Nevertheless, it is also instructive to take a longer, historical view. This is not the first time such fragmentation has occurred: as Paul Starr, a Princeton professor of sociology notes, in the 19th century the newspaper was arguably as polarised – and tribal – as television news today, and as important in disseminating news. There were, for example, almost a dozen different papers in Washington alone in the 19th century, many of which were closely tied to political figures or parties. “As a young republic (and to a large extent even after the civil war), the nation had partisan newspapers; the second stage, stretching across the 20th century, was characterised by powerful, independent media outlets that kept their distance from the parties; and in the third stage, we now have a hybrid system that combines elements of the first two,” he says.
Pick your channel, choose your news
Financial Times magazine Jan 21/2 2012