A global pandemic, historic anti-racism protests and a turbulent U.S. presidential election had Americans glued to their screens in 2020 like never before. Cable news ratings soared, online news subscriptions increased and the amount of time we all spent online broke records.
But as people consumed more news, they also began to trust the media less, surveys showed. According to a recent Gallup survey, the percentage of Americans with no trust in the mass media hit a record high in 2020: only nine per cent of respondents said they trust the mass media “a great deal” and a full 60 per cent said they have little to “no trust at all” in it.
The American media landscape has become increasingly polarized over the last few decades.
A Pew survey suggests 95 per cent of MSNBC’s audience are now Democrats while 93 per cent of the Fox News audience are Republicans. A similar trend is unfolding online.
“There’s a constant selection process that’s going on, that Silicon Valley is encouraging and accelerating,” said U.S. journalist and author Matt Taibbi in the new CBC documentary Big News. “If you read the Daily Caller, you are not going to read the New York Times and vice versa.”
Meanwhile, the media’s traditional sources of revenue have been uprooted. More than 16,000 news jobs were cut in the U.S. last year alone, the highest on record.
“Profitability is disappearing. Losses are growing. And budgets are tighter and tighter,” said conservative commentator and author Andrew Sullivan. “And the truth is … polarization is profitable.”
WATCH | Matt Taibbi and other media critic’s on the loss of trust in media:
Online metrics also show that the best way to get people to engage and spread content is to inflame their emotions, said Taibbi, who wrote the book Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another.
CBC’s Big News, which was released March 26 on CBC Gem, examines some of these issues in depth by interviewing media insiders and critics who dig into the ratings wars, public mistrust, the Trump effect, the politicization of the anti-racism protests and the pandemic, and the weaponization of social media. Coming off a record-breaking news year, the documentary asks, can the U.S. media be saved from itself?
Watch some highlights below:
Capitol Hill riots expose trust crisis in the U.S.
Every year, the public affairs company Edelman releases a trust barometer that measures perceived trust in the information we consume and its sources. This year’s report paints a particularly bleak picture.
“This is the era of information bankruptcy,” said CEO Richard Edelman in a statement. “We’ve been lied to by those in charge, and media sources are seen as politicized and biased. The result is a lack of quality information and increased divisiveness.”
“Fifty-seven percent of Americans find the political and ideological polarization so extreme that they believe the U.S. is in the midst of a cold civil war.”
Some of the experts interviewed for the documentary said that polarization and the increasing alienation from mainstream media among parts of the American population contributed to the convictions that drove the deadly Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.
“Jan. 6 was the logical result of the profound disparity between the elites and a lot of people who had been profoundly misinformed,” Sullivan told the CBC.
WATCH | MSNBC host Ali Velshi and others on media polarization and the Capitol riot:
How cable news became polarized in the U.S.
Until the 1990s, American broadcast news was focused on gaining the largest possible audience with the least objectionable content, Taibbi says in the documentary.
“It was oblivious in all sorts of ways to poverty, to race, to issues of sexual orientation, to America’s role in the world, but it knit together a common understanding. And that common understanding drove politics,” Lawrence Lessig, lawyer and author of They Don’t Represent Us, told CBC.
By the early 2000s, as competition increased and regulations softened, that profit model began to change and media outlets began targeting specific demographics.
WATCH | How did media become so polarized? Experts offer their take:
Journalists increasingly seen as ‘out of touch’
According to a 2019 Pew survey, 73 percent of Republicans say news media don’t understand people like them, and 40 percent of Democrats feel the same way.
Local news has been particularly hard-hit by recent job cuts, which means journalists are now increasingly congregated in big urban cities, such as New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
“Those cities are expensive, and so you have to be wealthy to be a journalist, which didn’t used to be true,” said Sue Gardner, former director of the Wikimedia Foundation and CBC.ca.
“People don’t know journalists anymore unless they themselves are also part of the wealthy elites, so all of that creates more distance.”
Former Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson grew up and worked in the Midwest for decades before becoming a Fox News host in the early 2000s. “There are a lot of people who feel like their voice isn’t being heard,” she told CBC.
WATCH | How journalists lost touch with their audiences:
Global pandemic another test of media credibility
The coronavirus pandemic was another event that polarized Americans, and the media played a part in that, those who spoke with CBC for the Big News documentary said.
One example, says New York Times health reporter Apoorva Mandavill, was the shifting and increasingly politicized coverage of the mask debate.
“I think that as journalists, we were disoriented at the beginning, and we probably didn’t ask quite as many tough questions, like, ‘Why wouldn’t masks work?” Mandavilli said.
“It really did feed into this idea that we cannot trust anybody.”
According to a University of Michigan analysis, COVID-19 stories in American newspapers and network news were highly politicized and polarized.
“It is likely that media coverage is contributing to the polarization of public attitudes [around COVID-19],” the study concluded.
WATCH | Why even coverage of the pandemic became polarized:
Movie theaters face uncertain future
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Maryo Mogannam snuck into the Empire theater in San Francisco with his older cousins to watch “Animal House” when he was 14. He watched most of the James Bond movies at the historic art house and took his wife there on some of their first dates.
The cinema, which had been showing movies since the silent film era, served notice in February that it was permanently closing because of the impact of COVID-19. The marquee is now blank, and cardboard and paper cover the box office window.
“It’s kind of like losing a friend,” said Mogannam, now 57, who owns a retail shipping outlet near the theater, which had been renamed the CineArts at the Empire.
As vaccinated Americans emerge from their homes, they also may find their neighborhood theater is not there to greet them.
An eight-cinema chain in New England said it will not reopen. The same fate hit a Houston art house beloved by director Richard Linklater and, in a shock to Hollywood, more than 300 screens run by Los Angeles-based Pacific Theatres. That includes the Cinerama Dome, a landmark that hosted several red-carpet movie premieres.
Following a year of closures, theaters face deferred rent bills plus media companies’ focus on drawing customers to streaming services. Up to one-fourth of the roughly 40,000 screens in the United States could disappear in the next few years, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.
The National Association of Theatre Owners rejects that estimate, spokesman Patrick Corcoran said, noting that similar dire warnings accompanying the advent of television and the switch to digital screens never came to pass.
Hollywood filmmakers want cinemas to thrive.
“It’s the only place where the art dominates,” said “Avatar” director James Cameron. “When you watch something on streaming, the other people in the room with you are welcome to interject, to pause to go to the bathroom, to text.”
At theaters, “we literally make a pact with ourselves to go and spend two to three hours in a focused enjoyment of the art.”
“For 300 people to laugh and cry at the same time, strangers, not just your family in your house, that’s a very powerful thing,” said Chloe Zhao, Oscar-nominated director of best picture nominee “Nomadland.”
At the Academy Awards on Sunday, the movie industry will “make a case for why cinema matters,” producer Stacey Sher said. While acknowledging the hardship of the pandemic, “we also have to fight for cinema and our love of it and the way it has gotten us through things,” she said.
About 58% of theaters have reopened in the United States and Canada, most restricted to 50% capacity or less. The biggest operators – AMC, Cinemark and Cineworld – make up roughly half the overall market.
Industry leaders project optimism, forecasting a big rebound after restrictions ease and studios unleash new blockbusters.
Coming attractions include a new Bond adventure, the ninth “Fast & Furious” film, a “Top Gun” sequel and several Marvel superhero movies.
“Avatar 2,” Cameron’s follow-up to the highest-grossing film of all time, is set to debut in December 2022. Some box office analysts predict 2022 ticket sales will hit a record.
Supporters point to late March release “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which brought in roughly $48.5 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices over its first five days, even though audiences could stream it on HBO Max.
“That was a big win for the entire industry,” said Rich Daughtridge, president and chief executive of Warehouse Cinemas in Frederick, Maryland.
But near- and long-term challenges loom, particularly for smaller cinemas.
Theaters are negotiating with landlords over back rent. A federal aid program was delayed due to technical problems.
Plus, media companies are bringing movies to homes sooner. Executives say streaming is their priority, pouring billions into programming made to watch in living rooms as they compete with Netflix Inc.
Most at risk are theaters with one or two screens, Wedbush Securities’ Pachter said. He said his best guess is between 5,000 and 10,000 screens could go permanently dark in coming years.
“I think we’ll see a gradual decline in the number of screens,” Pachter said, “just like we’ve seen a gradual decline in the number of mom-and-pop grocery stores and bookstores.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Additional reporting by Rollo Ross in Los Angeles, Alicia Powell in New York and Nathan Frandino in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Applications open for Pattison Media 2021 Prairie Equity Scholarship – Lethbridge News Now
(Lethbridge News Now)
Apr 19, 2021 12:01 PM
LETHBRIDGE, AB – Applications are now being accepted for Pattison Media’s 2021 Prairie Equity Scholarship competition.
The scholarship is aimed at broadcast and digital media students in the Prairie provinces who are part of under-represented groups.
Two awards of $2,000 will be made to residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba who in 2021 are attending or planning to attend a recognized broadcast or digital media program at a post-secondary institute in one of the three provinces.
‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Tops Box Office Again, Crosses $80 Million in the U.S.
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada will set aside C$12 billion ($9.6 billion) to extend its main pandemic support measures in a budget to be presented on Monday, the Toronto Star reported, as much of the country battles a virulent third wave of COVID-19 infections.
The emergency wage subsidy and the emergency rent subsidy, due to expire in June, will be extended to the end of September, the Star reported on Sunday.
Separately, the government will create the “Canada Recovery Hiring Program” in June meant to help those companies depending on the wage subsidy to pivot to hiring again, the newspaper said.
The Finance Ministry declined to confirm or comment on the report. However, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp on Sunday that government pandemic supports would continue for as long as needed.
“If Canadians need that support and the pandemic continues, the government will certainly have their backs,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson also confirmed that the budget would be “ambitious” and that the government would “invest for jobs and growth to rebuild this economy,” though he also said there would be “fiscal guardrails” to put spending on a “sustainable track”.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will present the country’s first budget in two years on Monday after promising in November up to C$100 billion in stimulus over three years to “jump-start” an economic recovery during what is likely to be an election year.
Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.
Amid a spiking third wave of infections, Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, announced new public health restrictions on Friday, including closing the province’s borders to domestic travelers.
($1 = 1.2501 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Steve Scherer, Editing by Nick Zieminski)
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