100 Swan Song Editorials

The American newspaper industry has responded to an appeal for 100 newspapers to write editorials on the same day attacking President Trump for being critical of the news media. This act is an admission of the extent to which the national media has lost power and credibility. It may just be their swan song––a last minute attempt to regain status and authority. My bet is that it will fail. It will fail to sway any members of the public who aren’t already Trump haters and it will fail to restore the national media’s position as the arbiter of right and wrong in America. That horse left the stable years ago and is not coming back.

Why do I claim the media has lost its power? First, you need to concede that once upon a time everyone counted on newspapers for national and local news. Even with the emergence of radio and TV, newspapers held their own, funded by advertising, as the primary source of not only in-depth coverage, but by reporting on a greater number of stories each day than the broadcast media.

The handwriting signaling the end of their monopoly came with cable TV. Now people could hear about breaking news immediately and didn’t have to wait for the morning or afternoon paper to learn about it.

P.S.: Yes, there were afternoon newspapers. In my hometown––population 20,000 there were morning and afternoon newspapers until well into the 1960s.

But the largest nail in the newspaper’s coffin was the arrival of the Internet. The Internet is cable TV on steroids. It not only enables people to learn about breaking news within seconds, but it offers both scope and depth of coverage from a variety of official and unofficial sources.

The newspaper industry responded slowly and poorly. Why? Because of the huge capital investment required to produce a daily newspaper. That’s why newspapers have shut down and some dailies now publish twice or once a week, and why all but a few major newspapers print many fewer pages than they did just a generation ago. Union domination of newsrooms also made it difficult for newspapers to adapt.

Newspapers found they had to compete by offering web versions. Some have been able to charge subscriptions; many find they lose more money doing so than offering free access and selling ads on those pages. Either way, newspaper websites are not the only source of news. Millions rely on other sources. Some of those are poorly vetted and over time followers figure that out and abandon those outlets.

But that’s just the structural story. The rest of the story is that what was once an industry where views varied widely from conservative to liberal, has on the national level, pushed aside the conservative outlook, and united to become not just the reporter of news, but the maker of news created on behalf of a liberal-left ideology.

Consider how papers like the New York Times and Washington Post transformed their editorial outlook of the CIA and FBI. In the 1960s, both papers were highly critical of those agencies, seeing them as emblematic of a nascent police state––above the law and accountable to no one. Today, however, those papers love those agencies because they did exactly what they were accused of doing in the 1960s. They took sides in a national presidential election, acting outside the law on behalf of one candidate to the detriment of the other candidate. Further, their illegal and unethical behavior continued after the election to the extent they tried to subvert the Trump administration. They created false evidence, suborned perjury and leaked classified information to the news media.

I don’t think I’m being naïve in suggesting that the national media today is different than it was 50 or 100 years ago. Yes, some media organizations in those days had greater access to power than others and they used their power on behalf of certain parties and candidates. The difference is that there was competition in those days. The fact that 100 newspapers today (out of 1200+) are willing to act in unison is testimony to the lack of competition for viewpoints and scope of coverage, which is why subscription numbers are down and editorial pages are not read by the majority of subscribers.

One hundred editorial writers will be claiming they are defending freedom of the press. This self-indulgent, holier than thou, attitude doesn’t fly with me. Mr. Trump’s criticisms focus on the reality that some media are out to get him, and he has that right. It’s called free speech.

The President’s criticisms have not resulted in any reporters being personally attacked, or newspaper offices being bombed or burned down. (The incident in Annapolis had nothing to do with national politics.)

The national media is mad, but they are not telling the truth about why they’re mad¬––which is that millions of Americans agree with the President. Long before 2016, millions came to view newspaper coverage as biased against them. They read stories that made the average American out to be deplorable, racist, misogynist, bigoted, and a despoiler of the environment. How many of you like being attacked on a daily basis without the chance to defend yourself?

Newspapers have not learned the lesson that they don’t represent the majority of Americans. Acts like 100 editorials attacking the President make that clear and will likely hasten the day when the number of dailies sinks below 1,000.

One thought on “100 Swan Song Editorials

  1. Inciting the public against the certain media outlets because they hold him accountable for his behavior and rhetoric, are the actions of a weak, fragile ego. And of course, he targets only the media outlets that DO hold him accountable.

    Are newspapers going extinct? Not everywhere. Not in small towns where people still subscribe to the local paper to get local news. I’m acquainted with the publisher of the Greeley Tribune, and he says that since Greeley and the surrounding area have so many farms and ranches, that he has not noticed much of a drop off in subscriptions. Many of the old folks would rather read a newspaper than get their news online.

    So, in many rural areas and small towns, newspapers must still offer something “credible” that keeps people subscribinf.

    But with many big city papers or national publications, I agree, they have lost some credibility. The Wash Times, The NY Post, which only publishes headlines and never the underlining story, and the Opinion Section of the WSJ, have no credibility in my opinion. And I understand that the Opinion Sections of the Wash Post and the NYT, have the same bias problems.

    However, when it comes to publishing the news, I don’t think there are two more important papers than the NYT and Wash Post. I don’t find the “news items” in either paper to be “fake.” They report the facts, and often, those stories are fed by stringers from the AP or Reuters.

    What IS fake, are papers like the Wash Times that do not include all the pertinent facts in a story to create a false narrative that is anti-Democrat and/or, pro-Republican. A narrative which it has adopted since its initial publication and which they pile on with each issue.

    Gerald Baker recently retired as the publisher of the WSJ. One reason, of which you may be aware, is that several months ago, his senior news team including but not limited to, Greg Ip, threatened to quit because he had been repeatedly nixing the publishing of important and relevant “news” items about the economy that might “offend this White House by appearing too liberal.” I subscribe to the WSJ because I find that their business-related articles are apolitical. But their Op Ed pages including the letters that they choose to publish, far more polarizing than what the Times or Post or, the Denver Post here, which was much more conservative before Trump as elected, choose to publish.

    Have newspapers lost their “power?” They sure have seen their “influence” wane this past decade. With the exception of Trump’s favorite trash rag, The National Enquirer, 99% of the major newspapers in this country supported HRC in 2016!

    The biggest reason is obviously that younger people do not read newspapers, if they read at all…They get their news on-line from sites lime Facebook – unfortunately. Or, TV.

    Since DJT was elected, the NYT and Wash Post have both seen their subscription rates rise; the WSJ has seen their numbers decline. Every coffee shop I frequent here offers a free copy of the Denver Post and NY Times for its patrons. Not, the WSJ. “Too polarizing,” the owners contend. (I often leave my copy behind.)

    I know of no one here who reads the WSJ besides my 71 yr. old financial planner buddy. Many of my younger (under age 40) acquaintances have never read a copy and seem to have no inclination to ever read one. Those, who are even younger, do not even know that it exists! But everyone knows of the NYT.

    I don’t know how this “unified statement” from the major US newspapers by their respective Editorial Boards will be received, by their subscribers or readers. But I am certain that your assertion that their message is nothing more than an “attack” on DJT, is backward. Their message is For DJT, to stop attacking them.


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