[To those faithful few regular visitors to this blog: my apologies for having not posted anything recently. Thanks for still checking in.]
I have always been interested in politics and current events. I was the news junky [before there was the term “geek”] who won the Time magazine current events test in my school. In college I minored in political science. I even toyed with the idea of a career in political campaigning. [Am I glad that God had a better plan for my life than that!] As a minister of the Gospel however, I have always been careful to separate the message of Jesus from politics, unlike too may other well-intentioned Christians.
I tell you this so that you can understand my long-term perspective and interest in politics from which the following ideas come.
The media—print, radio, television, Internet—pride themselves on exposing conflicts of interest. Mike Wallace and “60 Minutes” made their reputations and fortunes exposing conflicts of political, economic, and even religious leaders. Essentially, a conflict of interest is where someone profits or enjoys benefit from something in which he/she has significant influence. For example, a politician who owns a company that gets contracts from a government committee of which he is chairman is a conflict of interest. Media journalists thrive on exposing such situations.
However, these self-appointed protectors of society are overlooking a glaring conflict of interest—themselves. Here we are in the heart of the 2008 Presidential campaign. Many candidates are vying to become the 44th President of the United States. Daily, the various forms of media give us every detail of the competition.
There is endless analysis of the various candidates, who is the leader for the nomination, what the others are doing to try and gain. The candidates feverishly try to get their message to the voters in order to win. The media relentlessly tells us how important this election is to the future of our great nation. They keep us, the people, stirred up and eager to get more information about the candidates.
Where is the conflict of interest?
Who profits from this interest in the election process? According to Adweek, the magazine and website for the advertising industry, $4.5 billion will be spent in the 2008 Presidential election process by the candidates for political advertising. Where do all those dollars go? To the corporations that own and operate the various media outlets! They go to the local television station, the local newspaper, and to the multinational corporations that own the television, print, and Internet giant media outlets.
In other words, the more important the media convinces us that the elections are, the more money candidates will spend to give us the information we demand. The more controversy that is stirred up, the more money candidates will spend. The greater the number of candidates focused upon by the media, the more money they will spend.
The news media would argue they are doing a public service by bringing the message of the candidates to the people. However, they don’t bring every candidate’s message, only those who can afford to purchase the advertising. Besides, corporations like CBS, ABC, CNN, Comcast, and Gannett [publishers of USAToday] do not exist to provide public services—they exist to provide profits to their stockholders.
You see the point. The media directly profits from a process they strongly affect. That is a classic conflict of interest. Who will confront “60 Minutes” and all the others in Mike Wallace fashion? Remember that the next time you see Mike Wallace, Bill O’Reilly, The New York Times, or WBOC [my local television station] tell you how important this election is.