For eight years, the Center for Media & Peace Initiatives (CMPI) has partnered with the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) at Rutgers University Newark to organize the Gershowitz Conference on Media and Democratic Governance focused on the intersection of press, people, peace, and public policy.
Economists used the term “capture” after the global economic meltdown in 2008 to describe the failure of regulators to police the economy adequately. Likewise, the media is accused of being ineffective watchdogs in terms of policing drivers of inequality and social exclusion in contemporary society. The American journalist and author, David Swanson, writes that “matters of public and political interest routinely are oversimplified, personalized, trivialized, and dramatized,” and mostly at the expense of important issues that affect ordinary folks. We see dominant cultural narratives that undermine the fairness, tolerance, and inclusion. These narratives reinforce stereotypes in society and play out in media coverage that stokes fear without understanding. In all these situations, the mass media provides a convenient means for manipulating public opinion, even when voters understand that the media can be biased. The media, partly due to the 24-hour news cycle, is obsessed with the coverage of tweets from the powerful and the famous while obscuring the intentional policies and ingrained prejudices — that have over many decades tilted the scales in favor of some, while limiting opportunity for many others. Typical of media capture, journalists through cronyism or capitalism allow the rich to influence information published in the media at a cost: the exacerbation of inequality.
Reflecting the increasing polarization of society and the reality that achieving equity and fairness continues to be one of the most vexing challenges facing the world today, the theme of this year’s conference is “Media Capture and Drivers of Inequality: New Alliances and Partnerships.”