Censorship is a hot topic today, but research reveals corporate media has spent decades burying stories in deference to big-money advertisers.
Author’s note: In a recent Twitter survey I conducted, nearly 90% of people rated their trust in mainstream media as either “very low” or “low.” And is it any surprise?
Ever-mounting media consolidation has narrowed the perspectives the public is privy to, ownership and funding of these corporations are riddled with conflicts of interest, crucial stories keep suspiciously getting buried and big tech companies are outright censoring and demonetizing independent outlets trying to break through the noise.
The media is supposed to function as a power check — and a means of arming us with vital information for shaping the society we want to live in. It’s never been a more important industry.
And it’s never been more at risk.
In this series, which I kicked off with a piece about the problematic history of media consolidation and followed up with a piece about billionaires buying legacy newspapers, I tackle each factor threatening the media’s ability to serve our democracy — with input from journalists, media critics and professors and other experts.
“The media, like anything else, can be bought. Everything, it seems, has its price. Even the ‘free’ press.” ― Lance Morcan
In 2020, while writing for a popular online news platform geared toward millennials, I proposed what I thought was a timely and non-controversial story.
As marijuana legalization was spreading to more and more states, lots of my peers were looking to cut back on their drinking — which had gotten out of control during the pandemic — and turning to cannabis as an anxiety-reducing replacement.
So, I pitched my editor on an experiential piece: For a few weeks, I’d swap my nightly glass of wine with a popular new celeb-backed cannabis beverage and share the effects. She didn’t go for it, but not because she didn’t find the idea interesting or relevant to our audience.
“Unfortunately, our advertisers won’t like it,” she said. “We just can’t do any cannabis stories, period.” Her feedback left me wondering which of our sponsors wouldn’t approve the topic due to conflicting interests.
Read More: How Advertisers’ ‘Invisible Strings’ Control What You Read and Watch
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