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Senator's View: The corporate pursuit of profits has decimated 'real journalism'

From the column: "(While) we need more reporters covering the health care crisis, the climate emergency, and economic inequality, the corporate media is incentivized to ignore or downplay these critical issues."

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John Cole / Cagle Cartoons
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Today in America, after decades of consolidation and deregulation, some eight multinational media companies control almost all the news you watch, read, hear, and download.

All across the country, corporate conglomerates and hedge-fund vultures have bought and consolidated local newspapers and slashed their newsrooms — all while giving executives and shareholders big payouts.

The result of this trend has been the decimation of journalism.

The result of this trend is more than 1,400 communities across the country losing local newspapers, which are also outlets for local TV, radio, and digital sites that rely on them for reporting.

The result of this trend is ad networks lining up for billions of dollars a year in pharmaceutical and oil ads while failing to provide a consistently fair hearing for issues like Medicare for All or downplaying coverage of the climate crisis.

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The result of this trend is that — according to one study published by Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, a non-partisan forum — despite millions of Americans struggling to survive, budget-strapped newsrooms "have not turned their attention to poverty."

In other words, at precisely the moment we need more reporters covering the health care crisis, the climate emergency, and economic inequality, the corporate media is incentivized to ignore or downplay these critical issues.

No.

The American people desperately need high-quality journalism.

I believe that is why most reporters and newspaper staff get into this work.

I am not talking about the ones who are paid millions of dollars to pontificate about frivolous political gossip, but the ones who, in the words of Joseph Pulitzer, undertake the painstaking reporting that will "fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, (and) always fight demagogues."

When we have had real journalism, we have seen crimes like Watergate exposed and confronted. When we have lacked real journalism, we have seen crimes like mortgage fraud go unnoticed and unpunished, leading to a devastating financial crisis that destroyed millions of Americans’ lives.

I bring this up today, a month after New York Times journalists and staff went on strike for a fair contract. They’ve bargained with management at the paper but have not been met with good faith. The staff at The New York Times are fighting for a living wage and fair pay — something that is not so radical when the company just approved $150 million in stock buybacks for its investors.

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Real journalism requires significant resources, and one reason we do not have enough real journalism in America right now is because far too many media outlets are led primarily by the pursuit of profit as opposed to investing in the workers and resources it takes to educate the people of this country and hold the powerful accountable.

It is long past time in this country to reinstate and strengthen media-ownership rules.

It is long past time we limit the number of stations that large broadcasting corporations can own in each market and nationwide.

It is long past time in this country that we prevent tech giants like Facebook and Google from using their enormous market power to cannibalize and defund news organizations, especially the small and independent ones without the infrastructure to fight back.

And it is long past time in this country that we explore new ways to empower media workers to effectively collectively bargain with large corporations like The New York Times.

Our constitution’s First Amendment explicitly protects the free press because the founders understood how important journalism is to a democracy.

Quality journalism is not possible when media workers are unable to earn a living wage and when corporations prioritize profit above all else.

We need to rebuild and protect a diverse and truly independent press so that real journalists and media workers can do the critical jobs that they love — and that a functioning democracy requires.

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Bernie Sanders represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate and is the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Milwaukee on April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

Related Topics: MEDIA
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