I blog; therefore, I am the media.
In 1957, I started my media career in sales at a CBS television affiliate in Spartanburg, SC. My dream was to be president of CBS, probably the most common dream of anyone entering television sales or programming in the late 1950s. I worked in a variety of sales and sales management jobs until I became V.P. and general manager of CBS Radio Spot Sales in 1970.
To anoint my becoming a vice president, Sam Cook Digges, the president of CBS Radio, invited me to lunch in his small private dining room on the 15th floor. Sam was elegant, urbane, lit his cigarettes with a gold Dunhill lighter, had long, wavy, perfectly coiffed grey hair, and wore a gold Rolex watch on one wrist and a thick gold ID bracelet on the other. He reminded me how fortunate we were to work for the greatest company in America. "The only other company that is close to CBS is IBM," he said. I nodded in self-satisfied agreement; it was clear I had arrived in the media firmament and was on my way to fulfilling my dream of being king of all media, president of CBS.
I screwed up and didn't make it to becoming a king. It was good being a king in those days - lots of perks. But being king was not about the perks and the wealth and the trappings, it was about power. In those days, if you couldn't be king and control the government and everything else, then the next best thing was to control the media, which you did either by buying it, like Rupert Murdoch; inheriting it, like Arthur Sulzberger; or becoming the president of a huge media company, like Frank Stanton of CBS.
Until the Internet revolution, it was received wisdom that the media had more power than any other institution. It could control the agenda, the government, the economy, and who became famous, popular, or jailed. To be a king of media was to be an all-powerful monarch - until the Web.
Slowly and imperceptibly to the entrenched media, the power shifted from the old-line media to the Internet. The Web created a conversation instead of a one-way broadcast. Anyone could join the conversation, not just those whose letters to the editor the gatekeepers wanted to publish. I don't have to own or control a radio or television station to get my opinions published on the Internet, I can blog, Tweet, and publish updates on Facebook.
I am now the media, and it's a lot less work, a lot more fun, and I have a lot more freedom to say whatever I want to say than I would have if I had become president of CBS. And I'm not going to lose my job because of not hitting my numbers in an economic crisis that is not of my making. I don't have to be inanely balanced like corporate journalists do and give both sides regardless of the intellectual merits of either side's arguments.
Thankfully, I'm not corporate Time Warner media; I'm independent Warner media. I can publish my biased opinions about how unbelievably poorly the dinosaur media are managed today. I can call Mel Karmazin and Barry Diller greedy, mean-spirited tyrants and Jeff Bewkes an ineffective empty suit without fear of reprisals. I can praise excellent media executives like Bob Iger of Disney, George Bodenheimer of ESPN, Dan Mason of CBS Radio, and Peter Chernin of News Corp. without worrying about being called a suck-up.
Today, thanks to the HuffingtonPost.com, JackMyers.com, and my own blog, MediaCurmudgeon.com, I am the media, and I'm grateful I didn't become a media king.