I put up a couple of recent posts to observe on a surge of obituaries on the news business. But all y’all internet denizens are still reading news. You just don’t take daily newspapers anymore, and only a very tiny share of y’all subscribe to any kind of news provider. That is the way most of us operate any more. But information flow, especially the flow of recent events information, aka ‘news,’ is now screened for most receivers of news by evil Google.
Yeah, I know; some Ratburghers are boycotting Google by using DuckDuckGo and a couple of other search engine alternatives. But the problem remains. Over half of all news articles that are accessed on the internet were landed on through an evil-Google search, which means that evil Google gets a shot at screening the news for over half of all internet news consumption. This finding comes from a Northwestern University study that was recently presented at the “2019 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems” that was held in Glasgow.
Fake News, you say? Indeed, this is to discuss the turmoil in the field of journalism, which is both a cause and a consequence of the Leftist tilt of the entire field. Journalism is in crisis, you see, and Leftist media watchers are looking for scapegoats. President Trump figures high on their enemies list, with his “fake news!,” “Enemy of the People,” and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. See my previous post on this topic. In that post I reacted to a journalist who blamed the end of professionalism in journalism on President Trump. In this post I will discuss the reasons for the collapse of journalism as we knew it.
I am happy to see the recent obituaries for Big Journalism. But before we discuss the real problems with journalism, please consider what the crisis looks like to the journalists. There have been a rash of articles and editorials from journalists that have expressed fear and frustration. This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the New Yorker back in January:
Conglomeration can be good for business, but it has generally been bad for journalism. Media companies that want to get bigger tend to swallow up other media companies, suppressing competition and taking on debt, which makes publishers cowards. … Craigslist went online in the Bay Area in 1996 and spread across the continent like a weed, choking off local newspapers’ most reliable source of revenue: classified ads. … By 2000, only three hundred and fifty of the fifteen hundred daily newspapers left in the United States were independently owned. … Then came the fall, when papers all over the country, shackled to mammoth corporations and a lumbering, century-old business model, found themselves unable to compete with the upstarts—online news aggregators like the Huffington Post (est. 2005) and Breitbart News (est. 2007), which were, to readers, free. News aggregators also drew display advertisers away from print; Facebook and Google swallowed advertising accounts whole. Big papers found ways to adapt; smaller papers mainly folded.
(When researching for this post, I saw an article from 2016 that said local newspapers had shed 60 percent of their workforce over the previous 26 years.)
In January of this year they had a particularly tough day, in which 1,000 journalism jobs were chopped in one day.
Now, I have been part of several Ratburgher discussions in which we generally agreed that mass media journalism is the Enemy of the People, so I don’t expect to hear a lot of sympathy for the journalists here. But there is a problem that I want to address.
Where does news come from?
Yes, there are some intrepid conservative organizations that do great investigative journalism. But they are few in number and are concentrated on political matters. When your local paper dies, how do you get local news about the ordinary life of your community? You would have to join a dozen local blog sites to be able to continue to be aware of the shenanigans at City Hall, or the hoo-rah at the School Board, or the embezzler in the suburbs, or the police blotter, or area high school sports, or any of a number of local matters. You might not be very much interested in any of those matters, but it used to be that you could be generally well-informed about the community you live in by just skimming the headlines in the local paper on a regular basis.
Those days are gone. My local Memphis paper is now owned by the USA Today Network, which is part of Gannett. The people who lay out the paper work in a rival city in another state (Louisville). Shortly before I canceled my subscription last year they ran an article in the “Local News” section about an industrial park. That industrial park is in my state, but it is a seven-hour drive from my city. So much for “local news.” It was fine in two other papers that are owned by the USA Today Network, so it was just too easy to pretend that it belonged in our paper, too. Their “customer support” is in the Philippines, Sales is in Phoenix, and the payment processing center is in Cincinnati.
So, what now? There are the local TV stations, but they just pretend to do news. They only have “reporters” who are transcribers. They look into stories after they are alerted by citizens who call, or mostly they just pass along the police blotter and the stuff that comes to them in press releases. After they learn that something is going on, they scramble a camera guy (no longer a camera crew) to race out and act like they covered the event for hours. Also we have a couple of local blog sites that are attempting to make a name for themselves as the go-to place for local news. But they are the same old Leftist journalists who recently lost their jobs due to downsizing at the newspaper, and so their political coverage is the same old Leftist bilge through and through.
Killed by the Internet
Local papers were killed by the internet. On the internet, “information wants to be free.” Local stories get picked up by aggregator services, and it became really easy to check out Google News for local news. Facebook tried to provide local news links for a while, but the way they promoted Leftist news and suppressed conservative news caused such a backlash that they dropped that effort.
What gets blamed a lot for killing local papers is Craigslist, which is where all the classified ads went. But the real culprits are Google and Facebook, which now have all the ads by the big chain retailers.
But if there is no local paper, then Google cannot steal their news any more. Nor can Facebook or any conservative alternative aggregator.
Follow the Money
There was about 129 billion dollars in digital advertising in America last year. Google slurped up about half. Facebook took in about 25%. Youtube, Instagram, Microsoft, Verizon and Amazon combined for about 22%. All newspapers combined brought in about one percent. All magazines combined brought in about one percent. Craigslist brought in about one percent.
Facebook and Google to the rescue?
So I was sort of amused to see that both Facebook and Google have new initiatives to muscle in on the local news business. Now that they have killed off the newspapers, they want to take over. The trend going forward looks like our people becoming even more dependent on Google and Facebook. This is not good.
There have been several recent articles advocating “slow news.” They come from journalists who are observing that the field of journalism has been overtaken by a rush to clickbait. The Editor of NewYorker.com quoted Pablo Boczkowski, a professor of communications at Northwestern University:
“If you’re an average site, you have five to seven seconds to tell your story.”
The solution preferred by journalism ‘leading lights’ is the digital subscription model. Only a handful of outlets are likely to survive via that model. Journalists are hungry for readers who will read a full slate of news articles at one site, the way we used to read the morning newspaper over breakfast. But, as Professor Boczkowski observed, contemporary consumers of news learn the news one click at a time from dozens of sources, mostly those that are shared on social media by their circle of Facebook friends or the people they follow on Twitter.
A “news desert” is a place that does not have any source for local news. Lots of America is heading into news desert status.
As happy as I am to see the obituaries for Big Journalism, we still need news. How do we get real information about our community and our state? Conservative and Christian niche media seem to me to do somewhat well on the national scene. But I really hate the thought of being dependent on evil Google for information from my state capitol.
I don’t have any answers. I suppose we will have to hope for a cadre of citizen journalists to blog the news of the day. The problem is finding them amidst all the competing noise on the internet. And, if they also blog with conservative opinions, then their posts will be suppressed when you try to search for them.
Perhaps all you Ratburghers could start posting local news here. Ratburger.org could become a rival for Google and Facebook, right up until Google or Facebook noticed us and took us out.
“It’s almost as if the effort to undo Trump has had an unexpected effect — that Trump has somehow broken the news media.”
That is a quote from a long essay at Esquire last month by Peter Boyer. Boyer wrote about changes to news coverage of the President of the United States because of Donald J. Trump. He, of course, blames Trump. But he is clearly distressed at the current state of affairs. His essay concentrates on the New York Times, with a long section about the Washington Post and a couple of asides about CNN. I bookmarked the link to Boyer’s essay. It is an interesting read. I think it will make a helpful addition to the obituary for the national press.
Elite newsrooms jettisoned everything they learned in that required Sophomore class “Ethics of Journalism.” They tossed the New York Times Manual of Style right out with the trash, at least the parts about “neutral voice” and “counterbalance” and context and completeness and anonymous sources and several other picky matters that used to be important to them.
Further from Boyer:
Back in the early months of the Trump presidency, I had asked Liz Spayd, the public editor, if the Times’s new business model was to become a sort of high-end Huffington Post.
“I hope that is not the case,” she said. “I think that would be a sad place for this country to find itself, that one of the strongest and most powerful and well-financed newsrooms in the country would speak and have an audience only on one side of the political aisle. It’s very, very dangerous, I think.” Spayd had become the voice of the old traditions at the Times, a position that earned her the opprobrium of progressive critics outside the paper (“This editor appears to be from 1987 or earlier,” Keith Olbermann tweeted. “Sorry—get in the game or get out”) as well as inside the newsroom. Five months into the Trump presidency, her job was eliminated; she now consults for Facebook.
The very thing Ms. Spayd warned about had come to pass. The New York Times subscriber base consists entirely of Leftists and hotels and libraries. Nobody reads the New York Times except the white woke Leftist elites who control the Democrat Party, and then the rest of us read the things that make the top of the Google News feed, or we read them if they are cited for some particular outrage in the conservative niche media. They have become profitable again as the Opposition Party. Nobody expects the NYT to be anything else besides the PR of the far Left.
How sad. This is what prompted P. Boyer to write that essay. The theme is despondency over the death of the old “American model of Journalism.”
We have now fully transformed America into the “European model of Journalism.” The Europeans have parliamentary governments. This led to a multiplicity of parties. The newspapers generally all serve as the PR mouthpiece of one or another of the dozens of parties. With the legacy media now champions of open borders, Communism, and hostile to traditionalist religions, we can comfortably call them the “Enemy of the People.”
We have been a long time in making this transformation. Looking back, it is easy to see how the press always leaned left, how the leftward tilt got a huge push when the universities started up degree programs in journalism in the late 50s and 1960s. Mass media news in America slid further and further leftward until they went into full-on campaign mode in 1992 to boost Bill Clinton past G.H.W. Bush. It was the campaign of 1992 that turned Rush Limbaugh into a household name. He single-handedly saved AM radio by turning it into the media refuge for conservative thought.
The internet completed the transformation. Now the NYT is just a bigger, badder HuffPo. But the demise of mass media journalism is not because of President Trump. It is only partly because they lurched even further Left than they previously were during the Obama Administration. The internet brought them down. More on that in my next post. First, another couple of points about Boyer’s essay.
My favorite media critics are liberals (pro-life Democrats). They noticed P. Boyer’s essay. They have been saying the same thing pretty much ever since the campaign of 1996, which is when they became frightened at the excesses of supposedly ethical journalists at elite publications. They connected the adoption of full Leftist advocacy “journalism” to the decades-old tradition in elite media for full Leftist advocacy “journalism” in culture war issues.
As a Social Conservative, I have noticed that elite newsrooms think that people who share my views on matters such as abortion, sex, sin, privacy and personal responsibility are people who are not worth covering accurately. This was revealed anew earlier this month by the fawning coverage that Mayor Pete Buttigieg received when he launched a religious attack on Mike Pence.
Terry Mattingly of GetReligion concluded:
Thus, elite newsrooms were no longer interested in doing accurate, fair, objective coverage of about half of the United States of America.
I am actually happy to see the obituaries begin. Leftist mass media helped put Obama in office and keep him there. They nearly delivered the White House to Hillary. They have opposed President Trump in every particular, revealing that they only care about scoring political points. They do not care about what is good for America or the American people, nor do they particularly care about the accuracy of the information that they sell as “news.” As Leftists, they are anti-American and anti-Christian. They oppose everything I value. They are the Opposition Party.
There was a disgruntled man. He was mad at his local paper. He thought they had dished out shabby treatment to him personally in story about his conviction for a domestic disturbance. He sued and lost. He threatened. Then he went and shot up the news room, killing five people.
Several journalists blamed President Trump. They attributed the killings to the toxic atmosphere created by President Trump for calling them “fake news.”
I find that to be similar to the way that several media outlets blamed the Orlando gay nightclub shooting by the Muslim jihadist on the “atmosphere of hate” created by conservative Christians.
At any rate, Mollie wrote a column calling them out for this latest outrage. In her remarks, she cited a recent poll. It was a SurveyMonkey poll by Axios. It shows the low state of credibility of the news media. Rather, it should be called the high state of incredibility of the news media. Even Democrats know that they are frequently fake news.
In response to the question whether news media published things they knew to be “fake, false or purposely misleading,” 79 percent of Independent voters said “Sometimes” or “a lot.” Republicans were at 92 %; I bet Ratburghers would be even higher. Democrats were at 53 %.
I am happy to see the mass media news organizations becoming so badly discredited. They carry water for the Enemy.
I thought y’all would be interested in Mollie’s column: