In an interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, Bill Clinton touches on how media segmentation has influenced political news coverage:
Peter Mansbridge: Why don’t you think they [young people] seem to be buying into that? Your country has seen a drop in the turnout rate. So has this country. Significant drop.
Bill Clinton: Well, I think part of it is the success of our countries, you know. People think things are going to be all right regardless. And so it doesn’t matter as much if they vote. And part of it is in growing cynicism. People think… they believe politicians aren’t all that different, may not be straight, and there are no consequences. That is largely a function of changing press coverage. Because at least… all I can tell you is in my country, I think politics is more honest than it was 30 or 40 years ago but people think it is less honest.
Peter Mansbridge: Why is that?
Bill Clinton: Different press coverage. And basically the atomization of the press in America. We don’t have three big networks now. We have four big networks and lots of cables. Lots of different competition and when you balkanize the press coverage and cut it up and everybody is trying to get a little angle, a little of this and the other, if you are not careful it becomes more negative because it is necessary to be more sharp to get your segment of the market to listen to your view.
Peter Mansbridge: Is it fair to blame the messenger on this one?
Bill Clinton: No. I’m not blaming… I’m actually not blaming them. I don’t think there is any way they can avoid… I think that you know Vietnam and Watergate and all that tended to make the media skeptical of people in power and the prospect of abuse of power. But I think it got overdone in my country. But I think largely I don’t mean to blame, I think it largely has been the changing nature of the competition.
I think the segment… the increasing segmentation of the media has led to greater competition and has required a certain sharpness that may be entertaining in the moment, but the cumulative impact of it may be for people to think politicians are either less honest or less committed or less hardworking than they are, or that the work itself is less serious than it is.