Originally posted by @pap
I think there is a bigger debate to be had, **especially when you consider the origins of the press in this country and its venerated position in society as the guardian of democracy. ** Independently produced newsletters have been a hallmark of many important political movements in this country, not least the propagation of information related to those being unfairly treated by the state during England’s Civil Wars. While it’d probably be a stretch to describe the literature as being entirely for the people, it definitely was anti-Establishment and in opposition to the powers of the day.
The press has been a hugely important part of our democracy, but I think that its traditional role of being the guardian of our liberties is over. These days, unlike those newsletters, I expect most of it to back the establishment rather than criticise it.
Those weren’t the origins of the press, though. The origins exhibit exactly the things you complain of. Journalism was a very English-made thing. It was created in the coffee shop culture of the second half of the seventeenth century (sounds odd because we all assume Starbucks is new - but coffee houses were all the rage). The coffee shops were the meeting places for an emerging merchant class (the bourgeoisie, passe Marx), who passed around economic information (the original consumer reports). Two prerequisites were in place by then: the Magna Carta, displacing monarchical absolutism, and the Gutenberg press. As these reports circulated they evolved into the first ‘letters’, and out of this emerged the first journalistic magazines, including The Spectator, which began its run in the early nineteenth century and is, I think, the oldest political/cultural magazine in the English-speaking world.
So in a sense, journalism has always struggled with this tension of freedom from, or entrapment within, commercial interests. These tensions are resolved more decisively in some magazines and papers (The New Yorker, for example) than others (Hello magazine). They are also resolved more decisively with certain writers (Jeremy Scahill, for example), than others (any number of candidates).
So what to do as a reader? As I said earlier we’re pickers and choosers. And we’re like that to such an extent that to ask questions about whether we ‘believe’ or ‘trust’ news organisations is odd. News organisations are not religions that require us to believe in them.
But the obverse is also true: that modern-day absolutists like Putin will always try to subvert this process by which we obtain news by a combination of vicious supression of dissenting voice in the Russian media and a barely credible mimicry of news organisations (as with Russia Today, sponsored by the same state apparatus that breaks the presses and shuts down the online presence of dissenting opinion).
So you don’t have to desire to be on the side of the angels in any of this. The journalistic tradition has always been to struggle to shake off commercial imperatives and say things that may damage those imperatives. Hence our general scepticism. Hence that video montage you began this thread with. But the absolutist alternative is far worse.