With an assist from Reason's January cover story, Slate's Jack Shafer sticks it to the latest edition of Ben Bagdikian's The New Media Monopoly. Now in its seventh (collect 'em all) edition, TNMM is more akin to the old Ripley's Believe It…Or Not paperbacks–the same old stories dolled up with minor updates and changes.
In the long run, competition and the dynamism of markets keep any five media conglomerates from dictating "what most citizens will learn." But corporate ownership of media so rankles Bagdikian that I doubt the variations of who's on top and who's slid into corporate oblivion make much difference to him. I'm sure my testament that for all the news media's faults, its quality and variety have never been greater, sounds Panglossian to Bagdikian. But I challenge him to name a time in America's history when the news media did a better job than it does today. Who longs for the days of William Randolph Hearst? Of three broadcast networks? Of the days before the Internet?
And for real masochists on this subject, here's "the Mouth of the South" and the former Mr. Jane Fonda himself, Ted Turner, rambling on about how incredibly awful things are in the media today ever since he got tomahawk-chopped out of AOL Time Warner.