Ever felt like you couldn’t quite put your finger on it, but that something seemed to be “wrong with the world” and the way things are? What if things are the way they are for a reason? What if the institutions the people have setup are no longer serving the interests of the people but instead those of their owners and a select few well-connected? The news industry has a dirty little secret. No, not the kind of raunchy Madison Avenue affair or lurid Hollywood homicide carried out secretly in the night which you may typically see portrayed in the movies or on TV; however Hollywood and Madison Avenue both, as leading beacons in the mainstream media, certainly have a hand in the secret as well.
The secret is that the mainstream media, especially the News, TV, Ad and Film industries are tightly controlled by their corporate owners in cooperation with the governments of the regions in which they broadcast their messages, to push specific political and/or financially-motivated agendas.
While to some people reading this article, there’s no surprise whatsoever in that statement and this is old news (because quite frankly it is not only old news – its also common sense), still some may be shocked or skeptical at such a statement. That is fine, and for those people, my only hope is that they can at least begin to approach the above institutions with the same sort of skepticism, even if you’re the type that inherently trusts just about everything the same mainstream media tells you.
Don’t believe me? Allow me to explain the main mechanism by which the “secret” is carried out, the News Wirefeed.
How does a News Wirefeed work?
A news wirefeed is a service provided by a large news agency that acts as a single source of news information that will be distributed out to, read by, acted on, and possibly even re-published verbatim, by other smaller news organizations and outlets. Essentially, their role can be compared to the Town Crier of days of old, in that it constantly yells out news headlines through the airwaves, just as a person used to do through the street. What the town crier said, the townspeople essentially believed (until the Town Crier was proven wrong, at which time they would send the old town crier to the gallows and get a new one). Why did most of the entire town’s people believe what the Town Crier said? Simple really, they were the only source of information, thus there was no source of truth to verify the Town Crier’s claims against. If the Town Crier said “all is good on the western front” then that must be the case; likewise if they said “the sky is falling” then it must be time to buy hard hats and hide out in your bunkers.
List of Wirefeed Services
So who exactly are these mysterious wirefeeds and who is running them? Some of the most prominent Wirefeed services are listed below, by region (the main ones are bolded, see Wikipedia):
- Reuters (UK)
- Press Association (UK & Ireland)
- Agence France-Presse (France)
- Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Germany)
- BNO News (Netherlands)
- Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (Netherlands)
- Slovenian Press Agency (Slovenia)
- Cision AB (Sweden)
- Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (Italy)
- CanadianPress (Canada)
- Marketwire (Canada)
- Associated Press (US)
- All Headline News (US)
- United Press International (US)
- PR Newswire (US)
- GlobeNewswire (US)
- BusinessWire (US)
- Notimex (Mexico)
- Agencia de Noticias Latinoamericana S.A. (Cuba)
- ABN Newswire (Australia)
- WorldPress (Africa)
- African Press Organization (Senegal)
- Islamic Republic News Agency (Iran)
All told, a handful of individuals at an even smaller handful of organizations essentially dictate a majority of the reported news as it appears in hundreds of thousands of local publications and productions, from newspapers and magazines to local cable-access TV news programs and the local radio airwaves.
Impact on Newspapers
Since 1897, thanks to then-owner Adolph S. Ochs, the motto of The New York Times has been the famous slogan:
All the News That’s Fit to Print
SOURCE: Encyclopedia Britannica
This slogan still appears on the web (as the tongue-in-cheeck “All the News That’s Fit to Click”) and within the masthead (the most important brand/message space available in print) of the newspaper today. Long taken to be a sign of the newspaper’s intention to report the news impartially, could this in fact be a silent admission to the lack of partiality of the so-called “free press”? Perhaps it actually implies that there is a manual (and today most likely a partly automatic) curation process that purposely weeds out any potentially disagreeing views that don’t go along with the mainstream version of things, academic consensus or the larger socio-political agenda. However, reality does not play out according to consensus and pre-arranged “news bites”, and it is the views of those on the fringe (i.e. the dreamers and those who dare to question or challenge the status quo) that are constantly leading the charge of positive innovations. For this reason, people are increasingly becoming disenchanted with what is commonly dubbed the “lamestream media”. Many are now turning to alternative sources of news on the web and locally, and doing their own research rather than taking everything at the mainstream media says at face value.
NOTE: To learn more about how Newspapers work in general, check out this Tutorial by HowStuffWorks.
Likewise, to see how News/Gossip Tabloids work, check out their tutorial article.
All this just goes to show that the entire news industry suffers from the same self-imposed limitations, and on any given day once you know the top 10 “news bites”, the headlines on any of the mainstream media publishing and distribution sources become incredibly predictable if not rediculously repetitive and by times annoying (do we really need to know what Kim Kardashian went shopping or that Justin Bieber had lunch in Times Square?).
What about Press Releases and Business/Financial Information?
The same goes for Press Releases as well. Take for example, this admission from former PR NewsWire CEO, Charles H. Morin:
Moreover, before any corporate release is issued over PR Newswire, it undergoes a stringent verification process to ensure that the story is issued by the appropriate corporate entity. Our editors follow a procedure whereby they only accept releases from an individual at the company who is authorized to issue releases. PR Newswire then contacts each client at an authorized phone number to ensure that we have reached the right individual before the story is issued. The breadth of coverage of this corporate news, coupled with the verification processes that PR Newswire maintains to ensure the integrity of each story, makes this news a time-tested, critical source of information that is actively embraced by the investing public.
SOURCE: SEC filing of PR Newswire (August 26, 2002)
What he is essentially saying here is that the company only deals with one single person at any given organization, this person essentially has the “keys to the kingdom” in terms of how their corporation gets represented in press releases. They are free to embellish or omit any detail they wish, and because they are “authorized” what they say udergoes “stringent verification” to ascertain it is actually the words they wanted to print, but largely goes to press with only minor editing. the coverage of a wide-range of topics coupled with checking with the authorized contact person of an organization is gives integrity to each story. Furthermore, this process is actually “trusted” by the investing public! Is it any wonder that a company’s stocks and sometimes the entire stock market can fluctuate wildly based on how a single press release is received?
Here is an excellent summary from PRWeb’s own blog:
Sites like Drudge Report, Infowars and other independent/alternative news aggregators and commentators are a step in the right direction, but we must be cautious not to repeat the mistakes of the print world when it comes to digital reporting and news. Our leading online news sites must not be controlled by a single corporation or handful of individuals, but rather collaboratively community-curated and maintained by all citizens, similar to South Korea’s OhMyNews. In addition, aggregation sites like the above were intentionally left out in the dark by Google’s updates to its search algorithms and News Reader has been discontinued entirely? Do you think that was by accident or for a specific reason? Are the major search engines maybe becoming more and more focused on “trusted sources” of news (i.e. the existing print-based wirefeed re-publishers with brand recognition).
Today, it’s just as easy to see how one can become brainwashed by the constant stream of messages as it is to see how one could become disenfranchised and choose to just tune out completely. They want you to think you have no power to affect change, and to be a reliable cog in the wheel of a particular version of modern society, their version. Kind of like this classic clip from The Twilight Zone:
However, we must never forget that the base of the pyramid is what holds the rest of the structure up. Take out their firm placement of the lowest in society and the whole institution crumbles.
- Which newswires do journalists actually read? 80 journalists surveyed. (vitispr.com)
- The 10 Golden Rules to Attracting Authority Links (seomoz.org)
- How PRWeb Helps Distribute Crap Into Google & News Sites (searchengineland.com)
- Quick Review: NewsFlash Aggregates The World’s Headlines (macstories.net)
- The Onion ribs the Huffington Post (laobserved.com)
- Navigating News Online: Pew Research Center Releases Study (sixestate.com)
- Online news and credibility (adigaskell.org)
- Welcome to the future of social news : Reuters ups its game and Tumblr writes about itself (simplyzesty.com)
BC$ = Behavior, Content, Money
The goal of the BC$ project is to raise awareness and make changes with respect to the three pillars of information freedom - Behavior (pursuit of interests and passions), Content (sharing/exchanging ideas in various formats), Money (fairness and accessibility) - bringing to light the fact that:
1. We regularly hand over our browser histories, search histories and daily online activities to companies that want our money, or, to benefit from our use of their services with lucrative ad deals or sales of personal information.
2. We create and/or consume interesting content on their services, but we aren't adequately rewarded for our creative efforts or loyalty.
3. We pay money to be connected online (and possibly also over mobile), yet we lose both time and money by allowing companies to market to us with unsolicited advertisements, irrelevant product offers and unfairly structured service pricing plans.