Saturday, August 3, 2013

American model of media and journalism or why the "revolution" might not be televised

Living in USA within the last month made me realize how much we, Romanians, still have to do and to accomplish in order to become a modern country: infrastructure, health and education system, corruption are a few of the most urgent problems that we have to deal with in a more effective manner. The streets of San Francisco, the skyscrapers of Cleveland or Columbus, the airports of Atlanta or Chicago, the  facilities and investments made in education and science (that we all SUSI scholars shared at Ohio University) are among  the major differences between the two countries.

But there is something where we, as a country, can compare with the US: the freedom of speech and free media. Romania and USA shared the same position (nr. 47) regarding freedom of the press in the years 2011/2012, as shown in the Reporters without Borders Organization Report.

I could understand the influence of the American media system upon the Romanian media system only after I have watched and I have visited the national and local US media. For sure, Romania, an ex-communist country, does not have community journalism like in the US (see TV stations like KQED). But we do have the same business media model: rating points, target, market are the ones that dictate the editorial content, the prime-time news and agenda setting.

I was convinced about the resemblance between the two media systems after our visit to CNN Headquarters in Atlanta. In the same way like in USA, Romanian televisions may not cherish so much the public interest: the first and foremost important goal for TV News is to reach large audiences. That is why you may watch at CNN for three days in a row the British Royal baby story and, simultaneously, local or regional big political or social news can be ignored.

We have Romanian TV channels which share the Fox News editorial approach. You may find tabloids and gossip press, too. We have also journalists and TV stations that are trying to do an honest job. And the most important thing: we have the pressure of the media owners and their rush to get the profit, the advertising and more dollars.

American media system may not be the perfect one. Romania media system shares the same ultra liberal economic model of press. I do not say that it is the best possible, but so far this media system model was the only one that made possible the dialogue between different parts of society.

In the last years in Romania and USA large audiences shifted from traditional media to the online and to social media. Media consumption trends influenced the business model: While CNN has 2.500 employees at CNN Headquarter in Atlanta, Google has 11.000 employees at Googleplex in California. In Romania internet consumption became more important than print or radio consumption. These are, in fact, revolutionary changes in the media system! These are the reasons why I think it is time for traditional journalists and for media owners to work more responsibly to build their credibility in the name of public interest. If not, the revolution will not be televised.

Antonio Momoc