|Times Change - Some Things are No Longer True|
During the Bush years and even into the 2008 election cycle, this concept of a 'mainstream' media channel mostly delivered by television, radio and newspaper, and a second media channel, delivered by the internet that existed outside of that mainstream was quite valid. The real question being asked by consumers of media was 'how was the ideological worldview and market positioning of a given outlet influencing what they covered and how they covered it?' Although they disagreed radically on who the specific culprits and malefactors were, both left and right were in agreement that this division existed, and even on what it was intended to accomplish.
But now it's 2016. Internet delivered media content is every bit as mainstream as any other delivery medium. It's equally accessible to most, and the production quality and attention to detail is competitive with cable news. Aggregators like Google and Yahoo News sit alongside services like Reuters, CSM and McClatchy, while MSNBC, CNN and Fox have equal presences across both delivery platforms. The question that needs to be asked is not which outlets are mainstream and which are upstart truth-tellers, but rather which can be trusted to tell the truth no matter what - and, of course, if we even want to be told the objective truth. Movement Conservatives in America have made a point of shutting themselves off from any information they find contradicts their pre-existing worldview. But liberals often bristle when someone from their 'side' asks hard questions or even simply considers a heterodox position. Bright, talented writers and thinkers like Matt Yglesias and Jon Chait have fallen victim to this narrowing of the discussion parameters time and time again.
At this point, I think we can dispense with the whole 'mainstream media' construct. The question we need to ask should be applied to all media resources equally: Can what they say be trusted to reflect an objective reality, or are they starting from a given worldview and building their content in such a way to support that initial conclusion? And be well advised - people aren't going to agree on the answer. We are all conditioned to believe that information that supports our beliefs, and reject that which does not. The only answer is to avoid dependency on any one set of sources, but to examine every viewpoint in terms of that which we can determine is objectively true, to avoid conflating opinion with reporting, and to seek authoritative, primary sources whenever possible.