Serving the public and serving the market: A conflict of interest?

Journal of Mass Media Ethics 7 (4):196 – 208 (1992)
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If a news organization serves the market well, does it also serve the public well? Yes, say the leaders of the news industry, market forces improve journalism. This article uses market theory microeconomics to test the executives' assertion. The analysis concludes that news is a peculiar commodity, what economists call a "credence" good, that may invite fraud because consumers cannot readily determine its quality, even after consuming it. News, by definition, is what we don't yet know. The article also contends that advertisers seek public attention for their products rather than public education about current events. Thus advertiser-supported news media following market logic compete not in a news market, but in a larger market for public attention. This attention market may value entertainment more than information, leading to a conflict with journalism's norms of public service.



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