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NewsBusters Exclusive: Journalism’s Self-Destruction

by | May 29, 2024

By Cal Thomas

The Washington Post, the dominant but least credible newspaper in Washington, D.C., lost $77 million in 2023.

As the website Unleash Prosperity Hotline noted: “It seems that The Post is in a race with the Los Angeles Times and CNN (which lost $400 million last year) to see which news outlet can go bankrupt first.”

No other business operates like the journalistic establishment. TV ratings are down. Newspaper losses are up. Public trust in the media is at an all-time low as reflected in Gallup and other polls. As Pete Seeger sang in a totally different context a half century ago “We’re waste deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool said to push on.”

Journalism, if we can still call what increasingly reflects advocacy and not reporting, is the only business of which I am aware that doesn’t care what a sizeable demographic thinks about it. Media elites blame the Internet and declining ad revenue for lost subscribers and dwindling viewership. That’s an effect, not the cause.

When I began my syndicated newspaper column in 1984, I was able to “sell” editors on the idea that the political and religious demographic felt ignored and that if they picked up my column they might see a surge in subscribers. Many did and those who did saw a surge.

Today, hedge funds own most major city newspapers. Their managers care nothing about real journalism, only the bottom line. Layoffs are common and real journalists are not what they once were. The revolving door between government and the networks and newspapers is at warp speed. Why do papers like the Post and New York Times bother with opinion pages when it appears to many that it is all opinion and mostly from the left?

If I owned a restaurant (and my wife does), I wouldn’t be in business very long if the menu consisted only of the foods I liked. If customers complained and I told them I don’t care and will continue to offer food that what I like, they would go elsewhere, and I would soon be bankrupt.

This is precisely what is happening in the media. Reporters are isolated from mainstream America. Few appear to attend church. Few know any conservatives except in stereotype. A prominent New York Times columnist once asked me: “Are you still writing your column?” I should have said: “Yes, are you?” but wanted to be polite.

The elites only read and watch each other’s material and appear on programs that reinforce what their audiences already think. Yes, some conservatives do the same, but they have fewer outlets.

A free press is the only profession mentioned in the Constitution. The Founders, some of whom were often excoriated by the newspapers of their day, still understood that freedom of the press was essential to a strong constitutional republic. With freedom comes responsibility to report the news (all of it, not just that which agrees with one’s opinion) as accurately and as fairly as possible.

As radio talk show host Chris Plante has said, “The greatest power the media have is the power to ignore.” Ignoring certain stories is just as biased as slanting those that are covered through the lens of a secular-progressive worldview.

While I have lost about half of the 500 newspapers that once carried me at the peak of my column’s success, I am still trying to remind readers of the economic, social, political, and foreign policies that worked within memory of most people over 40. Our challenge is to reach younger people with the importance of a free and fair press.

Without it, the country will sink ever deeper into the “Big Muddy.”

Editor’s note. This appeared at Newsbusters.

Categories: Media Bias