Trends in media coverage sometimes may say more about the direction of the country than does the news itself.

One or even two Supreme Court decisions don’t tell you if the court is drifting right or left.  It takes a few years of consistent decisions to suggest where the court is taking us.  And a Supreme Court can often give mixed signals as to where it’s headed; for example granting more rights to corporations while at the same time constraining the rights of individuals (see David Cole’s article on Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project in the August 19, 2010 edition of the New York Review of Books for a full explanation of this example).

In the same way, the fact that the media covered the Bush II Administration’s pre-invasion assumptions about Iraq or the death of Michael Jackson in a certain way, while certainly very interesting, may ultimately prove less useful to understanding our era than the broader news trend, e.g., how the news media treat all unproved government assumptions or celebrity deaths.

Over my first year of blogging as OpEdge, I have found myself seeing the same patterns in media coverage again and again.  These patterns manifest the emerging and continuing trends in the news and news coverage.  Over the past year, I have written more than a few times about each of these trends.  For example, the first trend on my list is the tendency of mainstream news media to allow right-wing news media to set the agenda for the discussion of issues.  Examples I discussed through the year included health care legislation, gun control, addressing the federal deficit, and coverage of non-mainstream candidates in primary elections (providing all the coverage to candidates of the right and none to progressive candidates).

This list by no means exhausts the enormous number of trends we can identify in the news media.  It’s only a list of the ones about which I wrote.  So, for example, I never wrote about the news media’s knee-jerk lauding of all new consumer technology, support of nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels or the war against modernism (e.g., James Joyce and John Coltrane) on the cultural pages, all important trends.  Maybe I’ll get to them in the next 12 months.

In any case, here are eight of the more important trends in news and news coverage.  First four trends in coverage of political and economic issues:  

  • Mainstream media allow the right-wing media to set the terms of the debate for virtually every issue.
  • The mainstream news media consistently overestimate the impact of the Tea Party, and in effect, has become instrumental in creating whatever impact the Tea Party and its candidates have had so far.
  • The mainstream news media actively try to keep alive the controversy over the very existence of global warming instead of focusing attention on what we should do about it.
  • The mainstream media actively promote the ideas that free market solutions work best and that it is always best to act selfishly.

Now four trends in entertainment media (which includes TV, radio, movies, music, video games and the lifestyle, entertainment, fashion, consumer technology, health and other feature sections of print and Internet news media):

  • There has been continued growth in the long-term trend of leisure activities and entertainment that infantilizes adults, that is, turns adults into children by having the scope of ideas and sophistication of entertainments from their childhood.  Just think of all the adults who go to a Disney amusement park for vacation or spend their free time playing video games.  Think of all the adults at Star Trek and comic book conventions.  Think of Harry Potter’s popularity among adults.
  • There has been continued growth of false values marketing, which is the linking of a product to a cause or idea when it has nothing at all in common with the cause, for example giving healthy attributes to junk food or claiming a product is environmentally friendly.
  • More advertising seems over the top or bizarre than ever before, but it turns out that these ads are invariably based on solid consumer research in the predilections of a special target market.
  • The combined effect of the portability of media and the accessibility of equipment and venues for “do-it-yourself” art is resulting in the lowering of the production values and sophistication of thought in virtually all forms of communications.  Look to reality TV and the video game plots of blockbuster movies as ready examples.

Don’t hesitate to leave a message or comment at the OpEdge page on Facebook, or to make a comment on this blog, if you have identified any media trends that you think are worth noting or that you want me to explore in the coming months.

Tomorrow I’ll finish up this “annual blogport” with a list of some of the ideas with which I have been trying to brainwash my gentle readers.

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