10/31/2014 10:15 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Decade of Dissecting the Media

2014-10-30-10shutterstock_150583733copy150x150.jpgIt's very hard to believe. At least for me it is. I have been writing THE MEDIA BEAT for a full ten years.

It began in October 2004, in the midst of that year's U.S. presidential campaign. I was assigned by the then-editor of the still fairly new, and free, New York paper AM New York, to provide a weekly critical commentary on the mass media.

Coverage of President George W. Bush being challenged by (now-Secretary of State) John Kerry was an obvious prime focus to begin with, but the remit inevitably broadened -- and happily so did our definition of media. Over time the column came to cover just about every medium of expression, from TV to the internet, to books, to movies, to fine art in galleries, to theatrical efforts on and off (and off-off) Broadway.

And after not too long -- two years in fact -- THE MEDIA BEAT burst the confines of cold hard print, when I parted company with the newspaper and took the column online.

Now this week's column marks a ten-year transition -- a substantial re-launch of THE MEDIA BEAT's web presence, here at its new address www.TheMediaBeat.US, with that all-American domain suffix US. It will provide a different and I hope better digital experience. That includes fuller and better cross-referencing of material, and greater showcasing of video and audio content.

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MAJOR CHANGES ACROSS ALL MEDIA have inevitably piled up during a decade's passing, and some stand out signally for me. 2004 was certainly a salient year in which to begin my watch.

By only my second column, dated October 28, political coverage had me flipping back 44 years, for the contemporary purpose of highlighting a chapter in our media-centered lives that was still newly opening in 2004. My introductory line of comparison said: "NIXON vs. KENNEDY was the first television election. Now Bush vs. Kerry has become the first Internet election."

It may be banal in these current times to voice this, but politics without the internet would now simply be inconceivable.

Just stylistically, by the way, can you please note in that historic 2004 column the hidebound cap-initial I for Internet? We were not alone in such fastidious capitalization of a still not completely quotidian phenomenon. And it's also amusing now to see the occurrence of a capital letter for Website in some of those early pieces.

At least, though, I wasn't quite as stick-in-the-mud as some contemporaries, who still took pains to emphasize the etymology of "blog" with complete nit-picking correctness, using the already shriveling formulation "web-log". How antiquated it now seems. In some ways, ten years is a very long time, in which an enormous amount must change.

But my very first column's subject suggests that in some matters a decade does not produce a lot of change. A distinctly familiar, if slightly younger (septuagenarian, at least, rather than octogenarian) Rupert Murdoch stares out balefully in a portrait alongside my text. I recall for American readers that, besides playing his full part in the consolidation of world media ownership, the once Australian, now US-citizen magnate may appear politically conservative, but is really driven not by ideology but by power. (I traced his shifting party allegiances in the UK -- now a matter of ancient history, but revealing of his constant sniffing of how the winds of partisanship might blow.)

Murdoch and his empire (especially since the public horrors of its phone-hacking scandal) still draws concerned media-watchers' close attention -- and now the close attention of legal as well as financial and political authorities -- but no-one would suggest he has become any the less engaged in cultivating the powerful. Murdoch may have said his appearance before his UK Parliamentary critics as "the most humble day of my life" (I think he may have meant "humbling") ... but nothing that his now cunningly separated Twentieth Century Fox and a new News Corporation are doing now indicates any humility.

It's quite arresting to see, looking back at THE MEDIA BEAT's earliest days, that Iraq was then still a relatively new war. By the sixth column, for that year's Thanksgiving weekend, I was reporting the bold efforts of U.S. soldiers, home from the war, to use the web for opening up a discussion which one of them, National Guard Lieutenant Paul Rieckhoff, described as "a conversation that this Administration doesn't want to have".

Inescapably these disaffected soldiers were deeply critical about equipment shortages and over-stretching of manpower, and they sounded some early warnings of post-traumatic stress symptoms among members of a force which, I wrote then, "fights at closer quarters and is more exposed in its urban operations than most previous American armies".

Is it a sign now of any lesson learned that U.S. forces have returned to action in Iraq, though avowedly to operate only from the air? The whole grim concept of The Long War, to borrow from that most incisive web commentary, is perhaps the most disheartening legacy of these last ten years.

So another decade opens, for pounding the beat of media-criticism.

What combinations of soul-sinking sameness plus astonishing changes await us? I suggest we all stay tuned ...


Read more of David Tereshchuk's media industry insights at his regular online column, The Media Beat at its new site. The Media Beat podcasts are always available on demand from Connecticut's NPR station WHDD, and at iTunes.