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Monday Memo: ‘Mainstream Media’ Redefined

| June 22, 2020

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — For several decades, the term “Mainstream Media” has been weaponized, first by scrappy fringe voices railing against legacy networks and newspapers; more recently by FOX News Channel and Rush Limbaugh…ironic, since ratings qualify them as “mainstream.” But never has the obsolescence of the term been more painfully obvious than lately, especially during the George Floyd episode.

How are We The People NOT “Mainstream Media” now?

  • There are an estimated 260 million smartphones in the USA.
  • Each can broadcast, instantly, worldwide, because…
  • Facebook has 223.3 million members here.
  • 35 million Americans post on Twitter each month.

Who bought Zoom stock during the IPO?

During the pandemic, we’ve seen lots of living rooms (and those CNBC people have some handsome homes).

Even when we get a vaccine or some other confidence that the coast is clear, will the remote broadcasting look endure? Does its intimate, rough-cut style imply an authenticity lacking in the perfectly-lit, consultant-decorated, TV studio with see-through news desk and cityscape backdrop?

Social Media: News Media?

President Trump has been USING Twitter to complain ABOUT Twitter fact-checking him, and threatening government regulation…to which FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel quickly replied: “Social media can be frustrating. But an Executive Order that would turn the FCC into the President’s speech police is not the answer. It’s time for those in Washington to speak up for the First Amendment. History won’t be kind to silence.”

Threatening the protections social media claim as platforms – not publishers – lights up my First Amendment dashboard warning light. Yours too?

Recommended Reading

My favorite book so far this year is More From Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources – and What Happens Next by Andrew McAfee

Whether you play for the political red team or the blue team, you will like what McAfee reports about how we have increased human prosperity while treading lightly on our planet.  And the resources he describes are not all ecologically-tangible.

McAfee writes: “We believe things because the people around us believe them, or members of our political tribe do, or members of the opposite side believe the opposite. Most of us are more likely to believe things if we hear them enough times, since we have a glitch in our mental hardware to mistake familiarity for truth. Similarly, we believe a lot of things because our innate negativity bias is reinforced by a constant stream of dire headlines, expert predictions of decline and doom, and vivid images of things going wrong.”

Given those human nature limitations can we trust each other as useful informers?

 Kellyanne Conway’s Epitaph: “Alternative Facts”

Every week or so, some ruthless cost-cutting conglomerate has just slashed a once-proud newspaper’s budget; and big corporate radio station owners are firing local talent right and left. So, sadly, we may increasingly depend on social media for local news. And I’m reading of an uptick in use of police scanner apps.

But for a big story like the pandemic, is the consumer better-off, for instance, bookmarking CDC, cutting-out media middlemen who can opinionate the story in the re-telling?

 Towers: Obsolete?

The New York Times pronounces former “Fear Factor” host and MMA commentator Joe Rogan “The New Mainstream Media,” as Spotify is paying him a reported hundred million dollars to distribute his podcast.  The Times opines that “Reading or watching the news is no longer immersive, as it was when you sat down with a bunch of papers or in front of a living room TV. Now it is a fragmented experience, usually done on a cellphone.”

When Rush Limbaugh led the vaunted talk radio revolution at the dawn of the nineties, he prolonged the life of AM radio, which is now technically challenged and largely unused by people younger than Baby Boomers. Has “talk radio” transcended…radio?

Admittedly, these questions challenge us as broadcasters. TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison and I discussed all-of-the-above on my TV show this past weekend. If you missed it, see the video here.

Stay safe.

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books.  Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page for an instant download.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday at 700 pm ET on RT America.  Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice