In an effort to bolster revenue, CNN proudly unveiled a new studio it built last year in order to produce special content for its advertisers. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the idea now is to work more closely with companies to highlight things that may have news value, such as the building of a manufacturing plant or a philanthropic effort.”
However, doubling businesses that fund the network as news sources does a disservice to an audience that’s been coping with government corruption, massive amounts of debt, stagnant wages and social injustice. Advertisers should never take priority over informing the public, and the happy marriage between mainstream media and corporations has become a virus that infects the core purpose of journalism.
When I made an appearance on CNN’s Reliable Sources, I didn’t expect to get asked whether or not I think the mainstream media have been blind to the concerns of the electorate. In fact, there was virtually no prep before the segment, and I wasn’t entirely sure what the conversation was going to be about. All I knew was that I was invited to have a discussion with a Tea Party conservative, and I had 9 years’ worth of my own pent-up frustration with establishment news.
When Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter stated that the media were deaf to the frustrations of Americans because they did not understand what it was like to be poor, I jumped in and mentioned that corporate influence was the real culprit. Advertisers have been corrupting the former gatekeepers of information, and thankfully the internet has provided alternative sources of news to combat that. I basically called out cable news while I was a guest on a cable news channel, and I knew that it would likely result in me never getting invited back. I just don’t care.
I’ve been asked about my five-year plan more times than I can count. People still think that TYT is some frivolous stepping stone for me, and that my wildest dreams include hosting a show on a cable news channel. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here’s the reality – I have absolutely no interest bashing the mainstream media for its incompetence and corruption in my own house and then turning around to kiss CNN’s ass just because they invited me to share my thoughts on a Sunday morning program. CNN is not my endgame, MSNBC is not my ultimate goal, and FOX News is…well…Fox News. I’d be embarrassed to ever host a show or even associate myself with that conservative circus.
Even with CNN’s election coverage ratings boost, I’m not enticed by their network, and I highly doubt they’d ever be enticed by my brand of journalism, and that’s okay. Looking at Nielsen’s most current estimates for 2015, CNN’s viewership among its key demo of 25 to 54 year olds was up 30% to 243,000 average viewers. TYT Network would not be boastful about those numbers, especially when our flagship show has more than 2.5 million subscribers, the majority of which are in the key demo.
But this isn’t about a popularity contest. It’s about what speaks to audiences and what doesn’t. We can’t have a functioning democratic system unless the electorate knows the true identity of politicians and what happens behind the scenes in government. In essence, I don’t believe establishment media is doing its job properly, and that’s a huge turn-off for me and most people in my generation.
I’ve already reached the most important goal that every journalist should have, and that’s complete editorial freedom with absolutely no influence from corporate sponsors. The only people who hold me accountable are members of my own audience, and that type of freedom is priceless for someone who cares about truth-telling. That doesn’t mean my opinions or analysis of news stories are always agreeable, but at least I get the opportunity to chime in on topics that matter. It’s fine to sprinkle in the fluff for comedic relief, which I also do. But the heart of the news should be about holding those in authority accountable for their actions.
Journalism is meant to add to the country’s system of checks and balances, rather than detract from it. I understand the influence I have on people, and it comes along with a great deal of responsibility. This is not a joke to me. Speaking my mind is part of my core values. It’s my identity, regardless of the consequences involved.
I don’t have the wealth that cable news hosts have, and I certainly don’t have the fame. But at some point in my career I made a conscious decision to value the notion of speaking truth to power more than material possessions. I live in a tiny apartment, but have a comfortable life. That’s good enough for me, as long as I get the chance to discuss issues like money in politics, income inequality and flaws in our justice system.
Finally, I do want to give host Brian Stelter some credit, because he knew who I am and still invited me on his program. He also didn’t try to shut me up when I was figuratively punching his other guest in the face with information she didn’t want to hear. I admire that. Have me on again, Brian. I promise it’ll be fun.
You can watch my appearance on CNN here: