In an article published by Mother Jones on Thanksgiving 2021, journalist Monika Bauerlein describes Americans as feeling mentally “exhausted” because of all the bad news on top of bad news that they are being inundated with. And media outlets, Bauerlein stresses, are creating that climate of exhaustion because it is good for business.
Bauerlein, in her Mother Jones article, writes, “Are you part of the exhausted majority?.… So many people are tired of feeling like everything is a disaster, everything is at risk, and we’ll never be done fighting with unvaccinated relatives over who gets to come to Thanksgiving. And tired, too, of the news. I’m a journalist who lives and breathes news, and I get tired. So many headlines that want to get your attention. So much to worry about. Democrats in disarray, inflation, the climate — it’s all at 11, all the time.”
Bauerlein acknowledges that “there are a lot of crises out there,” but she is quick to add that the world has always had crises. The difference in 2021, she argues, is media outlets have a financial stake in promoting “outrage.”
“This is obviously not the only time of crisis the world, or America, has ever been through,” the journalist explains. “It is, however, the only one in which we have lived in a 24/7 media ecosystem that depends for a significant part of its business on instant reaction and instant outrage. If you’ve been reading Mother Jones for a little while, you know about the basic problem: Advertising revenue for publishers and broadcasters depends in large part on both quantity — clicks, eyeballs, video views — and engagement: how long you stick around, whether you share, whether you comment. And all of those metrics are juiced when content tugs at your emotions, especially fear and outrage.”
Bauerlein continues, “That can take the form of sensational headlines about simple news stories, or it can take the form of opinionated hot takes. Even for newsrooms that depend less on advertising than subscriptions, as the New York Times and the Washington Post do, quick-turnaround opinion content is key in getting people to subscribe. That’s why you’re seeing these prestige outlets add more and more columnists and associated newsletters.”
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