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Ed Driscoll

Pride Goeth Before the Free-Fall

April 8th, 2013 - 10:09 pm

Today’s elite loathes the public. Nothing personal, just a fundamental difference in world view, but the hatred is unmistakable. Occasionally it escapes in scorching geysers. Michael Lewis reports in the New Republic on the ’96 Dole presidential campaign: ‘The crowd flips the finger at the busloads of journalists and chant rude things at them as they enter each arena. The journalists, for their part, wear buttons that say ‘Yeah, I’m the Media. Screw You.’* The crowd hates the reporters, the reporters hate the crowd – an even matchup, except that the reporters wield power and the crowed (in effect) wields none.

David Gelernter, in his 1997 book, Drawing Life. And Gelernter’s description of old media’s aloof reaction to its readers during the 1996-1997 time period dovetails perfectly with the chart atop economic professor Mark J. Perry’s post at AEI today titled, “Free-fall: Adjusted for inflation, print newspaper advertising revenue in 2012 was lower than in 1950:”

If you ask them, old media will swear up and down that the above chart’s apogee is entirely coincidental to the funny thing began to happen, starting in 1996

* Speaking of declining revenues and customer alienation, Ginny Carroll of Newsweek mentioned wearing a button with exactly those words on it when she appeared on C-Span’s Journalists’ Roundtable in 1992:

“My reaction to that button [`Rather Biased'] and others, in part, is a button I bought yesterday that says `Yeah, I’m In The Media, Screw You!’….I do understand why a lot of people are upset with us, why we rank somewhere between terrorists and bank robbers on the approval scale. We do criticize. That’s part of our role. Our role is not just to parrot what people say, it’s to make people think. I think that sometimes I want to say to the electorate `Grow up!’”

When Carroll died in May of 2001 of hypertensive cardiovascular disease at age 53, the Chicago Tribune reported the above quote in her obituary, and that she had spent a decade as Newsweek’s bureau chief in first Detroit and then Houston.

Newsweek was founded in 1933 by a former editor of Time. The Washington Post purchased the magazine in 1961 for $8,000,000, and offloaded it for one dollar in 2010, perhaps having concluded that they had sufficiently alienated enough former and potential customers. Its new ownership would cease publishing a print version of the magazine at the end of last year.

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Craigslist, eBay, all online shopping that doesn't require local advertising had an effect. But it is also true that newspaper readership penetration and adult literacy both peaked around the time the federal Department of Education began its long quest to dumb down America.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The downturn isn't related the the rise of blogging. The downturn directly correlates to the increasing success of Craigslist, which cut the knees out from under the newspapers by stealing their classified advertising business.
1 year ago
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