Sprinkles from the Left

⏰🚀 Ready, Set, Go: These opinions take 1.84 minutes to read.

The truth is, 2020 proved that even a deluge of bonkers can’t save the news business. Last year, 16,000 jobs in newsrooms disappeared—and that was on top of 27,000 jobs eliminated over the past decade. And while the pace has slowed a bit in 2021, the cuts are likely to keep coming. They always do. “These media companies are looking at the dollar signs, and it’s just not there,” Joel Kaplan, a journalism professor at Syracuse University, told CNN in the spring. “They have probably six months before it really gets bad.”

Not to argue with a professor, but for many newsrooms, “really bad” has been here for a while. The vulturous Alden Global hedge fund is swallowing up some of the nation’s most storied newspapers (this is awful not just for the journalists who work there, but for all of us as citizens). Outfits from HuffPost to NBC and even public media such as WNYC in New York are cutting staff. Here at Mother Jones, about 60 percent of our team took a pay cut last year as an act of solidarity to avoid layoffs…

So it’s not that “without Trump, we are screwed.” It’s that we are, forgive the language, screwed with or without him if we can’t show the public that what we do matters for the long term—not just when there’s a pandemic afoot or a despot on the move. We’re screwed if newsrooms that tell it like is can’t find the stable footing—and funding—to keep at it. Chronicling crises is important, but we’re screwed if journalism can’t shine a light on the systemic forces that brought the crises about, and will again unless we make change.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO of Mother Jones

While partisan TV is nothing new (Fox News and MSNBC and the like all were going strong well before Trump arrived on the scene), it certainly ramped up over the past four years. But with Trump out of the White House and the temperature lowered just a bit, it does appear news outlets from all sides are losing audience.

Fischer and Rothschild note that conservative outlets such as Newsmax and The Federalist saw a traffic drop of 44% from February through May compared to the previous six months. More liberal outlets, such as Mother Jones and Raw Story, are down 27%. And mainstream media publishers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Reuters have dropped 18%…

The hope for such outlets is that traffic will pick back up as we get closer to the 2022 midterm elections…

Elisabeth Bumiller, Washington bureau chief at The New York Times, made a good point when she noted that, yes, traffic is down compared to 2020, but not compared to 2019…

With the election, COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd, 2020 was one of the busiest years in news that we’ve ever had.

Bumiller said, “… it’s both easier and more difficult now. Easier in that every day isn’t an all-out panic like it would go on for months on end during the Trump administration. But also stories aren’t falling off the trees anymore. So we’ve got a much bigger focus on policy with the Biden administration, on foreign policy, on his giant domestic agenda, on pandemic relief.”

Tom Jones, Poynter

Sprinkles from the Right

⏰🚀 Ready, Set, Go: These opinions take 1.84 minutes to read.

Roger Mudd, my former colleague at CBS News, who recently died at age 93, told an interviewer on Nov. 18, 2011: “A journalist’s job is not to march in the parade, but to stand on the curb and report what goes by. An awful lot of people think that we ought to be in the parade and not be a disinterested observer.”

Roger was onto something back then, but television news was more serious in his day and far less partisan than it is today. For too long now, especially after Trump was elected president, journalists have been marching in that parade without so much as a hint of embarrassment.

Roger Mudd was worried about a biased public trying to influence journalists. I’m worried about the opposite — biased journalists trying to influence the public.

Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years, and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and an analyst for Fox News. (Published in The Hill)

It recently announced plans to scrap its op-ed page after 50 years in favor of “guest essays.” Their stated purpose, according to editor Kathleen Kingsbury, is to publish pieces with “intention.” Translated, that means pieces that serve to advance an agenda. She confesses that Times editors will place their “thumb on our scale in the name of progress, fairness and shared humanity.” In other words, the Times will be selecting opinion pieces that fit a narrative, rather than offer informed dissent and contrary views…

Seeing this trend away from fairness in American journalism, my fear is that we will never return to an objective news media that reports the facts – who, what, when and where – and trusts readers and viewers to make judgments based on evidence and logic. The justification given by the Times in 1970 when it created the op-ed page — “as a move to open the opinion pages to the voices of others, presenting a range of views on major issues” — now sounds quaint and from a time long past…

Journalism is at a crossroads unlike at any time in recent history. Do people want reporting that challenges their thinking and represents diverse viewpoints? Or, are people content living in their own bubble hearing only perspectives they want to hear? These questions are truly the crux of the issue, since media outlets are businesses and to thrive need to provide consumers with products they want to consume.

All of this brings us back to Kingsbury. She got one thing right in her announcement of the change in titles for the op-ed page. That’s when she noted that the scales of opinion journalism are “increasingly tilted against the free and the fair, the sober and the honest.” She controls those scales, at The New York Times and through the influence the Times wields in the media industry. If she hopes for values such as free, fair, sober and honest journalism to prevail, it is within her power to see that they do. And for the good of our republic, hopefully the pendulum moves in that direction again sometime soon.

Roger Ream, president of The Fund for American Studies, a nonprofit educational organization that works with high school and college students to promote the principles of free-market economics, limited government and honorable leadership. (Published in RealClearPolitics)