Every so often, I do a story on the slow death of traditional media in the age of the Internet. For a specific reason: The people most likely to pay attention to traditional media are seniors, who are also the people most likely to vote.

As it happens, increasingly, traditional media are losing money and looking for saviours. The most likely saviours are governments that can make certain which stories get disseminated. That is why it matters who votes, and what they understand.

Another way of putting this is: The new “fourth estate” is the new media. Not the old media of print, radio, and TV.

But most public recognition still goes to the old media. That is a serious problem for public discussion.

Why it is a serious problem can be seen from recent coverage of “rape” stories:

A traditional medium withheld coverage of the rape of their own reporter while on duty in Egypt. But, as Mark Steyn puts it

And yet last fall Rolling Stone ran a 9,000-word story on the “horrific gang rape” that spurred a media frenzy about the alleged “epidemic” of campus rape across America. Even as the story disintegrated, the feminist lobby took the view that “Jackie” was a brave woman who had performed a useful service.

This needs more attention than it typically gets. When the story was retracted, we were informed that it drew attention to the problem of rape on campus.

But how would a false story help in such a cause? For example, what if one wished to draw attention to carjacking, shakedowns, or money laundering? How would the vigorous promotion of a false story help?

Years ago, the careers of people like Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, and Janet Cooke were ruined by apparent fabrications. But today, we are told, there will be no consequences for the person responsible.

Why won’t there be consequences today, as there would have been in the past? Because legacy media is now largely popular fiction. One must turn to new media for news about the world.

Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...