Obama Complains About Decentralized New Media

President Obama is complaining about the fragmentation of New Media, lamenting the fact that people can turn to alternative sources of news, instead of the centralized media landscape of old.

“You can argue that that’s part of the reason why our politics has gotten so polarized, is that—when I was growing up, if the president spoke to the country, there were three stations and every city had its own newspaper and they were going to cover that story,” President Obama says. “And that would last for a couple of weeks, people talking about what the president had talked about.”

Obama made his remarks during an interview he conducted with author Marilynne Robinson published in the New York Review of Books. They discussed her books, and his own reflections on literature and politics.

“It’s not so much, I think, that people don’t read at all; it’s that everybody is reading [in] their niche, and so often, at least in the media, they’re reading stuff that reinforces their existing point of view,” he said, arguing that the lack of a common media source made it difficult to have a reasonable conversation about the issues.

Obama admitted that it was harder to get his own message out in a new media cycle that he says favors sensationalism over substance. That, he says makes the country as a whole more pessimistic about politics.

“Today, my poor press team, they’re tweeting every two minutes because some new thing has happened, which then puts a premium on the sensational and the most outrageous or a conflict as a way of getting attention and breaking through the noise—which then creates, I believe, a pessimism about the country because all those quiet, sturdy voices that we were talking about at the beginning, they’re not heard,” he said.

It’s not the first time Obama has voiced frustration with the new media landscape. He frequently complains about the existence of media outlets such as Fox News and talk radio hosts including Rush Limbaugh who offer differing points of views about his politics.

“What you’ve seen with our politics, partly because of gerrymandering, partly because of the Balkanization of media so people just watch what reinforces their deepest biases, partly because of big money in politics, is increasingly politicians are rewarded for taking the most extreme, maximalist positions,” he complained to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman last year.


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