An Insensate Media

In this article Steve Rhodes bewails the consolidation of media voices, while admitting that the internet has changed things. He closes his article by wondering where he will pitch his story.

Two gross ironies scream for attention.

  • One, he is published in an online magazine called “Crain’s – Chicago Business.” So, perhaps he could pitch his article to the same Chicago mag that published, you know, the piece he just wrote.
  • Two, at the very end of the article, his bio states that he owns and runs The Beachwood Reporter, apparently some kind of paper based in Chicago. So another answer is, “Publish it in your own paper!”

Such obvious answers would not escape the attention of most people; however, they routinely escape the notice of journalists. This inability to see the obvious, coupled with an inability to notice how trust in their profession has cratered, mingled with a sense of their own importance, is why the media landscape looks the way it does.

A single reporter cannot escape the long, slow plummet into deceit that the media embarked upon way back in the days of Vietnam. Then, bias became front and center in the usual news stories. No pretense of objectivity existed; the US was evil and you, the reader, were to accept what was printed or read, with a literary gun to your head. Of course, that these articles turned out to be false didn’t slow the descent of media. In the years that followed, most reporters doubled down. They cloaked themselves in “objectivity” for the need of a fine-sounding word to disguise their cultural and political biases. Reporters that sought the truth, like Jayna Davis, and Sherryl Attikson, were driven from the profession. Why? They were guilty of not agreeing with the hive mind.

It’s not the consolidation of media that is the problem – that is only a secondary collapse that followed the perspective collapse already underway. When J-schools turn out only leftists and degrees are required for everything, then the only acceptable perspective is the worldview of the left. And due to the way that leftist politics works (much like leftist science), leaving the plantation is not an option. Doing so carries a high cost – you lose your friends, your job, your prestige, and you reason for living comes under attack. Go along to get along, comrades.

If the readership sees no real difference in the quality of information served, and it all comes with the same perspective, then readers get tired of reading. They turn to other sources – such as talk radio, and now the internet. Their information needs are still being met, but the ancien regime is included in the conversation only as a source of mockery. If reader attention to the press wanes, advertising follows, and so consolidation occurs. Remember how Newsweek was sold for $1 and the assumption of its debts? This could only happen in a world where Newsweek had first become irrelevant.

Content is king, and the press had failed to deliver any interesting content for quite some time. In short, the collapse of the print press can be traced to the content producers themselves. They chose to circle the wagons, and to double down on their leftist viewpoint, even as the financials soured. Having sacrificed, they were not about to give up now.

This behavior is typical of all dying empires. They rarely revisit their assumptions, and so, having taken a wrong turn, simply continue down the road, further into the woods, further away from help, until eventually the monsters overtake them. Similar themes can be found in literature at least as far back as the Old Testament. So this is not new, and the newspaper industry is not the first to die by its own hand because of its own unwillingness to course correct.

However, the newspaper industry is amazing in this way – that even after the collapse has begun, and even after the dust has settled, its acolytes still cannot see the truth. They wander around like prophets of a failed god through the ashes, moaning, “What about me?” They are the last scions of an insensate media.

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One Response to An Insensate Media

  1. Steve Rhodes says:

    Hi – I’m the writer you’re talking about here. Thought I’d respond. Crain’s is a business publication that does not publish longform journalism, so I could not publish my hypothetical piece with them. Similarly, I do not publish my own longform journalism on my website – someone has to pay for what is typically two months of rigorous reporting when I do these stories (which also ought to be edited by someone who is not the author).. In Chicago, Chicago magazine and the Chicago Reader have long been the homes for such journalism. There really is no place else to go. The Internet has indeed, as i write, “changed the equation,” but it hasn’t changed the equation in Chicago when it comes to this kind of journalism.


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