There are many aspects to the public media, such as the question, whether there is something called the free press at all. I am getting more and more convinced that the information presented in commercial media is mostly advertisement or manipulation of opinion by parties in power to do so 1, 2, 3. Advertisement can also be considered a form of manipulation, as per Elias Erdmann‘s essay – Methoden der Manipulation, and per other authors, hence the two information categories can be merged in to one, and public media is primarily a tool for manipulation. A person informed on the subject might tell you, manipulation is not intrinsically bad, and everybody has to manipulate somebody else at some point in time. Nevertheless, if you try to live by your own rules, filtering and then double-checking the information sources before taking action is good practice.
If you live in Germany, you’re being confronted with doomsday’esque headlines daily, such as on the pictures below, that are all around town:
Critiques such as this rant are being often accused of cherry-picking of the rant object – a tabloid or a middle-market newspaper. It is, however, easy to check that other press categories suffer from the same deficits. The publishing houses and media moguls usually keep a broad portfolio of media, targeting various audiences. It is to be expected that while the form or the selection of the information in a ‘higher-quality’ paper medium is indeed of higher quality, the underlying goal of opinion formation or attention distraction may be the same for the two media.
Concerning information quality, experience shows that traditional media is slow with respect to the information spread speed, achievable by today’s other means, such as the internet and its social media. The headlines of today’s papers are yesterday’s exaggerated yawns on the internet. One can also find a lot of examples of wrong (deliberate or not) interpretation of press announcements, total humbug, such as astrology, and photographs or video clips totally unrelated with the news being presented.
To conclude, it’s not just more cost-effective not to buy traditional public media, such as newspapers, magazines and TV sets and related content subscriptions, but is generally good for one’s information inflows. As good alternative are social media and the internet. While they are too, susceptible to manipulation, disinformation and poor quality, the response times are so much shorter, that you have quite a good basis for making a weighted judgment.