Monday, March 27, 2017

FLASHBACK, COMMENT ON NEWSPAPERS


Formerly respected newspapers have behaved in highly partisan, often embarrassing manners during and after the 2016 election cycle. Their economics have descended rapidly. This essay was written in 2009, eight years ago, just when media manipulation was hitting its stride and before the masterful manipulation by Trump in 2016.

I think the questions raised here are still valid. The solutions are still not in sight.

NEWSPAPER EXTINCTION


When the day comes that there are no newspapers, who will correct my English?  Who will give me an example?

The Senate heard from executives in the newspaper business today.  The facts are not difficult to figure out—newspapers are going broke because their revenue streams, advertisers, are going to the internet.  For the obvious reasons—cost and results; because that is where the buyers are.

Imagine a world where all the news comes from MSNBC, NPR and the old “Ditto Head” himself, Rush Limbaugh.  Tonight, one of the MSNBC headlines was “American Idol down to Three.”  Hmmmmm.  Do you suppose NBC owns that “news” outlet?

According to NPR, there are only two countries in the world, the US (from New York to Washington) and Israel.  Then there’s Rush.  What if we depended on him for facts?  Instead of factoids?  He is an entertainer, the same sort of hogwash as the guy who was just elected to Congress from Minnesota despite the fact that he is a comedian by trade and this was just a schtick to get more exposure.

Suppose we were relegated to the position of depending on the chain letter “don’t break this, you will have bad luck” emails that quote Bill Cosby (falsely) and give us drivel written in the style of George Carlin…but not written by George Carlin, even when he was alive.  You have to run to Snopes every time you see one of those things because, this time, it may be true.

One of the suggestions is that the newspapers become non-profits.  That may help, but it is not a solution.  The solution is to get more revenue, not have “drives” to get contributions.  Who will pay Posnanski’s salary?  How will we get good, reasoned coverage of the Royals, the Chiefs?  How will we find out what is going on with the mayor of Sioux City?  Or, whatzizname in Kansas City?

More seriously, who will be the next Bob Woodward who seeks out Deep Throat and finds the mistakes and criminal activity of the Nixon administration.  It surely isn’t going to be the shallow “details at ten” group.

There will still be the George Wills, there will still be writers of books and poetry, but the mundane, down to earth and very valuable stuff that citizens in a democracy depend on—the truth—will be in short supply.  Maybe non-existent.  The only thing we will hear are the demagogues, the Talibans of the world.

Maybe national news, Newsweek, Time, network TV, will survive, but the really local news will be hard pressed to compete against a free and accessible, 24-hour source of information like the internet.  Who is going to cover the facts surrounding some goof ball who espouses a light rail system for Kansas City.  Cheeez.

I surely don’t know the answer, but I sense the loss.  The Kansas City Star has been a huge factor in exposing people who do wrong in the central US for a long time.  What will take its place?  Local TV news has been reduced to a police blotter recitation with the occasional cat up a tree.  Not likely to have any journalism there.

Something to think about.  I sure as hell don’t want to get my news from Rush and NPR and my sports from Carl Radich or someone like him with 3 second sound bites.  If you really want to perform a service for the country, figure out a solution to this one.  I can’t.

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