freedom of the press – was it ever a good thing?

The bias of the mainstream media is much talked about but it often seems to be assumed that this is a fairly recent phenomenon. This simply isn’t true. 
Many of us cling to the illusion that there was once a golden age of courageous investigative reporters who cared deeply about the truth. That there was a time when newspapers and TV news tried to be objective. In fact there never was such a time. For as long as mass media has existed, from the very beginnings of mass-circulation newspapers in the 19th century, there has been bias. 
The bias comes from three sources. Firstly, the owners want their political views propagated. No-one has ever wanted to own a newspaper to make money. There are easier and more certain ways to make a profit. You own a newspaper because you want to influence public opinion. You want to impose your views on the public. It has always been this way.
Secondly, journalists have their own political agendas and they have never hesitated to advance those agendas in their reporting.
Thirdly, journalists are essentially whores. If in doubt they’ll conform to the wishes of the owners. They know which side their bread is buttered.
There is a difference between the media of the past and that of today. A hundred years ago a major city might support have a dozen newspapers pushing half a dozen political agendas. Today every media outlet pushes precisely the same political agenda. We have a unique situation today in which our elites across the world are united in their political beliefs, and they have no loyalty to anyone or anything outside the elite. In the past there was at least some diversity in the propaganda spread by the media.
But the fact remains that freedom of the press has always been a bit of a myth. A free press is simply free to spread the propaganda favoured by the owners. A free press is not a guarantor of political freedom or democracy. 

2 comments on “freedom of the press – was it ever a good thing?

  1. James Higham says:

    Think everything in good measure, with balance.

  2. Hannen Swaffer: “Freedom of the press … is freedom to print such of the proprietor's prejudices as the advertisers don't object to.”

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