Slaves to the Corporate Behemoth

Are media workers indeed just slaves to the corporate behemoth? Puppets stringed along by the News Corp's, AOL/Time Warner', EA's and GE's of this world? Accepting low salaries and no benefits, guarantees or securities at all just to be able to push a few buttons in an office somewhere so that their name will be printed on the credit roll of a film, tv show or game?

I could go on for a while, but if you are one of those media workers, you'd probably get pissed off at me for reducing you to a stupid cog in the corporate machine, instead of recognizing you for the creative work you do despite of (or, perhaps, thanks to) commercialization and corporatization in your industry.

Even so, the majority of my colleagues in media (and related) studies seem to think otherwise. If I submit my work to their journals, more often than not it gets send back to me with comments stipulating that I should show how journalists, game developers and all other media workers are, well, pawns and marionettes in the hands of puppet masters like advertisers, sponsors and CEO's that are not interested in quality and diversity but only in dumbing the world down.

I try to tell them that this worldview of desillusioned refugees from a wartorn Europe is perhaps, well, not the only story to tell about the way media work these days... but to no avail.

This rant was underscored on August 17 by the news of AOL's acquisition of independent magazine GameDaily.

I like the comment on this takeover by GD-blogger Ramblings of a Mad Man:
"Anywho... I think my GD compadres will agree when I say I'm probably the least likely to sit idly by and have my voice snipped [...] Hell, I think I've fought with every single person on staff... at least twice. A few things contribute to my point of view. I'm old [...] Now that I'm firmly in all of my middle-aged glory (ahem)… my "real" job consists of managing people and fighting (corporately speaking, not literally anymore) with folks that make the companies in the gaming industry look like lil tiny minnows. So I'm not afraid of them either, and backing down isn't in my vocabulary. Hey, I'm 39..."

It is this active negotiation with (and critical awareness of) potential corporate control that typifies the professional identity of mediaworkers better than them being either heroic activists or slavish, self-censoring marionettes (even though both attitudes also form part of most media professionals' sense of self at times).

Although I am not a big fan of most of the mainstreamed mass audience-oriented crap that gets produced by the 'Big 4s or 5s' in all the creative industries, it is safe to say that the variety, diversity, complexity, and unpredictabilty of media offerings today is, well, just a little bit more inspiring than let's say 10 or 50 years ago. This is not to say there are no lamentable constants in commercial media content (there are), nor that mediaworkers are not or never exploited by their employers (they are) - but there is something else there, too. If we do research, understand and then apply those particular aspects of mediawork, perhaps we can arm the newcomers in the creative industries instead of dismissing their enthusiasm outright for what it sometimes is: naieve canon fodder for the corporate machine.