In the months leading up to the United States presidential election in 2016, false stories circulated widely on social media. Media scholars and journalists cautioned Americans to get their news from trusted media networks and newspapers rather than from unvetted online publishers.
Learning to identify false stories by disreputable online publishers is an important skill to develop.
How markets, regulations shape media
However, it’s also important to learn how markets and regulations shape our traditional media landscape. Reputable news organizations in the U.S. also need to generate revenue through ads. They have an incentive to share news that catches people’s attention. There is a delicate balance between the incentive to make money on the news and providing accurate and authoritative information.
The large companies that have purchased many local news stations and newspapers may also have ideological agendas that they promote. The recent viral video about Sinclair Broadcast Group shows how a large organization can use its power as a business to require their employees to relay opinions at a broad scale Without regulations in place, it is difficult to prevent large companies from spreading opinion and propaganda in this way.
Libraries’ view on information literacy
In engaging with news organizations and your local media you might encounter it is important to recall the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy that reminds researchers that “Authority Is Constructed and Contextual” when engaging with articles and posts to ensure that sources are reputable and reliable and to decipher potential agendas or preferences.
Our media landscape is complicated. It is a for-profit industry that is also subject to laws and regulations overseen by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). We’ve compiled some articles, databases, and government resources below to help our readers understand the behind-the-scenes forces that help shape the news.
News articles to frame the issue
- Changing Owners, Changing Content: Does Who Owns the News Matter for the News?
Allison M Archer, Joshua Clinton
ISSN: 1058-4609 , 1091-7675; DOI: 10.1080/10584609.2017.1375581
Political communication. , 2017, p.1-18
- Julia Cage & Olivier Godechot & Etienne Fize & Maria Camila Porras, 2017. “Who Owns the Media?: The Media Independence Project,” Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/5ej8oq8p589, Sciences Po.
- HD FCC Reverses Obama-Era Limits on TV Stations’ Owners Wall Street Journal (Online); New York, N.Y. April 20, 2017
- Newspaper Owners are coming for your democracy, MPR
- Trust & Credibility in the News Media, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, March 2018
DOI : 10.1177/1077699017749244
- Protect the news from Google and Facebook Wall Street Journal Online Edition, 2/26/2018
Local news company ownership
Databases like Reference USA or Hoovers can help you discover who owns your local media. Search by company name and look for the corporate hierarchy symbol to determine ownership for these local news organizations:
- KSTP TV
- KARE 11
- WCCO TV
- Star Tribune Media Co.
- St. Paul Pioneer Press
- Minnesota Public Radio
Freely available government and nonprofit sources
- Current and Recent Major Transactions of the FCC which include a short description, timeline, and links to related documents. See proposed mergers and acquisitions related to Verizon, Sinclair, AT&T, Time Warner, and other major media players.
- FCC broadcast ownership rules for radio and TV stations and companies including which networks are not allowed to merge, the maximum percentage of households a single entity can reach, and other regulations.
- FCC reports, data and other research related to media and availability and access to information. See annual reports on major policy, maps of media coverage, and working papers related to various topics.
- Various senators and representatives have written appeals to the FCC Chairman and the Attorney General related to these larger mergers and antitrust reviews
- Representative David Cicilline, (D-RI)
- Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) & Dick Durbin (D-IL) with signature by other senators
- Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Mike Doyle (D-PA), and Diana DeGette (D-CO) – August 4, 2017 & September 28, 2017
- Guiding mission of the Dept. of Justice related to investigation of mergers and antitrust violations and how antitrust laws are enforced.
University of Minnesota research and expertise
The University of Minnesota’s Experts@Minnesota website shows that the following faculty and staff have conducted research related to this issue:
- Joel Waldfogel, Carlson School of Management, who authored, “Should we regulate media ownership?”
- Christopher Terry, College of Liberal Arts, Journalism and Mass Communication, who authored, “Minority Ownership: An Undeniable Failure of FCC Media Ownership Policy.”
- John Busterna, College of Liberal Arts, Journalism and Mass Communication, who authored, “Television Station Ownership Effects on Programming and Idea Diversity: Baseline Data.”
University of Minnesota librarians with media expertise
- Kim Clarke, Communication Studies
- Alicia Kubas, Government Publications
- Caroline Lilyard, Business, Journalism (Interim), and Global Studies
—Lindsay Matts-Benson, Alicia Kubas, Caroline Lilyard, and Karen Carmody-McIntosh