A Blur between Independent and Establishment Sectors?

Independent and establishment media may differ greatly in funding structures, culture, and political framing. But as the independent scene grows and their establishment counterparts face huge problems, there’s a growing sense in which their function, and even their personnel, can overlap. 

The Young Turks recently announced that they are to produce a weekly show with veteran news anchor Dan Rather. Rather, 86, has hosted CBS Evening News for nearly a quarter of a century. He cites Trump’s attacks on the press a major motivation. It’s a strange situation, as many things are in this era. Establishment media has had a crisis of credibility that Trump twists to his own advantage. When he was running for the Republican nomination, that media adored and fetishised him, giving him coverage worth billions of dollars

But since becoming a Presidential candidate, and throughout his tenure, the liberal media have been horrified at the Frankenstein’s monster they helped to create. Trump, in turn, slams them as “fake news” on a near-daily basis. While his base is locked into skepticism of the liberal press from a hard-right position, The Young Turks and others have a large audience among those who often despise Trump, but who also strongly rejected Hillary Clinton’s corporatist economics and hawkish foreign policy record. 

Dan Rather is as household a name in the US as The Dimblebys are in the UK. For him to now be working with The Young Turks demonstrates a step-change in the significance of independent media in the US, where a stronger patronage has enabled a much healthier scene in general. 

Former Russia Today host Abby Martin has also been appearing on The Young Turks (people may like Russia Today for its constant jibes at the US and UK, but as a Russian state propaganda operation, any idea that it’s independent is the polar opposite of the truth.) 

In the UK, the signs of such an overlap are fewer, but they exist. Paul Mason, formerly of the BBC and Channel 4 has been writing for Novara Media. Owen Jones produces a lot of his own content outside of his regular post as a journalist for a liberal paper. Figures like Laurie Penny and Jack Monroe are often featured in the mainstream, having launched their careers on Twitter, and The Canary‘s Kerry Anne Mendoza (formerly of Scriponite) has appeared on “debate” game-show, Question Time

With the probable inevitability of such a growth in overlap, sooner or later the old school will have to come to terms with the new kids on the block, despite current attitudes towards them that can be somewhat sneering.

Stephen Durrant

The Media Fund