The version of the world portrayed in much of the mainstream news outlets — particularly its unflattering portrayal of conservatives — gets a comeuppance in Batya Ungar-Sargon’s new book, “Bad News: How Woke Media Is Undermining Democracy.”
From a contemporary as well as a historical point of view, the author dissects how the media became the predominantly — indeed, overwhelming to many — progressive leviathan it is today.
Ungar-Sargon’s poignant commentary highlights the historical trends that transformed the print media at the turn of the century into self-described “cosmopolitan” bastions of reporting.
Ungar-Sargon gave Newsmax an overview of how journalism began in the United States and eventually evolved into what it is today.
“For most of American history, journalism was a working-class trade,” she told us. “Journalists lived in working-class communities and made the same kinds of salaries as factory workers and electricians. This gave them an inherently pro-little guy approach to the news, even though — or perhaps because — they spent a lot of time talking to powerful people.
“Journalists saw themselves as outside power looking in and demanding accountability for everyone else who was also outside.”
But, the author explained: “There was a status revolution in journalism [in the mid-20th century]. Journalists went from being blue collar to being part of the elites. Today, journalists are one of the most highly educated workforces in the country. Journalists are in the top 10 percent in terms of income.
“Because the industry is so competitive, newsrooms now hire from the most elite universities in the country. Instead of living next door to factory workers and making maybe a bit more than their neighbors, journalists now live in communities with lawyers and dentists and make a bit less than their neighbors. Their kids go to school with the children of the millionaires and politicians who populate America’s most exclusive ranks.
“And that’s who they write about and who they write for.”
Ungar-Sargon makes a strong case that journalists have essentially used the power and the prestige of their shared institution to garner favor of the people they interview for notoriety, access and favoritism.
She does not believe that her progressive and liberal colleagues will change their coverage or their tunes anytime soon.
As the author explained, “Progressivism is inherently at odds with the working class for the same reason conservative outlets are better at speaking to them: People who don’t go to college don’t believe in kooky ideas like the view that it’s racist to want a colorblind society or the view that there’s no difference between men and women.”
As a result, according to Ungar-Sargon: “Liberal outlets, like the Democratic Party more broadly, seem to be leaning in hard to highly educated elites, who are also increasingly affluent. I don’t see that self-correcting anytime soon. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a few more losses like Virginia will set people straight!”
Another problem for non-liberals is, in Ungar-Sargon’s words, “[T]here has been a real consolidation of liberal mainstream media. If once The New York Times and The Washington Post and The Atlantic and CNN and MSNBC and NPR and TNR each catered to their own audiences, they all now cater to the same 8 million affluent progressives — the people they live among and go to school with and encounter at their food co-ops.”
This results in what she called “a very self-contained world. Black and Latino Americans don’t talk about themselves the way white progressives talk about them; Black and Latino Americans don’t read these outlets which are obsessed with race. And they don’t read them because they’re not for them.”
Ungar-Sargon’s solution to our inherent distrust of journalists and what many call “the plague of fake news” is straightforward.
“Honestly, I think what we need is a mass consumer boycott of the news — which is an ironic thing for one journalist to say to another,” she said with a laugh. “But I think we have replaced spirituality and community with knowing things and information and a nationalized politics that we just don’t really need to know that much about.
”We should all withhold our hard-earned money from media organizations until they stop making money off the myth that Americans are polarized.”
“We’re not,” Ungar-Sargon insisted, “and I’d like to see Americans going out into their communities to get information.”
Ungar-Sargon’s provocative book and commentary both provide a nuanced way of studying the progressive, woke media and what it means for the American polity moving forward.
It is inarguable that the growing distrust of the media has only increased in the last few weeks due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the conflicting edicts issued from the White House and progressive mayors across America on COVID-19 (from New York to Los Angeles), and the censoring of anyone who dares speak out against nepotism or favoritism in the mainstream media (take any one of many glaring ethics violations/scandals at CNN over the past few months).
Ungar-Sargon’s book is an eloquent call to the media to simply return to its roots. These days, it is exceptionally worthy reading.
(Michael Cozzi is a Ph.D. candidate at Catholic University in Washington.)
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