What’s Killing Journalism?

What’s Killing Journalism? By Brittany Rogers.

Wealthy traders and merchants underwrote the first news in the Americas, and it was all route intel. In the colonial period political parties footed the bill for most papers—party organs that were far more partisan and acrimonious than what we cry foul at today. It wasn’t until the penny-press era—the 1830s on—that a new funding model developed: scale up the circulation, then sell readers’ attention to advertisers. That advertising revenue could bring the cost of the paper down to something many could afford.

Writing to a mass audience, publishers began to recognize there was a market for real, honest news that could cross political divides and speak with a relatively neutral voice. This paved the way for professional journalism standards. And for most of the 20th century, it made newsrooms the information power brokers.

Then the internet smashed the model.

“For the last decade, we have seen a steady erosion of the advertising economy for newspapers,” says Campbell. That’s the nice way of saying it. Revenue streams have been gutted. …

Reader eyeballs, once concentrated among a few media outlets, are now diverted to Facebook, YouTube, and that thing you just Googled—and the bulk of advertising has followed them. …

Quality is suffering, even apart from ideology:

Gone is the production cycle where a reporter would work on a story all day, turn it in, and see it published the next morning. Event coverage has to be up immediately, even if it’s just three paragraphs, the rest written via updates.

Accuracy — or, at the very least, thoroughness — has become a casualty, contends Lewis. “You cannot have your news instantly and have it well done,” he says. “More content created by fewer people makes the likelihood for mistakes and problems greater.” …

Taking another cleaver to the news-scape are the people further down the media food chain who digest the news and serve up nothing but spin — the late-night comedians, the talk-radio personalities. To Lewis, the latter is especially egregious. “More so than Facebook, fake news, and filter bubbles, the roots of misinformation align with the rise of talk radio in the 1990s,” he says. “These entertainers have no interest whatsoever in conveying news and information as it actually is but every inclination to give information that reinforces people’s worldviews.”