Who is the Mainstream Media? What is the Mainstream Media? This phrase is used and abused by everyone in own different ways — including by those who are most often accused of being the Mainstream Media.
In a fantastic new article, the Columbia Journalism Review has finally cracked the code: technically, the Mainstream Media is actually just one event production LLC based in Chicago.
Nick Bacon, a video producer in Chicago, named his company, which provides technical support for events, Mainstream Media LLC. He figured it would be good for search engine optimization. "We were just two guys working out of a back room in an apartment," Bacon said, "and we thought it was kind of funny to suggest that, like, this is where the mainstream media is." Bacon's strategy paid off; during the primaries in 2016 and 2020, with Trump tearing into the mainstream media on the campaign trail, people called, emailed, and tweeted at the business every week. Last year, a pair from South Carolina phoned him repeatedly for an hour. "They legitimately thought I was the mainstream media Donald Trump was talking about," Bacon said. He tried to explain what his business actually was; after an extended back-and-forth, they asked him to convey their anti-media message—which Bacon described as "impotent rage"—to the rest of us.
The rest of the article also provides some fascinating reading about just how highly-individualized the implications of the phrase "mainstream media" is. Author Savannah Jacobson explores the history of the terminology, and analyzes polling data to try and understand what, exactly, various people across the country mean when they talk about the mainstream media. There is plenty of agreement on the abstract philosophical definition of "mainstream media" as immortalized in Manufacturing in Consent as a group of unofficial gatekeepers who influence and control media discourse in a way that largely favors or benefits the power structures of the status quo. But the specifics of who, exactly, qualifies as a member of this group are much more elusive.
Unless you work for Mainstream Media, LLC in Chicago.
Inside the Lines: What is the 'mainstream media' anyway? [Savannah Jacobson / Columbia Journalism Review]
Image: Frederick Burr Opper / Library of Congress (Public Domain)