Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Media List #6: The Money Where Your Mouth is Edition

Published in Blog. Tags: , .

While we’ve opened back up society to a limited degree, some things may never be the same as they were. Thank god. It feels like so much has changed in just a few months. When all of this began, the minority voice of optimism in between my ears was dead set on this time—the lock-down, the isolation—being transformative in some sense, while the voice of negativity shot back with counterarguments about how it was never being transformative enough to matter. One of the ways that I do see a change is with a desire to push dollars more toward action and activity than into consumer culture… Not even just consumer goods, but also the culture behind them.

Jumping off the financial question: Part of that awakening comes with internal conflict. Something I’m trying to figure out how deep I’m willing to take action in support of statements I tell myself I believe in. I don’t care much about Marvel comics, for example, though I do think it’s questionable that they’ve adopted a largely hands-off stance with law enforcement co-opting the logo from the Punisher comic… particularly among those supporting militarization tactics within the police force. (A neighbor a few doors down has the skull on the back of his truck. Despite having never spoken a word to him, I’m still warily assuming that it’s probably not because he’s a comic book collector—but that’s beside my point here.) But the thing is, Marvel Entertainment is now owned by The Walt Disney Company. So if I don’t support what’s going on with this, how do I really show it? Where am I currently supporting Disney? My Hulu subscription comes to mind. Is $5/month going to make a difference, particularly considering how much I’ve appreciated having the service? I’m struggling with reconciling values right now in general, and how shallow my action in response of them can be at times.

When I was in college I started taking an interest in the intersection between news media, journalism, and technology. I’ve dipped in and out since then, but I recently made the terrible mistake (at least with respect to my emotional peace) of re-joining Twitter amid the pandemic. One benefit of having done so, however, has been better insight into the state of journalism amid a national spike in unemployment. For the first time since moving to Nashville in 2010 I’ve subscribed to the Tennesseean and given money to the Nashville Scene. I don’t have any particular appreciation for the outlets themselves, but (and I’m ashamed to say this) I’m just now starting to recognize the importance of putting dollars in the hands of the companies employing journalists I appreciate, even if I regularly don’t care about (or actively dislike) a good bit of what they deem fit to print.

Even with the state of media being as scrambled as it is, if I had to do it all over again I’d still be interested in pursuing a journalism degree. Leveraging news against advertising isn’t a sustainable business model, leading me to lean into the argument that the modern business of media shouldn’t be saved in its current form. But what will replace it? Subscriber models? (This reminds me: I’m interested in seeing how the upstart Tennessee Lookout proceeds.) I don’t know. Micropayments and personal funding projects akin to Patreon might be the next step in allowing those doing good work to rely less on old media for employment. I’m curious to see where this all leads.

Yihyun Jeong is one of the journalists I’ve recently been introduced to who I’d add to the list of those doing really good work in the city. This article was important because it was another reminder to me of how much absolute nonsense goes on in the city’s shadows. The work Jeong and many of her colleagues are doing is important in underlining problems within the system. Natalie Allison is another who has been doing important work at the Tennessean. I can’t help but feel there has to be a better way to support individual voices rather than paying for the paper, owned by a corporation that is continually cycling through furloughs and layoffs of the employees most vital to the institution in the first place.