March 28, 2016

MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH: What Happens to Journalists When No One Wants to Print Their Words Anymore?

Actually, the real issue is that much of the country doesn’t want to read their words anymore. You can only say for so long, as the late Ginny Carroll, of the then-Washington Post-owned Newsweek, did via the button she wore at the 1992 Republican Convention, “Yeah, I’m with the Media — Screw You,” for so long, before the rest of the country says “screw you” right back. From the birth of the Drudge Report in the mid-‘90s until 2007, old media fought a continuing rear guard effort against the rise of a demassified new media.

In 2008, the plan shifted somewhat, as old media went all-in to elect Barack Obama, and the mask was off — it was plain to the nation that we’re reading not objective journalists, but Democrat activists with bylines. The goal that year was to just drag BHO over the finish line, and then hope against hope for the same sorts of bailouts that the banks and automakers were then lining up for and receiving from the federal government.  Because, as Megan McArdle warned in 2009, by then, “the media death spiral” was in full swing:

I think we’re witnessing the end of the newspaper business, full stop, not the end of the newspaper business as we know it.  The economics just aren’t there.  At some point, industries enter a death spiral:  too few consumers raises their average costs, meaning they eventually have to pass price increases onto their customers.  That drives more customers away.  Rinse and repeat . . .

For twenty years, newspapers have been trying to slow the process with increasingly desperate cost cutting, but almost all are at the end of that rope; they can’t cut their newsroom or production staff any further and still put out a newspaper.  There just aren’t enough customers who are willing to pay for their product what it costs to produce it.

In a follow-up McArdle added that the goal was just to keep the lights on a little while longer. “A bunch of my journalist friends and I have decided that our new toast is ‘to 2010’.  2009 has so far been pretty disappointing for almost everyone I know, not to mention the country for which we all have great affection.”

Ahh, but that’s just it: ever since the late sixties, when the staff at Time magazine seemed baffled by its core readers — the very readers its then-recently deceased conservative founder had cultivated for nearly half a century — I’ve seen very little from the MSM that leads me to believe that it has great affection for either this country, or the majority of the people who inhabit it.