Volume 30, Issue 1/2, 2018
The American Experiment: A Republic, If You Can Keep It
Daniel W. Hollis III
The American Media Experience
Freedom, Bias, Mergers
This essay surveys the history of American media from the colonial era to the present. It focuses on the First Amendment protections of press freedom, the nature and consequences of media bias, and the modern tendency at media consolidation via corporate mergers reducing the number and variety of media voices. Actually, these three elements are intertwined rather than independent. The government tried, without lasting effect, to regulate media through Sedition Acts, libel suits, prior restraint, the Fairness Doctrine, and net neutrality. For most of America’s history, media bias was presented up front by publishers so readers knew exactly what to expect. However, over the past quarter century, mainline national media have become increasingly ideological so that objectivity or the pursuit of truth may be seriously questioned. Media mergers have been about profits yet they effectively concentrate control of news outlets in fewer and fewer hands.