It occurred to us recently that we've been remiss in adopting, without sufficient thought, certain out-of-date but widely-used terms to describe the shifting media world arrayed before us.
Mainstream News Media, a.k.a. MSM: Usually used by blogosphere zealots on the right and the left as a disparaging reference to a handful of large and supposedly influential newspapers, magazines and TV networks. (And, oddly, enough, a term adopted by those it is meant to describe -- who are fooling themselves, as we shall shortly show.)
But in an age when overall newspaper circulation has been inexorably leaking away year after year for more than 20 years now; when the major network news operations draw barely 50 percent of the nightly audience they once had; and when general interest magazines have been elbowed aside by niche publications, the tag "mainstream" to describe a bunch of bewildered guys 'n dolls who find themselves slipping daily down the razor blade of life seems not just quaint, but missing the point entirely.
We prefer the more accurate term Corporate Media, or CM, since paradoxically many of these floundering outfits are owned by monster corporations whose senior executives must wonder, as they stare at the ceiling at 3 o'clock in the morning, "What was I thinking?" (See Consolidation, Media.)
So is the very term MSM -- meant to describe dinosaurs -- a dinosaur itself?
Not at all. In a nation in which political and cultural conservatives occupy the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and most statehouses, MSM strikes us as a dead-on description of a more recent phenomenon: The avidly partisan right-wing press, represented in the swelling blogosphere, the small-magazine world, radio networks such as Sinclair Broadcasting and Clear Channel, newspapers such as the Washington Times and the New York Post and, perhaps most importantly, any number of cable television outlets.
So here's our new glossary:
Corporate Media: The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News Network, and any other entity owned by Dow Jones, Gannett, Scripps-Howard, Newhouse, Tribune Co., Cox Newspapers, News Corp., Knight-Ridder, Hearst, Conde Nast, Time Warner, General Electric, Viacom, Disney, Sinclair Broadcasting and Clear Channel. (Apologies, bigtime CEOs, if we left anyone out.)
MSM: See above. The newly triumphant, and most of them quite giddy about it at that.
Loyal Opposition: Any newspaper, blog, website, small magazine or other news/opinion outlet that tries to make its way in that increasingly embattled spectrum that ranges from slightly-to-the-right-of-center to way-left-of-center.
Obviously, there's some overlap. Fox News, for example, is both Corporate Media and the MSM -- the most potent blend of all. The Washington Post, by contrast, is both a Corporate Medium and the Loyal Opposition, a far less formidable combination.
But for the most part, the categories hold up. So we'll try to break old habits, and remain true to the glossary. Let us know when we don't.