The Decline and Fall of the Media.

I wrote a piece in December 2016, shortly after Trump’s victory, that was a discussion of the mainstream media’s coverage of the presidential campaign. At its heart, it was a discussion of what a lowly creature it had revealed itself to be. Throughout the whole campaign, the standard of journalism barely scrambled upwards to the abysmal.

You name a vice it could possibly exhibit, and you didn’t have to look far to find it on brazen display; fabrication, omission, dishonesty, smear jobs, distortion, character assassination, condemnation by denunciation, trial by press, with them gleefully playing anonymous accuser, judge, jury and executioner – in summary, it was all a deliberate pack of lies and deception from beginning to end.

The article discussed the invisible migration of news consumers away from the mainstream to more truthful and less hysterical internet alternatives, and finished up asking if the behaviour of the mainstream media would change going forward into a Trump administration, but noted that the early signs weren’t good and in all probability they’d continue to spiral outwards beyond the fringe of any mainstream relevance.

That not too prescient assessment has turned out to be more than accurate, and indeed, if anything, not pessimistic enough by a long chalk. The term fake news has now entered common parlance and isn’t going away, since even fewer people than ever place any trust in them.

In the immediate aftermath of the election, you had newspapers like the NY Times publish a cringing apology, thinly disguised as not an apology, about their partisan coverage and promising, now the election was all safely over and behind us, they’d get back to some tattered impression of journalism. Things would go back to normal. Did it work? No, not unless you think working means having to subsequently vacate eight floors of your landmark downtown building and making a few hundred journalists, and I’m being charitable in my use of that term, redundant.

I mention the NYT only as an exemplar, since it seems representative of one of the few sectors which have been letting people go rather than joining in the general growth trend that has so far been a characteristic part of Trump’s rejuvenation of the economy over the last year. As early as April of 2017, the news/media sector was one of the few contracting according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and things have only got successively worse in the following months. To my mind, there are a number of reasons for this, and I’d like to discuss the salient ones.

The first was, like every other outlet now perceived as a peddler of fake news, they ramped up even further the full-on Trump lynch mob hysteria, with every story carefully backed up by an anonymous source. If there was any doubt, a second corroborating anonymous source could easily be found, or let’s be cynical here, invented. In passing, I’d like to nominate Mr. Anonymous Source for this year’s Pulitzer prize for journalism. He seems to have been behind every scoop what turned out to be nothing more than a steaming great pile of shit on the side of the road. The term pooper-scooper now has an entirely different meaning when used in a journalism context.

Such blatantly dishonest practices became seemingly acceptable and juvenile journalism now became the norm, and if anything, was amplified to a level where it verged on what people who’re interested in drama call the Theatre of the Absurd. As an example of such aberrant behaviour, Newsweek, in former years a much respected news journal, started churning out articles with frankly embarrassing headlines such as; “Here’s scientific proof that Trump’s hands are too small to hold a bottle of water like a normal adult”, “How Trump and the Nazis stole Christmas to promote white nationalism”, “How murderer Charles Manson and Donald Trump used language to gain followers” and a personal favourite of mine to be savoured over a long chilly Winter’s evening snug before a roaring coal fire with a glass of whiskey – “Hillary Clinton could still become president if Russia probe finds conspiracy evidence”.

After a scree of must-read articles like that, walking around with a copy of Newsweek sticking out of your back pocket became an activity purely for those with a strong contrarian streak, especially after the Manhattan DA descended on their premises with seizure warrants for all their servers. This was followed by the now de rigueur round of redundancies, which has now reached a second or third cull I believe, and the disaster Newsweek has become is heading into its last act before the final curtain comes down on it to put it out of its misery forever.

Give it a month or two, and you’ll probably be able to buy it for the fabled nominal $1 from the liquidator. For any company doctor running the slide rule over it, I’d say the real talent has years ago fled, but it still might be worth asset stripping for the back catalogue and the saleable tangibles. Granted, the brand is now tarnished, but I’d say there’s still a few morsels of worth to be had in picking over its corpse.

The second reason behind the decline is a little bit more subtle and involves how you as a journalist actually perceive the consumers of your product. People say the internet never forgets, but it’s all too easy to misunderstand what this actually means in the context of an Internet savvy generation. It really means nothing more than if you said something embarrassing a decade or so ago, someone with enough sleeves rolled up googling can find it.

In a mainstream media news industry increasingly populated by youngish people born after the internet watershed, they assume consumers of their news product are also afflicted with the average internet user’s chronically short attention span as well as with the attendant dose of Alzheimer’s forgetfulness. One of the more subtle protections of this blog is the TLDR reflex keeping those devoid of any original insight well away. They rarely have the stamina to read beyond the first few paragraphs, and I junk their junk comments as soon as I see that.

People really interested in news, won’t waste their time surfing around the Internet hitting new sites every day. On the contrary, they’ll settle on one, perhaps two sites at most, and visit once a day to catch the headlines.What happens is they buy into that site, its columnists and the mixture of opinion it offers. Sure, that’s a simplification of a situation that’s still evolving, but it’s close enough. They trust the news they’re reading is true, but over and above that basic consideration, they don’t expect their intelligence to be insulted nor their sensibilities to be deeply offended. I’ll give you a tragic and extreme example of a media organ making that mistake.

It concerns something that happened in 1989 that became known as the Hillsborough disaster. It was a football game between Liverpool FC and Notts Forest, which due to catastrophic crowd marshaling, resulted in nearly a hundred crush deaths and eight hundred injuries. It took years to get to that root cause, but at the time, a working man’s newspaper, called the Sun, gave deep offense to the people of Liverpool with the headlines it ran and the repulsive spin it chose to impart to the story.

To this day, nearly thirty years later, the Sun newspaper just doesn’t sell in the City of Liverpool. The wound had gone way too deep. As I said, an extreme example, but the process and end effect, albeit in a milder form, is exactly the same.

Just as with the Sun newspaper, though not as directly offensive, loyal consumers of hitherto trusted and reliable news sources, found the election coverage an affront to their common sense, never mind their intelligence. To have that sort of patently biased rubbish being rammed down their throats every day for months, and with the very real expectation they’d believe it all, was the final straw. On so many levels, it was an insult they weren’t going to be laughing off any day soon.

It was as if the periodicals they were reading, or the TV stations they were watching, thought they were complete idiots who could be led around by their noses. They simply wouldn’t be coming back to those hitherto trusted news sources, and that’s exactly what happened.

As an example of this brand aversion that’s not going to go away, consider CNN. In the last year, its numbers, like any prognosis of its continued long-term existence, are simply terrible. They’ve done the familar contraction, with the usual waves of massive redundancies, especially after a disastrous attempt to set up a digital platform, but what’s really killing them is that their viewing numbers have dropped by nearly a third and the days of them hitting the magic one million viewers, even in peak hours, are a fading memory.

This catastrophic crash in their ratings is being put down to something called “hate fatigue”, since the station has been running a continuous hate Trump campaign 24/7 for the last year, but that excuse is just a neat way of sidestepping the real problem. It doesn’t take a whole year of getting that sort of fare shoved down your gullet before finally turning it off. The problem is the product – it’s simply not selling.

The third and final reason for the decline, and I believe the mainstream media’s eventual fall, is usually ascribed to a false but widespread idea that the news consumer has now, and for the very first time ever, become hyper-sensitive to being manipulated by the media, not all of them, but a significant and electorally decisive number of them, and therefore momentarily abandoned it. There is more than an element of truth in that tempting notion, but it’s obscuring a bigger truth which the mainstream purveyors of news simply can’t bring themselves to face, but is there for anyone to see once they step outside of their bunker mentality.

A deeper and more tectonic change is at work. The centre of the electorate, and therefore their consumer mass base, is moving rightwards politically. The blue-collar and middle classes, in despair with a mainstream politics that year after year couldn’t deliver anything for them and a mainstream media that year after year couldn’t actually talk about anything that was relevant to them, took a bet on Trump and his supposedly mad ideas, and in less than a year, it’s paying off handsomely for them.

The economy is in a 4% growth upswing, unemployment is way down, they’ve got jobs, more money after a big tax cut in their wage packets and a muscular re-positioning of American foreign policy. Mom, apple pie and the Marine Corps are very definitely back in fashion. The product, in order to be made saleable in any way, has to be drastically reconfigured for the realities of that new world, or it’s going to die. That’s a bullet too many people in the news media simply can’t bring themselves to bite down on.

Oscar Wilde said words to the effect that the only thing worse than being talked about, was not being talked about. Leaving aside his usual epigrammatic wittiness, there’s a large gain of truth in that observation. In a political context, it means that when nobody listens to you, you have no power, and are therefore surplus to requirements. If nobody listens to you, and nobody even cares about your continued existence, your start to slowly fade away into irrelevance. It becomes all too easy to melt into the role of a missing person that nobody notices is actually missing.

As early as May last year, Trump made a quip about cutting the WH house briefings down from two a week to one every fortnight. You could hear the sharp intakes of breath, because by then it’d become obvious he was quite capable of doing that to them, but the real fear was that in their heart of hearts, they’d begun to suspect that nobody would care. There wouldn’t be any 7th cavalry of public outrage charging to their relief and support. There won’t be either when he eventually does it.

The only good news is that Trump still has a definite use for them, so he will not deliver the coup de grâce, which is within his power, until they cease to have any utility for him.


Related articles by Pointman:

The spoilt brat complex.

Betrayal by those you once trusted.

On leadership, Brexit, Trump, the New Politics and what dreams may come.

The loss of faith in the political class.

Kobayashi Maru.

Click for a list of other articles.

31 Responses to “The Decline and Fall of the Media.”
  1. philjourdan says:

    I do not think the electorate is actually moving to the right. I think it has always been there. But it has been swayed by the lies and propaganda of the MSM. What is changing is that the MSM has less sway on the people now, so they stick with what they know, instead of believing what the MSM wants them to know. Indeed it was mika Brzezinski who declared that it was the MSM’s job to “control exactly what people think.”

    That is the problem! They no longer try to hide what they are doing. And while there are still many who blindly follow what they say, more than that push back and understand that is NOT what the job of the media is to do. Coupled with the lies and distortions they have been pushing (the fake news), and you get an eroding confidence in the media, and thus pushing folks to either find alternative sources, or trust what they already know.

    So they reject the bleatings of the press, and vote the way they think they should. The left has the megaphones that make them appear to be the mainstream. But they are not. And as more people realize they are voting against their own best interests, the more power the media will lose.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Thank you Pointman for you usual insight. I no longer bother reading a newspaper and only occasionally glance at TV news. Certainly not the CBC (here in Canada) and the alternate (CTV) is almost as bad. The “anonymous source” ruined a Political leaders career with a very suspicious accusation, He is threatening to sue and I hope he does.


  3. Margaret Smith says:

    Another great essay, thank you.

    Here many people no longer trust the BBC news. That used to be go-to place for news but has now become a propaganda mouthpiece for the left. The Guardian struggles to survive.
    Hopefully people are waking up to the nastiness and hate of the left.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 1957chev says:

    Love the essay! I’d like to say that I’m sorry to see the media self-destructing, but that would be a lie. They’ve been nothing but a mouthpiece for the Left, for far too long. Perhaps they can find new purpose, as a newsletter, for Lib/Dems?


  5. John White says:

    What also happens is when someone reads an article about something they have knowledge of and find that the article is either totally incorrect, or puts a slant onto the topic they know is just wrong. Once that happens then you gradually start to distrust other articles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philjourdan says:

      It is being fooled. The old adage “fool me once…”. The only people that fool us twice are those that we love. And the media is not one of them. So yes, once you have been shown to lie, you have no second chance. Every uttering must be verified.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. JohnBUK says:

    A major issue, certainly here in the UK, is the problem of groupthink in the news organisations. Martin Sissons, a journalist who used to work for the BBC, said, it was extremely unusual to see any of the staff in and around the BBC newsrooms reading anything other than The Guardian or Independent (both left leaning papers). Naturally any new staff taken on “reflected the culture” ,and so it went on.
    As with the CBC (Canada) and ABC (Australia) both tax-payer funded, the BBC is complacent and becoming irrelevant. Their 3 hour flagship news programme, “Today”, which used to set the tone for the days news, is starting to see audiences fall.
    I think the only chance for the MSM is to diversify their output (politically) to help regain the trust of the readers. Their old role of investigative journalism is too expensive so they need to ensure the remaining output at least makes their readers think and not hold up a mirror all the time to them.
    Sadly I think they will continue to rationalise their position to the grave.


  7. Grillaguerilla says:

    In Australia we once relied on and trusted “our ABC” Ours because it’s the taxpayer who pays for it. Sadly now it cannot be relied upon or trusted and is now known as “their ABC”. The young angry,politically correct joyless and confused will hopefully grow in experience and wisdom and bring the bloody cabal to its knees and give us all a much needed source of reporting world affairs. Until then I do not watch anything they produce as I’d rather stickpins in my eyes. Oh for relief


  8. catweazle666 says:

    “it was extremely unusual to see any of the staff in and around the BBC newsrooms reading anything other than The Guardian or Independent”

    It used to be the case that all recruitment advertisements for the BBC, the (Un)Civil Service and its ancillary organs were placed in the Guardian, and were probably the only income it had that kept it from going under completely.

    I see no reason to believe things have changed much.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Peter Lewis Hannan says:

    It’s a remarkable phenomenon, and is largely caused by the MSM’s abandonment of proper standards. Five years ago I saw a BBC 9 o’ clock news programme that promised a discussion of Iran. I was already, after a few days, fed up with the triviality of the programme, so I thought, “Great!” Imagine my disgust when the Beeb brought on, not an ex-diplomat, not a serious academic, not a defence / military expert, but … Ben Affleck. His only claim to knowing anything about Iran or the Middle East is that he acted in the film “Argo”; he’s also a dhimmwit apologist for islam. While I still consult the Beeb, it is with a very jaundiced eye.


  10. Keitho says:

    No 7th Cavalry of public opinion, great phrase Pointy. The old, legacy, media is dying in front of us not because it is just kids pretending to be journalists even though that is true enough but because a bunch of old seasoned veterans threw their lot in with Hillary and the Democrats and put their skill and experience to work to destroy Trump.

    Right from the beginning, “they aren’t sending us their best” the distortion was disgusting. Thank goodness for the Internet and the diversity it brings and the feedback mechanisms are almost instant as is the ability to find “alternative facts”, you know, the ones the bastards deliberately leave out.

    Good read. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Tim. says:

    Long before the Climate Change and current political shenanigans I gave up watching BBC News over their coverage of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. I couldn’t take any more after months of it with the result I haven’t watched it since but just have a daily glance at their website. Most of my news gathering is from a multitude of websites round the world.


  12. Fen says:

    I grew up reading WaPo and NYTs daily. Even though the bias was obvious, you could read between the lines like with Pravda, and get a sense of what was going on in the world.

    Information is power. And the media are information brokers. If you found out your stock broker lied to you about Enron, would you ever use him again? Can you afford to?

    At some point after 9-11 I stopped reading the newspapers entirely. I would occasionally glance at the front page headlines as I walked out the 711, just to see what the opposition was up to, what talking points my liberal friends would parroting this week, but the MSM had gone so far off the rails that I had realized I might as well be reading fiction. And I prefer stompy robots and steamy sex in my fiction.

    These days, I don’t even bother to check the headlines. They are just making stuff up out of thin air and it’s a waste of my time to even fact check them.

    I caution people about normalizing the media, about trying to reform them. We are way past the point where a few objective and balanced articles are going to set things right. Let the ship burn down to the waterline and sink.

    Today, my primary Information Brokers are Instapundit (Libertarian News Aggregator) and AceOfSpades (my Grey Tribe, read the article “Eject Eject Eject” to understand the reference).

    BTW, I mostly lurk here Pointy but I want to thank you for all you do here. When I found you j gobbled up every article you had posted. Love your unique point of view and the way your mind works. This old Marine may have even learned a few things about life from you. Hey. So j want to say thanks

    Clear fields


  13. NZPete says:

    I echo the feedback already posted here. TVNZ (Television NZ) News has recently run a series on climate change which parroted the AGW meme. There was no investigative reporting, just a regurgitation of the propaganda fed to them by the vested interests. At the same time, news reports on the political situation in the USA consisted of replays of rubbish taken directly from MSM news sources in the States (but never Fox). Never any critical analysis. Although I used to try to catch the evening news, I’ve given up for the most part. Much preferred are sources such a Mark Steyn, Tucker Carlson, Hannity (although repetitive), Laura Ingraham, Breitbart, Conservative Tree House, American Thinker Chiefio… the list is actually quite large.
    This posting by Pointy is another great read.


  14. meltemian says:

    How true Pointy, I think the trick is to look for what the MSM leave OUT.


  15. Pointman says:

    More people watching Nickelodeon, a children’s channel, than CNN.



  16. JohnTyler says:

    As Hiter’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels put it, “repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.”

    IMHO this is one reason the media (i.e., the propaganda arm of the democrat party) keeps spitting out their rubbish even though it literally is costing them money.
    Of course, the media IS the democrat party and vice versa.

    Recall that uber rich folks like Steyer, Carlos Slim, Soros, Eric Schmidt – and many other hard left wing billionaire hedge / investment fund/ bankers are helping finance the pervasive propaganda attack on Trump.

    Many folks have given up on the mainstream media, no doubt; but many have not.

    I am not as optimistic as Pointman re: the demise of the media, but I sure hope he is correct.

    The left is a continually metastasizing cancer – they never, ever give up.
    If the media does meet its end, rest assured that a new means of disseminating their lies will emerge.
    You can take that to the bank.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NZPete says:

      John, I’m sure you’re right, but there are a *lot* of us fighting back, and many do not identify themselves in public. If we keep putting the truth out there, I think we have a chance.


  17. waterside4 says:

    But but Mr Pointy, wot about the twisted Guugles (I can’t bring myself to type that word)
    and the other left wing internet search engines?
    Are they not worse in so far as they are mainly insidiously spying on their customers.
    At least you can use the off button on the tv and choose not to buy a paper.
    Most folk are caught by the short and curlies which ever way they turn with the internet.
    Great piece as usual Sir.


  18. John Haddock says:

    If you believe Wikipedia, in Canada, at the beginning of the 20C, most of the news sheets were highly partisan. They pandered to a narrow segment of supporters. Subsequently, the advent of national advertising drove the bigger newspapers to become more balanced in their coverage as they sought to expand their audience and increase their advertising revenues.
    Now, with the decline in advertising revenues, and the rise in digital subscriptions, it seems like we’re on a path back to the beginning of the 20C. So my bet is that we will see the mainstream media continue to get more and more partisan, focused on providing their subscribers with confirmation of their beliefs. In a subscription driven world that makes sense. It is just a reflection of that old marketing rubric; segmentation, segmentation, segmentation.
    But for the BBC this poses a dilemma since they are funded by the general public through license fees. The more left they go, the greater the negative reaction from the right, and the greater the public’s desire to see their unique funding structure abolished. In their desire to promulgate their political views it’s entirely possible the BBC’s producers and editors will push the BBC into a death spiral.


    • NZPete says:

      This is a *very* interesting point you make, John; one I hadn’t considered, and it rather makes sense. Not that I really trust Wikepedia – I’m trying to use and support Infogalactic these days, as well as alternative search engines such as DuckDuckGo (and I’m succeeding most of the time). Still too much tied to Twitter though I’m afraid even though I should be trying to use


  19. Pointman says:

    Donald Trump Fuels Viral ‘Loser CNN’ Meme.

    Presidential level trolling of CNN.



  20. Pointman says:

    The Media Stopped Reporting The Russia Collusion Story Because They Helped Create It.



  21. gallopingcamel says:

    Here is Rasmussen’s daily poll of Trump’s approval rating:

    What better proof of the MSM failure than their inability to alienate his base? Trump’s base is solid and he will pick up Independents and even a few Democrats over the next 32 months. Reagan style landslide in 2020!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pointman says:

      When I see “polls” on Trump, I’m always reminded of the NYT eve of election poll of polls (and all the other ones preceding it) saying it was Clinton 98% and Trump 2%. My feeling (nothing more) is I’d say he’s probably a lot more popular than Rasmussen suggests.



      • philjourdan says:

        ” a lot more popular than Rasmussen suggests.”

        There is also the fear (justified) by many of his supporters that they will be ostracized and even physically assaulted if they speak the truth. So they lie to pollsters, and vote the truth.


  22. Pointman says:

    Why is the Manhattan DA Looking at Newsweek’s Ties to a Christian University?

    Newsweek reporting on Newsweek, and if you believe the holier than any other fake news outlet, buy a subscription. THey need every cent they can get.



  23. Stonyground says:

    The MSM makes me think of the guy in Life of Brian who has a stall selling stones outside the site of the stonings. All he has done is picked up the stones and put them on a table, he is then charging people for them claiming that they are of superior quality to the ones that are lying on the ground. Why would I buy a newspaper that is full of stuff that is just copied and pasted off the internet when I can go straight to the original source?


  24. 3x2 says:

    Interesting piece of journalism …


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