Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Journalism's Decline

By Alan Caruba

I stopped my subscription for my local daily newspaper a couple of years ago. I just stopped subscribing to Bloomberg Business Week, thus saving $65 a year. I don’t know anyone who subscribes to either Newsweek or Time magazines. I receive The Wall Street Journal every morning because I like holding a newspaper in my hands, turning the pages, reading news articles "the old fashioned way."

Being a “pundit”, I spend an hour every morning visiting various news and opinion websites and blogs in which I have some confidence. At my age and with my experience as a former full-time journalist, I am less inclined to rely on the mainstream press because it is largely propaganda.

And I know something about propaganda because, having left journalism in the 1970s, I ventured into public relations to make a living. What that has taught me is that virtually everything the mainstream media prints or broadcasts is a handout from a public relations agency or, in the case of government, the torrent of questionable information that pours forth from the White House, Congress, and the many departments and agencies seeking to justify their existence.

All governments seek to influence the news stream. Totalitarian governments have an easier time because a journalist who becomes a problem either goes to jail or is killed. In a democracy, controlling what journalists receive involves a virtual army of government workers engaged in PR. The most visible example is the White House spokesperson and his daily briefings.

The Internet has had a severe impact on newspapers. The decline has been in progress for a long time. As often as not readers have concluded that their daily newspaper is no longer a source of accurate information. The majority are owned and put together by liberals, slanting the news toward their political orientation.

The mainstream media played a huge role in the election of President Obama and now are experiencing blowback from Americans who are disenchanted with him, but the truth is that newspapers have been experiencing declining circulation for quite some time. With that comes declining advertising income, the lifeblood of a newspaper or news magazine.

Newsweek was owned by the Washington Post and sold for one dollar and the assumption of its debts. It is now edited by Tina Brown who made her bones over at Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. She also edits The Daily Beast, an Internet news site. Time magazine is infested with liberal editors and reporters. A former editor, Jay Carney, is now the White House spokesman.

It is, however, The New York Times that has gone from “the newspaper of record” to an appallingly corrupt purveyor of news. In my youth I was a “stringer” for the New Jersey section of The Times. It is sad to see it reach a point where its columns are literally filled with lies, big and small, and the lunatic ravings of columnists like Paul Krugman. There is no longer even a pretense at objectivity, fairness, or accuracy.

The news business is a closed circle of sorts. Press rooms at newspapers have fewer editors and reporters. Those still working are expected to generate several stories daily. The result is that they are increasingly dependent on public relations professionals who “feed” the news stream. At the same time, PR folk are dealing with fewer or thinner traditional news outlets. The result is less opportunity to get serious, useful news published or broadcast. There is, however, no end of space for celebrity, crime and sports news.

Filling in the gaps are talk radio and the 24/7 cable news outlets. Fox News dominates this area of news and anyone who has watched Fox knows it goes out of his way to always include Democrat and liberal spokespersons in its quest of being “fair and balanced.” Beyond that, when you strip out the commercials, the news is often little more than a three minute headline, interspersed with battling political consultants, lawyers, and others. News is more often discussed than reported.

Little wonder that public relations professionals are now engaged in a desperate effort to master “social media” such as Facebook and YouTube to get out their client’s message.

It is a sad commentary on the news profession that a new generation gets much of its “news” from the liberally biased “Daily Show” hosted by Jon Stewart. It is no surprise that the three network news shows have been losing their audience in droves for years now. Local news is still driven by “if it bleeds, it leads.”

This is not to suggest that journalism does not still play a significant role in how Americans perceive and receive “news”, but they now have a panoply of alternative sources from which to choose and, I believe, they are far more wary of what newspapers and noticeably biased broadcast outlets provide.

As for the local daily newspaper to which I once subscribed, I now just visit its website and check out the obituaries. If I want to know what the weather is, I look out the window.

© Alan Caruba, 2011


Denimflyz said...

This is the reason I subscribe to your blog. Need I say more.
Thank you, Mr. Caruba for your insights and professional journalism.

Alan Caruba said...

@Denim: Thank you. I just try to provide some insight that might not be available elsewhere.

If you have some spare change in your pocket, even a small donation to the blog would be welcome.

TexasFred said...

Alan, I too have a lot of news sources, none of them are print though...

I scour more news sources, almost right, left and everything in between and it's been much to my advantage, I garner *facts* on the same story from several sources, piece it together, read between the lines and then throw MY spin on it.

90% of the time I am pretty well correct.. The other 10% of the time I have to acquiesce to your superior knowledge!

P.S. If you get more donations than you need, remember your poor but honest friends!!

Alan Caruba said...

@Fred: Well, one of us is right most of the time. It's a coin toss.

When it comes to poor but honest, get in line behind me! :-)

Teresa said...

Journalism certainly is dying if not already dead in America. I enjoy reading your informative posts.

LarryOldtimer said...

I gave up on newspapers when the investigative reporters (such as you are) faded away, and what was printed became no more than press releases from the White House.

I used to suscribe daily and Sunday, crossword puzzle, comics and the like were enjoyable, and like you, Alan, much preferred a newspaper in my hands as opposed to sitting in fron of a computer monitor. Nothing like the feel of a newspaper, and getting some printer's ink rubbed off on my fingers. Had a "real feel" to it.

But, I finally got fed up having to sift past all of the liberal intelligentsia dogma to find any real news.

Alan Caruba said...

Thank you, Teresa.

Dave's Daily Day Dream said...

We still subscribe to the daily, very local paper here in Santa Cruz. I check first, to see if I've passed away or perhaps someone I know. Then I get my heart going by reading the op Ed pages. I write them back monthly and get published about three times a year. Letters to the editor are always fun to read to get the pulse of the town and see where interests lie (lay?). I think our local is going away because we are now treated to the San Jose Sunday paper often instead of our own rag. The pound of ads on Sundays keeps the woman off my back 'til noon and by then I've set my schedule for the day!

Travis sez said...

I'm in total agreement. I stopped the SF Chron in 1996 because of the totally misleading casting of their headlines. They used to have a summary of the headlines and people who were on the way to work often read only that. Now they occasionally get something right, but that's the present extent of it. Never miss your offering up of the truth. Thank you.