? Hmm. Which is the root cause, I wonder? Has an increasingly fragmented media culture caused our opinions to become more chaotic and less unified, or have our human tendencies merely been reflected in the media?

For some reason, this all reminds me of Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Kipling’s “Conundrum of the Workshops”.

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