As a lifelong reader of newspapers, and a devoted follower of the journalism profession, although not a part of it, I am sad to write this. It’s like a eulogy for a body long dead but failed to be given a proper burial. Or like the M. Night Shyamalan movie “The Sixth Sense,” where Bruce Willis’ character walks the earth as a dead man until a boy who can see dead people leads him to realize his own fate and depart.
Large, centralized news gathering operations are dead. The New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, USA Today–all the old-line newspapers, along with ABC, CBS and NBC are walking the earth, dead, and deluded until they complete their “unfinished business” and depart for the afterlife. Even Fox News is dead, although they’ve mostly realized it and departed into pundit heaven.
CNN realized it years ago but chose to morph into a huge amplifier for liberal causes, but instead of speakers, they bought just a few hundred thousand tiny little earbuds that only Democrats can wear. MSNBC is a ghost that sometimes haunts televisions like Carol Anne Freeling’s poltergeists–“they’re here!”
In a corpse, the definitive sign of death is “livor mortis,” the pooling of blood in the lower portions of a body leading to a bluish tinge of the skin. When paramedics or doctors see this, they know there’s no chance of resuscitation. And we’ve seen it in news. The New York Times has allowed its journalistic integrity to suffer time after time, from their decision to not publish Charlie Hebdo images of Muhammed yet print an offensive portrait of Pope Benedict XVI made of condoms, to lying about the reason [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]’s book was yanked from their bestseller list, to its coverage of Reddit ex-CEO Ellen Pao’s ouster.
I don’t have space here to cover the Washington Post‘s crimes against journalism, but seeing the end, Ezra Klein and his young hipster pundit pirates defected to Vox Media long ago to establish their kingdom of digitally integrated and brightly colored falsehoods disguised as news.
Television networks have become nothing more than sound-bite processors serving as a front-end to high-traffic websites that churn out the latest AP and Reuters headlines with a censoring process that would make “Good Morning Viet Nam” seem completely unrestrained (don’t even get me started about George Stephanopoulos or Dan Rather or Brian Williams). Cable news is a daily echo chamber of punditry, analysis, and endless panels of talking heads. Much of it is entertaining (and purposely so) but most of it is just banal.
If journalism has left the building at large news gathering organizations, where has it gone?
It’s gone to the blogs–and to the magazines who pioneered news blogging.
The blogosphere today consists of 98 percent low-traffic blogs, and the other 2 percent are the core of journalism. Of that 2 percent, at least half are just straight news reposters. That leaves 1 percent as news breakers.
They look at the AP stories, and the daily news published by myriad small newspapers (which are still great sources of real news), local television stations (ditto), Reuters, press releases, videos, government pressers, and foreign press, then they synthesize stories into actual news.
Bloggers can’t match the raw firepower that WaPo and NYT throw at a story, but you’d be surprised what Yahoo News, Buzzfeed (yes, the joke of the Internet, but they actually had a few scoops), and even legal blog Popehat can do. They’re not always conducting interviews like veteran Reuters and AP reporters do, but they are looking at the story through unfiltered journalistic lenses without the crud that the walking dead newspapers and networks have stuck to their sticky keyboards.
Magazines like Reason.com are more likely to break real news stories and print less retractions than Rolling Stone. And Ace of Spades HQ has broken more than one big story, not to mention The Federalist, and Gateway Pundit. These are the keepers of the journalistic flame, because they’re not scared to print real news, even if it doesn’t line up with their political predispositions.
Of course, those sites serve their news with more than a heaping helping of conservative bias, but I’ll even give points to liberal blog The Huffington Post for keeping journalistic standards better than NYT or WaPo. No points for Salon.com or Mother Jones though–they are just high-traffic-seeking liberal echo chambers (they might think the same of RedState, but I don’t see the diversity of opinion like RedState has always championed, along with sites like National Review, where the contributors don’t always agree but they are at least civil).
The biggest death knell for the “news” as we know it–for me–is simply this. I don’t read newspapers anymore. I don’t go to the Washington Post first thing in the morning anymore. I read the New York Times for the NYT Magazine features (which are frequently quite good and written by respected journalists). I skip the network news sites entirely except to link to their local stations’ coverage.
When I read the large, centralized news gathering organizations, I see dead people who’ve reached the end of news, must evolve into something else (and stop printing bird cage liner).
The sooner they realize they’re dead and move on to a better world, the better it will be for journalism.