Established media houses that command the support of advertisers, a sizeable portion of the mass readership, viewership, or listenership, are often in a constant battle to maintain and grow those important markets for revenue.
It is a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Corporate financing through advertising usually follows media houses with large audience numbers. On the other hand, the audience increases, or declines based on the content being provided by the media source.
Here in Barbados, for example, there is constant jostling for the pole position in a very crowded, though segmented radio market.
There is stiff competition for the mature listeners, who tend to be the ones with the greatest spending power. Rivalry for the younger demographic too is packed with radio stations vying for these listeners who, over time, will be the ones with the spending power. It is that segment whom advertisers will be chasing for attention in a few short years.
When it comes to the provision of news content, the situation is much more complicated. The pervasive presence of smartphones has turned just about everyone into a “news gatherer” and citizen journalism abounds.
Newsrooms have been forced to swiftly adapt to an evolving environment where people have endless sources of content. They are receiving a diet of entangled news and entertainment, disinformation, propaganda, and indoctrination.
Somewhere in the mix of all this are authentic news outlets still seeking to provide reliable, trustworthy news that has been verified, fact checked, and filtered through processes required to produce quality journalism.
The United States headquartered Cable News Network (CNN), viewed around the world as the gold standard of journalism is literally fighting for its continued relevance as top news anchors and journalists jump ship from the sliding network.
CNN has been cutting its staff over the past four years as its viewership tumbles. While this has taken place, FOX News has been feeding its millions of viewers a daily diet of racist, divisive content that stokes the fears of mainly white Americans. It has risen to the top of the media food chain using that playbook.
As CNN struggles to regain its place of preeminence in the American and international markets, it took the extraordinary step this week of staging a live, town hall session with former president Donald Trump.
Were Trump any ordinary politician seeking to be the Republican candidate to challenge Joe Biden in 2024, the live town hall might have gone on without fanfare.
What has disrupted the news media landscape and caused significant backlash for CNN, is the network’s embracing of Trump who mobilised an insurrection in the US Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer from his administration to that of Biden’s on January 6, 2021.
He continues to refuse to accept that he lost the 2020 presidential election and has spewed lies, fomented hate and upended institutions in the US that Americans used to rely on and had confidence.
As usual, Trump berated the female CNN moderator, ran roughshod over her attempts to get answers to questions, sought to undermine the justice system and basically indicated that were he the candidate he would not agree with any other outcome except it was in his favour.
Tom Jones, of the media research institute Poynter, supported the idea of CNN holding the town hall, however, he expressed shock by the conduct of the audience which was filled with Trump supporters rather than a cross section of the US voting public.
Jones was also critical of the composition of the audience which he said put CNN’s moderator, Kaitlan Collins, in an almost impossible position as she tried to garner answers from Trump and at the same time to fact-check the man who is known for his barrage of untruths.
Meanwhile, Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief who is currently at George Washington University, described the news events as “a harbinger of the difficult coverage decisions every news organisation needs to wrestle with because Donald Trump is not a normal candidate.”
What the CNN fiasco has taught the world is sadly, we are in for more of the same with a man, who if he regains office, is likely to inflict much more damage on the US and global politics than he did the first time around.