The recent merger between Gatehouse Media and Gannett Corporation is another milestone in the rapid decline financially and journalistically of newspapers.
Don’t expect either to change anytime soon. But what is more enlightening is that they are not the only mainstream media outlets struggling. Turns out that in addition to TV news networks, a lot of major online digital outfits are also in contraction mode.
The Gatehouse/Gannett merger creates the largest U.S. media company measured by print circulation along with, in total, perhaps the biggest online news and information outlet, albeit it is diffused. The purchase price, using a combination of cash and stock, is valued at about $1.1 billion — a surprisingly small number for the nation’s largest newspaper conglomerate; like, depressingly small for newspaper investors.
“Our mission is to connect, protect and celebrate our local communities,” said Paul Bascobert, who will lead an operating company called Gannett Media Corp. “Great journalism really is the core of that mission. The question really becomes, what’s the sustainable and exciting business model that powers that mission?”
If part of that model or mission is not fair, objective, non-biased reporting — something that everyone can trust — then this new conglomerate also is doomed. And here’s the problem. It is almost assuredly doomed. All of the newspapers owned by the new company, which will be called Gannett, are staffed at every level of the newsroom by liberals and leftists of some stripe. It is impossible for them to be objective, to be balanced, to be unbiased, because they are incapable of even recognizing they are biased. Best as they can tell, everyone around them agrees on “good” journalism. And they win prizes for it by other liberals and leftists, so it must be great!
And so the shrinking of the mainstream newspaper industry will continue apace until it finds equilibrium at some miniaturized point in the future as a universally accepted partisan media.
According to a Pew Fact Tank report, mainstream newspapers shed 33,000 newsroom jobs between 2008-20018. Media in general experienced a 25 percent decline in those same 10 years — after rolling declines in previous decades.
While Pew said that digital news publications added 6,100 jobs, some of the biggest operations have been laying off people.
“Among the largest digital-native outlets — those with a monthly average of at least 10 million unique visitors — 14% went through layoffs in 2018 and 20% did the year before. Nearly all the digital-native news outlets that laid off staff in 2017 or 2018 cut more than 10 employees,” the Pew report said.
And then we wrap back around to where we started. Pew found a continuing decline in the number of Americans who get their news from newspapers and television — the heart of the mainstream media.
For newspapers, the results were just embarrassing. They are dead last in consumership, with just 16% of Americans saying that “they get news often” from newspapers.
This isn’t just about the competition from online sources, although that is real. The truth is that even many medium and small metro newspapers are deeply infected with the liberal bias, because virtually every college journalism school has become a dumpster fire of liberal to radical leftist professors. And those are the journalists they are churning out.
However, most of those communities don’t have any comparable digital outlets, such as there are in the largest cities or nationally. That means those newspapers have not lost readers to online competitors. They’ve just lost readers. Millions of one-time newspaper readers have walked away because they know they cannot trust what they are getting.
The tragedy for newspapers is that this has been obvious for a couple of decades. When I worked for a New York Times-owned newspaper in the 1990s, I pushed for a policy of recruiting based on a diversity of worldviews, not skin color and gender, as the only solution for the bias. Of course, that was shot down once it got to New York muckity mucks.
The reality is that newspapers have no intention of changing how they cover news, how they define news or how they present it. Most importantly, they won’t change who their journalists are. They and the rest of the mainstream media are like alcoholics who cannot get past the first step — admitting they have a problem.
And so, they dig their own graves and blame someone else for the hole in the ground.
Rod Thomson is an author, past Salem radio host, ABC TV commentator, former journalist and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.
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