Big Media is taking a big hit during this global economic avalanche. As New York Times reporter Richard Perez-Pena noted in the October 23, 2008, paper of record, “The New York Times Company reported a 51.4 percent decline in third-quarter profit on Thursday and swung to a loss on continuing operations as deeper-than-expected expense cuts could not keep pace with falling revenue.”
After the release of the earnings report, Standard & Poor’s lowered the Times Company’s credit rating below investment grade, a move that would increase borrowing costs. Moody’s Investors Service said it was considering doing the same. Several newspaper companies have been lowered to junk status.
This isn’t entirely due to the current economic crisis in the U.S. The mainstream media, especially newspapers, have been declining solidly in readership and revenues for a quarter of a century. The industry is withering or, perhaps more appropriated viewed, it’s morphing. News is still in demand; but relative monopolies have been shattered and the power of the elites to set the topics and tones of discussions is ever more diluted. The rise of the internet has so changed the nature of news delivery that most of the big papers are shriveling.
Big Media has already partially forfeited the status it once held. As it continues its decline there will be some truly negative ramifications for all of us who value knowing what’s going on in remote places where American interests and lives are on the line. Serious, ongoing coverage of complicated situations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan is something that requires the resources and first-rate personnel that only well-financed, established institutions like the New York Times can provide.