The standard media experience for a great many folk before the internet was a diet of news fed by broadcast journalism augmented by a daily newspaper. In the 1980s and 90s, both the BBC's and ITV's nightly bulletins were regularly in the top ten most-watched TV programmes, trumped only by Eastenders, Coronation Street, and the odd high-profile drama or film. Then, as now, both channels aimed for some kind of balance. Striking it is always a tough and controversial ask, but it was managed from within a range of establishment opinion. Important political controversies got air time, including esoteric issues by today's standards.
As I said, accompanying this was the newspaper. I think our house was fairly typical. We had two papers a day - The Sun and The Derby Evening Telegraph. We'd pass our old papers onto my grandparents down the road, and in return we'd get their Daily Stars and on a Monday, the previous day's News of the World. Of my mates' folks who got papers, it too was either the soaraway currant bun or The Daily Mirror. I didn't know what a broadsheet was until I got to college. And then at uni, the same tabloids frequented our kitchen area. I can't speak for Iain's household growing up. Perhaps he had The Graun on a Monday, The Times on a Tuesday, etc. and his choice of tabloid on a Friday as a treat. The point is the people of the past never lived in an Arcadia of media plurality. As audience studies in the 80s and 90s tended to find, readers' choice of title was largely determined by a congruence between it and their views (though Mum maintains she only ever got The Sun for the bingo). And let's not pretend this media diet was in anyway pluralistic. As a teenage Tory, exposure to alternative viewpoints came from the schoolyard and the broadcast news, yet it was The Sun's editorials that helped make my mind up on the issues of the day.
Fast forward to the 21st century and social media, I'm afraid to say Iain has put together a caricature and mistaken it for the real thing. The point is there is no one, no one whose sole input consists of The Canary. People now as they read what they prefer, and they might chat about current affairs with like-minded folks. But the way social media works is content from any source can flash up in your timeline. Thinking about my Twitter feed on any given day, there's a load of BBC, Graun, and Indy links with a good mix of Telegraph and occasional Mail pieces in there. This isn't the result of consciously following people with a plurality of views - my feed is as echo chambery as anyone's. Yet even that is serving up access to a greater variety of comment, analysis, and opinion than I ever got in the good old days. And, in this case, if that's true of me it's likely to be true of others.
This is the root of the appearance of groupthink. There are annoying people who say stupid things on Twitter, just as there were always annoying people saying stupid things writing in to newspapers. Then editorial control kept the discontented from getting published, but now everyone has a platform and leading journos get to see the unvarnished opinions of people they were previously shielded from. As I'm sure Iain and other hacks have noted, the opprobrium their pieces attract are from people who disagree with them. Rather than a narrow tunnel of news and views, most people are reading a wider array of media output that doesn't always conform with their opinions and are letting Iain and friends know what they think, with greater or lesser degrees of sophistication.
Yes, there is a tendency for us to select a media diet that conforms to our tastes, but it has always been thus. The difference is now it's much easier to sample morsels from outside our preferences, and people do. Regularly. None of this helps an industry suffering a crisis of revenue as advertising dries up, but solving that won't be helped by condescending to, patronising, and insulting potential audiences.