Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Scenes from the Media Meltdown

 

That’s Steven Hayward’s headline for today’s post on the (continuing) decline in journalism. It was prompted by a lament in the New York Review of Books by Dean Nicholas Lemann of Columbia, asking Can Journalism Be Saved? Hayward excerpts some of the key points, including Lemann’s rather clueless exposition on the trend towards opinions in disguise on the front pages, after a litany of statistics on the declines in readership, advertising revenues, local papers still publishing, and overall employment in the field. (Hayward says he understands if we consider this the feel-good story of the day. Heh. I do.)

Anyways, I think we know the answer to Lemann’s question, based on the industry’s decades of abuse of their consumers: No, it cannot be saved. At least not in its present form with its present cadre of bloviators. Journalists with no relevant expertise have no business offering “news analysis.”

I’m not sure what will replace the current practice of journalism, though the plethora of special purpose blogs suggests that something of that sort will win in the end, with trusted individuals (or small groups) acting as aggregators. (Think Instapundit and friends.)

I was an early mover in this area, contributing to the decline of journalism all the way back in 1995 when I fired my local paper (Myrtle Beach’s Sun-News) for egregious bias in the coverage of gun control and the concealed carry permit debate. The Internet had not yet sprouted a plethora of blogs, Fox News hadn’t been founded, and Rush was still a fairly new and lonely voice in the wilderness. I have since reveled in the internet’s growing role in the dispersal of information sources and the removal of gatekeepers. I don’t think the genie can be put back in the bottle.

How would you answer Lemann’s lament?

Published in Journalism
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 23 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. PHCheese Member

    Did Issac Bailey have anything to do with firing the paper boy?

    • #1
    • February 16, 2020, at 3:09 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  2. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Did Issac Bailey have anything to do with firing the paper boy?

    I had to duck-duck-go him to find him at the Sun News. I don’t recall him from those days, if he’s even old enough to have been an employee.

    • #2
    • February 16, 2020, at 3:32 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  3. RightAngles Member

    It would have to be accompanied by a sea change in our entire education system from elementary through university. The schools, including journalism school, since at least the 1970s have stopped teaching critical thinking and have instead churned out little SJWs who think they’re supposed to go out there and “Make a Difference” or “Speak Truth to Power” etc. I remember a time when journalists were scrupulously trained never to use what they called “loaded words,” or words which might give away the reporter’s own personal opinions. But that went out the window with Watergate, and now they all aspire to be Woodward and Bernstein. And you can’t even shame them because they believe they’re in the right.

    Journalism is dead and has been for a long time. I mean as far back as the 1980s, Peter Jennings was shoving his opinions down our throats when he was supposed to be delivering hard news, and NBC was already getting caught red-handed with their fake crash-test dummies and their phony dead fish floating on top of a creek, not to mention that same tired herd of caribou they all kept using over and over as some kind of proof of “global warming” or “habitat encroachment,” whatever the cause of the week happened to be. It’s so entrenched now that I don’t know how we get it back.

    • #3
    • February 16, 2020, at 4:06 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  4. I Walton Member

    The thing is it must end with narrowing walls of separation, but we can live with that as long as nobody at the top gets to pick anything. It must be ground up with totally free exchange. Sort of like it was for most of history. We didn’t interact with many strangers and those that did wrote, traveled learned and led. We can do that as long as nobody gets to control the top.

    • #4
    • February 16, 2020, at 4:18 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. Jon1979 Lincoln

    The problem for the big media outlets, really over the past 25 years, but especially over the past 15, is in the face of declining viewers and readers due to the explosion of online information options, they’ve decided to self-niche themselves, and not even attempt to present a balanced view as a business strategy. The idea basically is to develop a core of loyal viewers and readers by pandering to their biases, with no distinction between news and opinion (the left would say that’s what Fox News has been doing since 1996, but Fox has separated its news segments from its prime-time opinion shows since the beginning. Sean Hannity may have interviewed Trump before the Super Bowl, but Fox hasn’t had him moderate a presidential debate like MSNBC did with Rachel Maddow).

    Openly partisan news outlets pretty much were the norm from the Revolutionary Era in the U.S. to the rise of radio in the 1930s. But the current media outlets don’t want to admit they’ve gone back to that — they want to feel free to inject their opinions into news stories while still claiming to be unbiased, and they’re not fooling anyone. But for the Democrats, following the leads of the media in trying to satisfy their base’s angriest member’s conformation biases is a losing proposition, in the same way thinking political Twitter world reflects real life.

    So the media’s locked themselves in pandering to get clicks from angry progressives, to where they’ve burned their bridges so much, to reverse course would mean losing that group, and possibly never replacing them with people who want just straight news reporting, but don’t trust the old-line media outlets to ever do it. And since they have no electoral skin in the game, there’s no economic reason for them to back off that position, even if some Democrats are starting to figure out that picking their presidential nominee or policies to make progressives in the media happy might be a long-term losing strategy.

    • #5
    • February 16, 2020, at 6:00 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. CACrabtree Coolidge

    With the MSM’s bend toward self-delusion I don’t think there’s anything that can be done. This weekend I was reading an article about the McClatchy bankruptcy and saw the familiar lament of “the internet has taken all our readers”. It’s become something of a mantra for them. No mention is ever given of (to quote your phrase) “opinons in disguise on the front pages”. 

    Just like a fish doesn’t know it’s wet, they can’t view, through the eyes of their readership, just how far they’ve deviated from the path of real journalism. Maybe we can lay some blame on our Schools of Journalism but one would think they could step out of their newsrooms long enough to examine the perceptions of their readers. That’s unfortunate; we need some hard-eyed, no-nonsense reporters to keep our state and local officials honest. (Of course, in some cities, that’s also pretty much of a lost cause.)

     

     

    • #6
    • February 17, 2020, at 10:31 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  7. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The old ways, really artificial, are ending. We will return to openly biased sources. Aurora here we come!

    • #7
    • February 17, 2020, at 2:39 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    It’s been downhill ever since we turned to television for news and made highly-paid stars out of men and women who call themselves journalists. 

    • #8
    • February 17, 2020, at 3:24 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  9. The Reticulator Member

    First step: Fire all journalists who graduated from a school of journalism, and blacklist them to prevent future employment.

    Second step: Fire all journalists who have ever acknowledged publicly the receipt of an award from fellow journalists.

    Then those who remain can report and write for their customers instead of for each other.

    • #9
    • February 17, 2020, at 10:41 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. RufusRJones Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    It would have to be accompanied by a sea change in our entire education system from elementary through university. The schools, including journalism school, since at least the 1970s have stopped teaching critical thinking and have instead churned out little SJWs who think they’re supposed to go out there and “Make a Difference” or “Speak Truth to Power” etc. I remember a time when journalists were scrupulously trained never to use what they called “loaded words,” or words which might give away the reporter’s own personal opinions. But that went out the window with Watergate, and now they all aspire to be Woodward and Bernstein. And you can’t even shame them because they believe they’re in the right.

    Journalism is dead and has been for a long time. I mean as far back as the 1980s, Peter Jennings was shoving his opinions down our throats when he was supposed to be delivering hard news, and NBC was already getting caught red-handed with their fake crash-test dummies and their phony dead fish floating on top of a creek, not to mention that same tired herd of caribou they all kept using over and over as some kind of proof of “global warming” or “habitat encroachment,” whatever the cause of the week happened to be. It’s so entrenched now that I don’t know how we get it back.

    This is why I can’t stand the phrase “Not everyone should go to college.” There needs to be something outside of the accreditation system that is inexpensive where you can get a libertarian and conservative education that helps you think critically.

    I don’t even think it has to be that hard in every case, like it’s some filter for showing how smart you are to employers. You can get separate technical education for that. This isn’t going to work in some cases but it’s going to work for a lot of people.

    Two of my favorites on this topic: Nick Gillespie of reason Magazine interviewing the guy from renegade history. This guy is very liberal, but he lays out the accreditation scam perfectly. It’s outrageous. The other is Liz Wolfe’s article in the federalist about how she scammed the higher education system. It’s short and must-read.

    Almost the whole education system is a bad value and is going to get massive deflation the hard way in the next recession.

    • #10
    • February 18, 2020, at 2:54 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. RufusRJones Member

    Here is some BS from liberal arts professors that are trying to justify their existence. They know they are running out of rope.

    During the last decade, historians worked together to commonly define graduates’ desired skills, knowledge and “habits of mind.” Here’s what that “tuning” accomplished — and where it fell short.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2020/02/12/revisiting-one-disciplines-effort-define-what-its-students#.XkQGV6PrOlw.twitter 

    • #11
    • February 18, 2020, at 3:00 AM PST
    • 1 like
  12. Steve C. Member

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    Openly partisan news outlets pretty much were the norm from the Revolutionary Era in the U.S. to the rise of radio in the 1930s. But the current media outlets don’t want to admit they’ve gone back to that —

    It would be damn difficult to do that if you have a free near perpetual government license granted to “broadcast in the public interest”.

    Granted, we don’t license newspapers, cable broadcasting or stuff on the internet. 

    • #12
    • February 18, 2020, at 4:41 AM PST
    • Like
  13. RufusRJones Member

     

     

     

    • #13
    • February 18, 2020, at 5:17 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. Full Size Tabby Member

    I don’t know if journalism can be saved, given the splintered media market we have today.

    But, I see many of journalism’s current problems to be continuing fallout from the atrocious lessons many young journalists took from Woodward and Bernstein (or whatever their names were) and the Watergate episode. Rather suddenly “journalism” shifted from “what, who, where, when” to “save the world by taking up a crusade.”

    The young journalists of the day became the journalism teachers and senior editors and have perpetuated the crusade concept of “journalism” to successive generations. So, if journalism is to be saved, I think the highest likelihood is provided by jettisoning the crusade concept. Which is why

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    First step: Fire all journalists who graduated from a school of journalism, and blacklist them to prevent future employment.

    Second step: Fire all journalists who have ever acknowledged publicly the receipt of an award from fellow journalists.

    Then those who remain can report and write for their customers instead of for each other.

     

    • #14
    • February 18, 2020, at 5:20 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    Openly partisan news outlets pretty much were the norm from the Revolutionary Era in the U.S. to the rise of radio in the 1930s. But the current media outlets don’t want to admit they’ve gone back to that —

    It would be damn difficult to do that if you have a free near perpetual government license granted to “broadcast in the public interest”.

    Granted, we don’t license newspapers, cable broadcasting or stuff on the internet.

    Reagan’s FCC ending the Fairness Doctrine in the 1980s was really the end of the pretense that the limited broadcast outlets were showing any type of even-handedness, which at the very least, had been dying since the rise of TV news. The ‘Fairness’ had been leaning towards the Democrats more and more since the 1960 election, but Reagan’s people were able to get the requirement for ostensible balanced removed because by the end of the 1970s, FM radio was killing AM stations, and they needed some type of new programming to survive. So the broadcasters were OK from a bottom-line level with political talk radio that didn’t have to be fair (in part because the people running the networks didn’t grasp how much more popular conservative talk radio would be on commercial channels than liberal talk radio).

    • #15
    • February 18, 2020, at 5:32 AM PST
    • 1 like
  16. RufusRJones Member

    Minneapolis has three conservative radio stations, now. Two of them cover the whole metro. The other one covers most of it.

    • #16
    • February 18, 2020, at 5:37 AM PST
    • Like
  17. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Journalism’s leftward drift has been accompanied by another troubling issue: incompetence.

    I dropped my newspaper subscription to the Tennessean in the late 1990s for two reasons:

    1. Their op-ed section was 100% left wing. (A somewhat foolish choice in middle Tennessee, a state that is solidly Center Right.)
    2. The writers (and I can only assume, the editors) of the Tennessean couldn’t spell, punctuate, or get the actual facts correct.

    Bias and incompetence is a losing combination. 

    • #17
    • February 18, 2020, at 6:37 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  18. RufusRJones Member

    Journalists love statism. If people are prosperous from nothing but specialization and mutual exchange, there is nothing to write about. Big political personalities are easier to write about. Journalists are usually not very good at math and statistics. They can’t believe that Propellerheads from the Academy can’t run everything better.

    • #18
    • February 18, 2020, at 6:43 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. WI Con Member
    WI Con Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I worry about the same thing though more from a local news standpoint. 

    I get nearly all of my local news from our local talk radio and they sift through the Milwaukee and Madison papers and TV stories – I trust their aggregation of newsworthy items and worry that local governments will run even more wild if there isn’t any reporting of local tax, spending, bond issues, not to mention local and state elections.

    I think that may be one of the reasons for increased polarization – that national news (Washington DC) issues are so chewed over by both sides because that’s the least expensive issues to cover. Get a bunch of partisans to argue on a set. No remote set ups, no reporters being payed to sift through reports. More cost effective to let them sniff each other and have nightly dog fights on camera in studio.

    • #19
    • February 18, 2020, at 7:28 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  20. The Reticulator Member

    RufusRJones (View Comment):
    Big political personalities are easier to write about.

    Also more boring. But easier trumps boring.

    • #20
    • February 18, 2020, at 8:22 AM PST
    • 1 like
  21. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):
    Big political personalities are easier to write about.

    Also more boring. But easier trumps boring.

    Pun intended?

     

    • #21
    • February 18, 2020, at 9:55 AM PST
    • 1 like
  22. Jon1979 Lincoln

    WI Con (View Comment):

    I worry about the same thing though more from a local news standpoint.

    I get nearly all of my local news from our local talk radio and they sift through the Milwaukee and Madison papers and TV stories – I trust their aggregation of newsworthy items and worry that local governments will run even more wild if there isn’t any reporting of local tax, spending, bond issues, not to mention local and state elections.

    I think that may be one of the reasons for increased polarization – that national news (Washington DC) issues are so chewed over by both sides because that’s the least expensive issues to cover. Get a bunch of partisans to argue on a set. No remote set ups, no reporters being payed to sift through reports. More cost effective to let them sniff each other and have nightly dog fights on camera in studio.

    They’re also the easiest stories to nationalize, and the ones it’s also easiest to get people — especially people with an agenda — to cover. You can take dozens of things Washington is involved with an gin it up into some type of crisis that’s designed to draw people from across the country, where regional or local problems may not get coverage (unless they can be nationalized to serve a purpose).

    • #22
    • February 18, 2020, at 10:10 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  23. RufusRJones Member

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    It would have to be accompanied by a sea change in our entire education system from elementary through university. The schools, including journalism school, since at least the 1970s have stopped teaching critical thinking and have instead churned out little SJWs who think they’re supposed to go out there and “Make a Difference” or “Speak Truth to Power” etc. I remember a time when journalists were scrupulously trained never to use what they called “loaded words,” or words which might give away the reporter’s own personal opinions. But that went out the window with Watergate, and now they all aspire to be Woodward and Bernstein. And you can’t even shame them because they believe they’re in the right.

    Journalism is dead and has been for a long time. I mean as far back as the 1980s, Peter Jennings was shoving his opinions down our throats when he was supposed to be delivering hard news, and NBC was already getting caught red-handed with their fake crash-test dummies and their phony dead fish floating on top of a creek, not to mention that same tired herd of caribou they all kept using over and over as some kind of proof of “global warming” or “habitat encroachment,” whatever the cause of the week happened to be. It’s so entrenched now that I don’t know how we get it back.

    This is why I can’t stand the phrase “Not everyone should go to college.” There needs to be something outside of the accreditation system that is inexpensive where you can get a libertarian and conservative education that helps you think critically.

    I don’t even think it has to be that hard in every case, like it’s some filter for showing how smart you are to employers. You can get separate technical education for that. This isn’t going to work in some cases but it’s going to work for a lot of people.

    Two of my favorites on this topic: Nick Gillespie of reason Magazine interviewing the guy from renegade history. This guy is very liberal, but he lays out the accreditation scam perfectly. It’s outrageous. The other is Liz Wolfe’s article in the federalist about how she scammed the higher education system. It’s short and must-read.

    Almost the whole education system is a bad value and is going to get massive deflation the hard way in the next recession.

    Brutal discussion of higher education. Start at 37:00

    Article it’s based on:

    https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/preventing-suicide-by-higher-education 

    • #23
    • February 19, 2020, at 2:58 AM PST
    • 1 like