An important question, right now, according to a recent Globe and Mail article, as well as chatter heard recently while riding the grid-lock streets listening to a taxi driver's radio, is if daily newspapers collapse, is this a sign that democracy is in trouble? Is the increasingly globalized nature of the media posing a threat to democracy? Newspapers, or print journalism, historically was said to bring us in-depth detailed analysis of important issues. The press is suppose to be democracy's watchdog, or one of them, another in a series of checks and balances in the contract we make between ourselves and the government. Central to debates about the meaning of democracy and the public sphere are a whole wealth of theorists writings: from Marx to the Frankfurt school, then to post-structuralist critical theories about the media, racism, feminism; Habermas and his notion of the public sphere. Public intellectuals, John Macfarlane, the editor of a magazine called The Walrus, are identified by what they contribute to changing the way we understand the world. They may write columns in newspapers; their thought might enter the public domain, in the sense that others who know what they write of reference their ideas when formulating their own responses to questions surrounding specific issues. If the forces of globalization, like the Internet were to cause newspapers to all fold, to disappear over night, to shut down in the next few months, to what extent would we miss them? Are they outmoded or still viable transmitters of public opinion and information? This essay will argue that democracy will not be jeopardized through new globalized forms of media.
[...] Perhaps it is an institution not of democratic expression and public sphere thinking, but rather a guarded, elite multinationally owned media empire, or set of empires, where the stories we read, and the public discourse that revolves around these stories (in blogs, television late night comedy shows, in CNN television journalism) and so on are coming to us from limited perspectives. Thus, pop culture is not one thing, it can be read in many ways, with our own interpretations of a National Enquirer issue, for example, just as valid a way to understand the world as reading a newspaper. [...]
[...] If it is necessary for democracy, are newspapers as a form, a necessary part of this? Who are the people who are the most important in making sure that this public arena remains lively, open, interrogating the powers- that-be or want to be dominating our lives? John MacFarlane in The Walrus magazines notes that public intellectuals are those who as social critic rather than merely a social observer.” (McFarlane: 13) Blog writers can be both critics and observers, but we might be more interested to track down a daily or weekly blog written by Noam Chomsky than we are going to be interested in one written by the guy at the back of the physics lab who likes to sound off about everything. [...]
[...] Or, alternatively, if the larger more established media print venues dry up and go out of business, will the smaller more diverse ones follow? Does the establishment have to be there for the alternative to exist to counteract its reach? Would the internet bloggers and the online sites like Salon.com be lost without The New York Times or the Globe and Mail or the British, The Guardian, being there to provide a source of information/articles research and opinion from which the new media sources gather the context of their own discussions? [...]
[...] Herman and Noam Chomsky write of the conspiracy of big business, of the mass media conglomerates, particularly in North American society, which limit debate and frame the news we read in certain ways that only provide us an illusion of democratic trust. Media companies, they note, are globalized trans-national corporate giants with many different kinds of holdings, similar to chemical companies or other corporate entities with a worldwide presence. In the 1980s they identified “twenty-four companies large, profit seeking corporations, owned and controlled by quite wealthy people” as the corporations responsible for providing us with the news we read. [...]
[...] Blogs and new kinds of media sites like the Huffington site, are either run by elites who have invested in the Internet and have cooperative relationships with advertisers, like newspapers have done, or are mini- sites within larger web conglomerates, like Flickr, a repository for photographers to join and have their own page, where individuals produce their own pages within the site. Other possible examples are Youtube or social networking sites, like Facebook. Extensions of newspaper/opinion web products like Salon.com, or Popmatters.com, both of which increasingly have all kinds of material on them: news stories, personal commentaries by readers, cultural essays, reflection/editorials on news stories in the media, fashion pages, interviews, etc. [...]
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