Media watchdog Brent Bozell will come to Colorado in early December, speaking at the Centennial Institute (more information and reservations here). He heads the Media Research Center that has, its website says, “a mountain of evidence to use in combating the undeniable bias” of the media. Americans clearly agree with the MRC. Pew reports 77% of Americans say news organizations “tend to favor one side.”
Media bias – as to both political and social issues – is, to be blunt, a big deal. Media spin twists the American reality, as to selection of stories and how stories are told, to fit a meme crafted by a small and non-normative subset in our culture. Sadly, the media fails to take Robert Burns' advice and see itself as others see it.
Given this, it's fitting to ask: how's that working out for the old line media?
Employment-wise in Colorado, newspaper publishing is a declining industry, dropping from about 7,100 workers statewide in 2005 to just 4,300 in 2010. This decline stems not just from the demise of the Rocky Mountain News nor our current economic troubles. Instead, it echoes nationwide declines in newspaper readership. American daily and Sunday newspapers had circulation of 46.9 million in 2009, almost 16 million less than in 1990. Survey research backs up this decline. Around 2000, newspapers were the main source for national and international news for more than 40% of Americans. That newspaper reliance was down to barely above 30% in 2010, while Internet sources have grown from about 10% to above 40%.
Even television has declined as “the” news source in recent years, dropping from above 80% to under 70%…and barely above 50% for the under-30 crowd. “Television news” appears not to mean, by the way, the old line broadcast networks; instead, it's CNN and Fox.
This newspaper publishing decline (and television drop, too) occurred while Colorado jobs in Internet publishing and portals grew from 1,100 in 1995 to 1,800 in 2010. While not a large increase in raw numbers, this is a hefty 66% growth.
Given the broad diversity of Internet options in our state – Colorado Peak Politics, news aggregator Complete Colorado, and the decidedly liberal Coloradopols – the Internet offers varied views. When taken as a whole, it's hard to see a local Internet bias.
In fairness, the decline of newspapers and broadcast TV may have less to do with our perceptions of biased reporting and more to do with social and technological changes. Perhaps Bozell will tell us his views about fairness and bias here in Colorado and whether it impacts subscriber and viewer levels.