Last week, the Republicans accused the mainstream media of being propaganda agents for Democrats and the left. The attacks elicited enthusiastic applause. Sen. Marco Rubio later asserted that the mainstream media is the “ultimate Super PAC” for liberal Democrats. They kiss up to Democrats and liberals.
What, these days, is the mainstream media? I have no idea. To increasing millions of people,it’s not CNN or “The CBS Evening News” or The New York Times. It is Vice. the Onion and The Daily Mail U.S. Website, or it propaganda video from Republicans, Democrats, Breitbart or MediaMatters.
For increasing millions of people, mainstream media are the stream of media you choose on Twitter, Facebook, email or YouTube video, even user generated video. Information flies at us in very short bit and images and it’s as perishable as an ice cream cone in July.
It was easier to point to mainstream media a few years ago when we had the last remnants of a national audience for news. In an era of social media and almost total media fragmentation, there is no first source for information that everybody uses.
There’s no real mainstream media, just an illusion of it, a memory of what it once was that we pretend is still significant.
Newspapers had a combined circulation of 62.3 million in 1990, when the population was around 248 million; they have a circulation of 40 million today in a nation of 350 million; those people are generally older--and usually much older--than the demographic advertisers care most about. Newspaper circulation has declined 17% in the last decade. Newspaper readers are an anachronism. Odd ducks. Yet newspaper ads and their readers supply 80% of newspapers’ revenues.