The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a study in June that shows why the traditional media is losing its audience. The study is of the public's views toward coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. Here are some interesting statistics: by a 76% to 19% margin the public wants more coverage of the positions of the candidates' position on the issues; by a margin of 54% to 39% the public wants more coverage of the candidates who are not the frontrunners; and by a margin of 57% to 36% the public wants less coverage of which candidate is leading in fundraising.
Note that wants the public wants is consistent with the fact that voters have to make a choice in the 2008 presidential election. They want the facts that are important to them in making that choice. Yet, the media, in its wisdom, keeps giving them what they don't seem to want: more coverage of frontrunners and how much money those frontrunners have raised.
Thomas Patterson, a professor who studies the media and how it covers politics, wrote a book in the early nineties called Out of Order. In that book he presented evidence on how the media gets caught up in the "game" theory of politics and presents most of its coverage in terms of who is ahead, who is behind, who is coming up, and who is going down. Excessive coverage of polls and fundraising efforts is a result of such a world view. He claimed that the media looked at politics from a "campaign schema."
Patterson wrote that the public, on the other hand, looks at campaigns from a "governing schema." The public wants to know who will make the best decisions in public office. The public wants information that they can use in making that decision.
If a business keeps failing to give its customers or potential customers what they want, they eventually go elsewhere. For a long time, customers of the media didn't have anywhere else they could turn, then along came the Internet.
Media types such as David Broder decry the Internet and claim that bloggers are ruining American politics by polarizing politics but almost never examine whether they are giving the public what it wants in terms of political coverage. Such refusal to engage in self-examination is a sign of arrogance in any profession or industry and the media is no exception. Until media personnel start to critically question whether they are providing readers and viewers what they want in terms of covering political campaigns, they will continue to lose their audience to the Internet.