Jul 10, 2010

What It All Means

The things revealed in the exposure of the internal workings of Motorcyclist Magazine shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone. The inner workings (and collapse of) of the main stream press has been discussed practically to death in the last decade. A recent series of discussion in Politics Daily ("'Beyond the Killing Fields': Why Journalism Is in a 'State of Chaos") says as much about consumer product journalism as it does about political and state-of-the-world journalism. To use William Goldman's phrase, "follow the money." Money created modern journalism and money is going to change it. Publishers like William Hearst invented old-school "yellow journalism," promoted the Spanish-American War, waged war on a variety of social issues, and made boatloads of money from it all. When the money really became the issue, in 1929, the corporation's (and Hearst's) politics changed, much of their editorial stance swapped directions, and has steadily become more conservative over the last eight decades.

The trick to modern journalism is to convince readers that the publication is intended for their interests and entertainment while consistently promoting the interests of the advertisers. For that to work, the readership has to be fairly gullible. The problem is that readers are inclined to be skeptical. The most gullible citizens generally aren't literate, curious, well-informed, logical, critical, or analytical. While those folks would be most magazine's target audience, they aren't consistently reachable through the written word. Television is their media of choice. It will be interesting to see how motorcycle magazines find a place in the new world of information and entertainment.

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