Who killed the news?
Recently the New York Times accused Donald Trump of destroying journalism. Describing a recent meeting at the White House A.G. Sulzberger wrote, "I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous. ... I was not asking for him to soften his attacks on The Times if he felt our coverage was unfair. Instead, I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country."
Actually Silicon Valley and not the White House has inflicted the most damage on journalism over the last decade. The flight of advertising revenue to the Internet has devastated newsrooms all over America forcing even the NYT to charge readers for content. From coast to coast every publication is desperately fleeing what the Atlantic called the media apocalypse. "Google searches and the Facebook News Feed ... [have] taken most of the money .... 'captured the value' of the content at the distribution level."
At Vanity Fair, the editorial budget faces a 30 percent cut. At The New York Times, advertising revenue is down $20 million annually after nine months. Oath, the offspring of Yahoo and AOL’s union, is shedding more than 500 positions ... every digital publisher seems to be struggling, selling, or soliciting... So many media companies in 2017 have reoriented their budgets around the production of videos that the so-called “pivot to video” has became an industry joke. Today, the pivot seems less like a business strategy and more like end-of-life estate planning.
Without money, journalism no longer had the resources to effectively set the agenda. It can hardly afford even the cost of negative coverage. "As the news cycle has concentrated around the polarizing president, many ad buyers have said they don’t want their name near any news story that involves him. ... As some premium advertisers abandon political news, ad rates fall and political news becomes a tough venture for media companies, even as traffic is soaring."
The task of upholding the Narrative, the mission of traditional journalism, has devolved upon what Jaron Lanier called the "great Silicon Valley spying empires" who spread any meme for a fee. In a Guardian article Lanier argued that social media's main goal was to use AI to manipulate its billions of users so it could sell the resulting influence to paying customers. "Your behavior has been turned into a product – and corporate and political clients are lining up to modify it."
Spying is accomplished mostly through connected personal devices ... that people keep practically glued to their bodies. ... Algorithms choose what each person experiences through their devices. ... It means each person sees different things. ...
The above elements are connected to create a measurement and feedback machine that deliberately modifies behavior. ... customized feeds become optimized to “engage” each user... The default purpose of manipulation is to get people more and more glued in, and to get them to spend more and more time in the system.