New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin makes a salient point in writing that American journalism is collapsing before our eyes. But his is not a new thought. The universal collapse began back in about 2008, when daily newspapers of all sizes began gutting their staffs and substituting “selfies,” other meaningless photos, “feel good” features and public-relations pap in their ever-shrinking content mix.
The rug was pulled from beneath the feet of once-revered domestic newspapers after publishers and media moguls grew too greedy in pursuit of bloated bottom lines. It has been nearly a decade since advertising rates started skyrocketing at about the same pace as the new online monster grew, as did personal communication offered by advertising-plagued devices such as the iPhone. New platforms for retailers fragmented the advertising dollar, all but starving those archaic, time-consuming newspapers out of business. Newsrooms– the bastions of truth, accuracy and impartiality — had always generated next to nothing in revenue, and they suddenly started to bleed. Pay cuts proliferated. News staffs were downsized drastically. The big boys (and girls) in the executive suites at the top of the pyramids flushed investigative and enterprise reporting right down the toilet.
The electronic media gained in popularity. It took little effort to sit in front of a color TV screen with your feet up and watch/listen to all the talking heads. The sound bites were easy to absorb, accept or reject. We could learn what had happened, who was involved and where it went down. However, except for programs such as “60 Minutes” and “20/20” and “FOX News Sunday,” and newspapers such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, we seldom were told WHY anything happened.
Suddenly, we were flooded with opinions. They came from political insiders, social experts, business professionals, and anybody among the masses who could punch out a 25-word text on their cell-phone keypads and tweet it to Bret Baier. We were expected to make up our own minds based on the cacophony of voices — informed or inflamed — on everything. In politics, so-called opinion polls were cited day after day as to who was leading in the race for the White House or the nuthouse, or who appeared to be the biggest cheat and liar. Such polls were rarely reported in the past, because people lie in polls, and because pollsters rig the sample areas based on the outcomes desired by those footing the bill for the surveys. Suddenly, many of us didn’t know whom to believe. Credibility in the media took a back seat to the power of persuasion. And so many of us lost interest in what once mattered.
Instead, we turned to Kim Kardashian; her father/mother?, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner; and some overgrown surfer dude who got drunk, kicked down the door of a stop-and-rob in Rio, called his momma to whine a little, and created an international incident that might have deserved a couple of paragraphs but instead garnered wall-to-wall coverage for two or three days.
Any wonder why there has been a complete collapse of journalism in the USA as we once knew it?
Goodwin went so far as to write that the “frenzy” to bury Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump goes well beyond Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s camp and White House campaigner-in-chief Barack Obama, who “are working hand-in-hand with what was considered the cream of the nation’s news organizations.”
If that’s not the reality, it certainly is the perception. As Goodwin writes: “The largest broadcast networks — CBS, NBC and ABC — and major newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post have jettisoned all pretense of fair play. Their fierce determination to keep Trump out of the Oval Office has no precedent.”
Who loses in all this? We do.
We not only get the short end of the stick in the “news” reporting of the day. But we also miss the elevator and get the shaft on Election Day when we reward ourselves with a winner. This year, our choices are a rich-on-paper megalomaniac, or a lying elitist snob who forgot where she came from.
But in a world of cell-phone gossipers, computer-game fanatics, lunatics running loose on the streets, Muslims who value death over life, public schools that fail to educate, and sheep in sheep’s clothing, who the heck cares?
In the immortal words of Pogo, that lovable comic strip possum created by Walt Kelly in the 1950s: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”