What role should the media play in democracy?

We live in a media saturated world. Everywhere we turn, the media is there. There to deliver messages, there to entertain, persuade, demonstrate, inform, and most importantly – there to earn.

In a world where time seems to become more and more precious, media is somehow swimming against the tide and providing us with 24hr access to the world around us. Unfortunately, the tides of change in the media are treacherous, and many companies are finding their business plans to be less protection of their gigantic empires than an umbrella in a cyclone.

Nevertheless, the media is always active, and we are finding less and less time to engage with it. So what’s this leaving us with? If I may hypothesise, the capitalistic 24hr lifestyle we now seem to be engaged in has left us with precious little time to analyse things the way we used to.

For many people, their daily routine looks a little something like this:

– Early Morning: Get ready for, and arrive at work.

– Noon: Pay bills or run other errands and shovel food into your body before walking back into work.

– Late afternoon: Leave work and travel home

– Evening: Walk through the front door, turn the TV on, select favourite channel andand make dinner with the news on in the background .

– Night: Clean up after dinner, TV blaring in the background with your favourite form of entertainment on. Offspring, The Footy Show, Breaking Bad, re-runs of New York set TV Shows filmed entirely out of studios in California, whatever. Indulge yourself for a little while.

– Late Night: Get ready for the next day, head off to bed.

Now that’s a fairly simplistic view, but I doubt that many adults in Australia couldn’t connect with the routine in some general form.

So what do we take out of that? It would be fair to say that many Australian’s are stretched for time these days, yet are still keen to be up to date with news and current affairs around them. So, they blindly trust media organisations to keep them informed and aware of the world around them. However in that daily routine, many are finding it difficult to analyse, compare and evaluate the arguments and perspectives presented to them. People don’t have time to do that like they used to. No longer will the average Aussie gather various sources of news media and consume all of them, evaluating each article, analysing the commentary and most essentially, exposing themselves to a variety of opinions and ideals on the topics of the day.

We trust the media, completely and utterly blindly.

Therefore, the media’s role in democracy is rather complicated. But on a basic level, the media should at least ensure that it presents news and commentary separately, informs the audience, represent arguments and debates of public policy and other matters in accordance to their representation in society, and most of all the media should shed light on the dark.

But the media is there to make a profit. So that doesn’t always happen, because, well, in media, profits are often made by following the tide. Nobody should be surprised to see the mastheads of major daily newspapers taking an angle on a story which the majority of their readership would be reasonably expected to take, and running it across the front page. It might incense many of us, but wouldn’t it be their democratic right to free speech to publish their angle?

The media, and it’s role in democracy is extremely complex.

Instead of relying in the media all the time, we need to be less trusting and more independent. There are many options in the marketplace. Maybe we should start making time to survey them all. It’ll only help us to make better decisions.