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As newspapers close throughout U.S., role of government watchdog disappears

43 Comments
By MICHAEL CASEY

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Today's world is difficult for Newspapers. Similar to how RIM/Blackberry lost its security blanket, they took too long to adjust and change because they wanted to play it safe. Instead of turning advertisement online as a way to boost a lot of their profits, they chose to make customers pay more and with so many free services out there, customers just didn't value their services the way they thought they would.

The cost of the actual paper went up and then they charged or placed limits on readership online. This only forced people to get their information from other sources. So the smaller ones that didn't have the money to weather the storm only ended up getting swallowed up by the bigger fish in the pond.

This is sad because these smaller papers were a great way to catapult yourself into the bigger leagues for journalism and editing. Also, they covered the less sexy stories that you don't always find in larger papers.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A free press is one of the few remaining restraints on the US’s slide to totalitarianism. No wonder Trump and his followers in the US and ‘abroad’ continue assaulting it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yet reading is highly regarded in Japan. Not every country throws away things of value

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sadly, there's no going back. And several years into this print collapse, I'm hard-pressed to see what will fill the void for people living outside of the few major cities putting out a decent paper, print or online. The NYT or WaPo are fantastic online reads, but the rest of the country is by and large a wasteland of media consolidation--chains of papers owned by Gannett or Berkshire Hathaway or Lee Enterprises. Online or in print these are mostly banal rags filled with crime and local sports.

Then there's local TV news. My Dad retired in a rural area and his local affiliates would literally make your eyes bleed. Jefferson said a well-informed electorate is the best defense of our democracy. Is it any wonder that we have a grifter and an imbecile in the White House when our media is tripe.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Very few “journalists” do much more than comment on what they see posted on twitter or watch on TV anymore.

I don’t need a newspaper to tell me what someone said on Twitter.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

The so-called mainstream media alas have ceased to be government watchdogs and turned into to propagand arm of one ideogy. So good riddance to the fake media.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

LOL! Government watchdog? They long ago became government lapdogs. Meanwhile, real journalists like Julian Assange, who actually are government watchdogs, are imprisoned - and few people seem bothered by it, least of all those in traditional media.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

If newspapers told the truth then they would start to get their readerships back. It depends on the type of news but most of the big stories carry a lot of disinfo and half truths. Many articles are sourced from large organisations like AP and Reuters and roughly 90% of all media in the US is owned by just 6 corporations. So the chances of any major story not being biased toward some interest or another is low.

In addition to their subscribers, newspapers also get their revenues from advertisers who can influence what is printed, especially if they have a big advertising budget. On top of this there Operation Mockingbird which is a CIA program that was begun in the '50s to manipulate the media for propaganda purposes. So when I see a headline saying "As newspapers close throughout U.S., role of government watchdog disappears", I laugh.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Ask a credentialed journalist what he makes of self-dealing gadflies like Assange and the pretty heads and pundits that dominate the electronic media, and your ears will smart. Newspapers play a vital role because there are people called editors and ombudsmen whose loyalty to facts and truth telling is not outweighed by their commitment to ad revenue, "viral" content (aptly named) or providing clickbait for those with limited attention spans. As Jefferson said, "The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them. Interesting how that last sentence is almost always omitted.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If newspapers told the truth then they would start to get their readerships back. It depends on the type of news but most of the big stories carry a lot of disinfo and half truths. Many articles are sourced from large organisations like AP and Reuters and roughly 90% of all media in the US is owned by just 6 corporations. So the chances of any major story not being biased toward some interest or another is low.

In addition to their subscribers, newspapers also get their revenues from advertisers who can influence what is printed, especially if they have a big advertising budget. On top of this there Operation Mockingbird which is a CIA program that was begun in the '50s to manipulate the media for propaganda purposes. So when I see a headline saying "As newspapers close throughout U.S., role of government watchdog disappears", I laugh

Bingo! Spot on and couldn’t agree with you more.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

A couple of examples of what I mean. The first journalist mentioned below was the former editor of Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung newspaper.

German journalist and editor Udo Ulfkotte says he was forced to publish the works of intelligence agents under his own name, adding that noncompliance ran the risk of being fired. Ulfkotte made the revelations during interviews with RT and Russia Insider.

“I ended up publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the German secret service,” Ulfkotte told Russia Insider.

https://www.rt.com/news/196984-german-journlaist-cia-pressure/

Then there was this "journalist" who was caught telling fibs last year.

One of Germany’s most popular papers, Der Spiegel, has found itself at the center of a scandal involving one of its top reporters who was caught fabricating elements of his stories. [...] However, his seemingly brilliant career has turned out to be a house of cards that is now falling apart, just as it had with Stephen Glass, a former staff writer at the New Republic who authored one of the most spectacular fabrication campaigns in the history of American journalism.

https://www.rt.com/news/446903-german-spiegel-journalist-stories-fake/

These are not rare cases and it doesn't surprise me that newspapers are in decline.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Civility in the USA have been in decline for a long time and we see that bearing fruit in their elections and in their electorate. Public broadcasting, standards in media in other countries are higher. As long as Faux News exists and people click their heels in their support of it we'll continue to see it fall

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Newspapers are in decline because of the Internet - this is where people get their main source of news now.

Localnews has failed to adapt to the Internet era.

“I ended up publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the German secret service,” Ulfkotte told Russia Insider.

This is hardly the sort of thing that threatens the Fresno Bee.

Yet reading is highly regarded in Japan. Not every country throws away things of value

Print news, books and other physical media formats, like CDs, remain popular in Japan partly for the reason you give, but also because there is a general unwillingness to adapt to new formats.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The same problem exists with Japanese local papers. Here at a city with a population of about 50,000, we have only one paper and I have never seen an article criticizing local government or representatives. The paper does not play a role of a watch dog. I think they are collusive.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The elite do not want an informed electorate. Americans only have value as consumers, as labor resources to be exploited, or as threats to be crushed.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The elite do not want an informed electorate. 

The liberal elite don’t want it, really.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

The real media now is US, politically speaking, is us. The readers. Fed directly from the sources. And the watchdog. of course, is also us. Everything that takes a sheet of paper to get done has been moving to the internet, and newspapers were slow to change. However, even the ones that were early in the process are facing problems too, due to modern journalists taking sides in almost everything. Instead of reporting reality, most are just openly campaigning for whatever reason that moves them. How can you keep reading your newspaper if one of its jornalists keeps inciting “civil desobedience”, for instance? As I heard of one. My local paper had a daily publication of 20k five years ago, but with the internet and the biased engagement in the last election, it’s bleeding and going bankrupt. It won’t be missed.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The elite do not want an informed electorate. 

The liberal elite don’t want it, really

No, Bass. The elite. Liberal ideas have nothing to do with it.

There is no reason why a liberal, conservative, communist, fascist, theocratic elite or any other elite would want an informed electorate apart from informing them of the ideas they want them to know.

Keeping the ill-informed partisans well fuelled and distracted with half-understood shouts of Marxist or Fascist towards people they don’t like is like a laser pointer to a cat.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

The newspaper industry is learning the hard lesson that when it chose to publish negative/fake news non-stop from the national wire services, eventually readers catch on and cancel their subscriptions because no one is no longer buying into what they are selling. But fear not: The unemployed "journalists" can always learn coding.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

A free press is one of the few remaining restraints on the US’s slide to totalitarianism. No wonder Trump and his followers in the US and ‘abroad’ continue assaulting it.

Trump isn't assaulting the press, though virtually every day he has defend himself from attacks from the press.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Ask a credentialed journalist what he makes of self-dealing gadflies like Assange 

I have no use for "credentialed" journalists. And of course they hate Assange. He is doing the job they are getting paid well to do - for no salary at all, and at great risk. Makes them look bad.

You may as well ask a record company executive what they think of file-sharing, or an aging diva what she thinks of the beautiful new ingenue.

Mighty talk about "loyalty to facts and truth" doesn't impress when everybody can see the actions are loyalty to something quite different. If there is any loyalty to anything at all.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Lots of weird theories about newspapers here.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Lots of weird theories about newspapers here.

Indeed. The decline in print media is more of a result of technological change, rather than a reaction to "fake news."

Otherwise, how can one explain the rise of the NYT or the success of progressive talk shows?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yeah, I know. They do it with ESPN, too. Their viewers have been declining for years but Fox News prints a story talking about losses last year and link it some political stuff about ESPN. Then the comments are all about "people are turning off ESPN because of the politics" when in fact it was happening long before Trump arrived.

The beauty of the bubble.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@commanteer

I'd be a little more discerning about Assange. Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, who are not exactly known to be conspiracy theorists have a couple of interesting things to say about Wikileaks and Assange with regard to 9/11 and Bradley Manning. Make of it what you will, it's just another POV but when Assange says that he is “constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11” then it raises eyebrows. No one really knows the full story so I don't know why he would say that. The last 3 paragraphs...

https://www.ae911truth.org/evidence/faqs/363-faq-15-where-are-the-9-11-whistleblowers

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The Daily Pilot is my hometown newspaper. Of course, it's owned by the LA Times, which in turn is owned by the Tribune Corp. - but that does not prevent their investigative journalism of local matters. And you do not want to get on the bad end of the Daily Pilot: Your story will go up the chain quickly. And that precisely is the value of local papers.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Then the comments are all about "people are turning off ESPN because of the politics"

Which is true.

when in fact it was happening long before Trump arrived.

Kaepernick didn’t help the network at all.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

No, Bass. The elite. Liberal ideas have nothing to do with it. 

Yes, they actually do.

There is no reason why a liberal, conservative, communist, fascist, theocratic elite or any other elite would want an informed electorate apart from informing them of the ideas they want them to know. 

You can believe that, Jim.

Keeping the ill-informed partisans well fuelled and distracted with half-understood shouts of Marxist or Fascist towards people they don’t like is like a laser pointer to a cat

Hmmmm....not by the papers anymore. They all made their own beds.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Kaepernick didn’t help the network at all.

Thank you for proving my point. Kaepernick was a secondary cause at best.

So Bass, why is NYT doing so much better?;)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If media did a real job we wouldn’t be having to deal with conspiracies; the truth would be out there. As is good ole YouTube is a source of truth..and false news but at least people have sense to understand in which way things are moving. It’s hard to trust ANYONE out to report. In the end we must go by our own intuition. Experience is a better guide than Op-Ed columnists. Maybe the loss of newspapers will make us more discerning without need of someone else’s ‘qualified’ input. Those ‘qualified’ are paid to guide, mislead and / or toe a line. Your own intuition will do the job.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The liberal elite don’t want it, really.

Seems the Trumpist elite and their partners want it all the time.

More sleaze.

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/03/a-florida-massage-parlor-owner-has-been-selling-chinese-execs-access-to-trump-at-mar-a-lago/

Guess it must be fake, though. Everything related to the Trump organization is fake, right?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I can't help but to see the consolidation of national media and closing down of local papers in the states as another strategy accomplishing the same goals that Japan's 'Free Press' has successfully done — now charitably ranked 67th in the world by Reporters Without Borders.

As others above have pointed out, it is not in the best interests of the ruling elite to have an educated and informed citizenry. You will not see much in the way of social studies regarding citizenry here. Even the Japanese word for citizen (shakaijin), and its accompanying obligations and rights was a Meiji-era invention and conceit.

I would hazard a guess that the growing wealth gap, both in the states and Japan, is closely correlated with the sheer volume of laws and tax codes in the U.S., and the never ending inkai and nemawashi of Japan Inc. — a byzantine maze of niches to be mined and systems to be gamed by the opportunists of this world.

And it is not just the press as a watchdog that is suppressed.

Since Victorian-era England, the capacity for critical thinking skills through a liberal arts education has periodically been strangled by the elite ... as in the standardization and gutting of public education by a head of public education who, as student or teacher, has never set foot in a public school in her life, Amway heiress Betsy DeVos — and the LDP's somewhat successful attempt to eliminate the liberal arts, social sciences, and humanities from National Universities in their Mombukagakusho 'special inkai suggestion' about 3 years ago.

And while the corporations cry crocodile tears of schools not doing their jobs in providing creative problem solvers, technically literate compliance is all they really want. Both in Japan and the states, Democratic ideals of empowering the marginalized and holding authority accountable have always been fundamentally incompatible with blind, personal ambition.

Control the press and control education, and there you have it — an endless stream of disposable human capital, and as Adam Smith feared, reduced to its dumbest common denominator.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No newspaper gives the truth.

Newspapers give only an interpretation of the facts they want to use.

Hence, newspaper diversity is paramount in democracy to help you building your own opinion, assuming you are open enough to read what you do not like.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There is no reason why a liberal, conservative, communist, fascist, theocratic elite or any other elite would want an informed electorate apart from informing them of the ideas they want them to know. 

You can believe that, Jim.

Yes, I do believe that governments of all stripes prefer an ill-informed electorate. They particularly like those who will repeat the slogans they are throwing out like pull toys.

Have you noticed how often people are regurgitating the words ‘Marxist’, ‘Socialist’, ‘witch hunt’ and ‘MSM’ these days like parrots?

I’m sure you’ve come across it. The same people were well trained to bang on about debt until 2 years ago when their owner taught them new tricks.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Thank you for proving my point. Kaepernick was a secondary cause at best. 

Actually, I meant was, nothing is helping these papers to keep their circulations, even a loser like Kaepernick can’t jog readers...or maybe it’s just people got tired of the media trying to make this guy a martyr.

So Bass, why is NYT doing so much better?;)

Not in print that’s where you want your biggest circulation, so why. It’s definitely alive online, the print is where the money is....was...

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Yes, I do believe that governments of all stripes prefer an ill-informed electorate. They particularly like those who will repeat the slogans they are throwing out like pull toys. 

Which has been going on thousands of years.

Have you noticed how often people are regurgitating the words ‘Marxist’, ‘Socialist’, ‘witch hunt’ and ‘MSM’ these days like parrots? 

...or collusion, Russia, Porn Star FNC manufactured, capitalist, racist, Israel murderer, constantly and non-stop like garrulous gossipers?

I’m sure you’ve come across it.

I’m sure you have as well, Jim.

The same people were well trained to bang on about debt until 2 years ago when their owner taught them new tricks.

In the same manner the losers have been whining and crying and still refuse to accept the outcome and want to change the results...hmmm..

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

SuperLib: Then the comments are all about "people are turning off ESPN because of the politics"

bass4funk: Which is true.

Perfect example.

They did the same thing with Target, when Target announced they would have transgender bathrooms: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/targets-stock-transgender-bathroom-policy/. I didn't realize it was a Snopes article until I was researching the dates so it must have become pretty big in the bubble.

Here's an example of one of the dozens of articles Fox printed about it....of course as just an "opinion" piece:

Target bathroom boycott: Will retailer keep flushing profits down the toilet?

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/target-bathroom-boycott-will-retailer-keep-flushing-profits-down-the-toilet

They printed two sides, one from Target saying there's been no financial impact, and the other...um...side....an organization calling to boycott Target. Their evidence? They believe their work is having an impact. So you have data vs beliefs.

Another example: https://www.foxnews.com/us/target-under-fire-for-anti-family-stance. Again, no mention of Target missing expectations and the stock dropping, just that there's a boycott, people are angry, Target's stock is dropping, so it must be because Americans are rejecting this liberal foolishness.

It really is a culture war over on their side, and they are winning the fakenews battle.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Media, newspapers or any journalism based publications are failing because they collectively stopped being a government watchdog, starting back in the 80s. The, article is incorrect to conclude media is being ignored therefore the government watchdog is gone. Media is supposed to help protect people from government. Instead, all media protects their preferred faction of government from the people. Journalism is long dead and what's left are propaganda services called news and people have no real use for or interest in propaganda.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It really is a culture war over on their side, and they are winning the fakenews battle.

They created and perfected the fake news game.

The problem is that to win that game, you have to dirty yourself enough to participate in it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Journalism is long dead and what's left are propaganda services called news and people have no real use for or interest in propaganda.

Nah, that's not correct. There are plenty of journalists out there, you just need to read through it all to figure out the truth.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Here's an example of one of the dozens of articles Fox printed about it....of course as just an "opinion" piece: 

Target bathroom boycott: Will retailer keep flushing profits down the toilet?

You don’t think that’s a big issue? I think that’s a very, very serious issue.

They printed two sides, one from Target saying there's been no financial impact, and the other...um...side....an organization calling to boycott Target. Their evidence? They believe their work is having an impact. So you have data vs beliefs.

I wouldn’t say that, but I think it is very important to inform the parents and to let them know, this is a very serious issue and as a father, I just wouldn’t want a transgender using the same restroom with my kid or any other man. If they use a unisex, go for it.

Again, no mention of Target missing expectations and the stock dropping, just that there's a boycott, people are angry, Target's stock is dropping, so it must be because Americans are rejecting this liberal foolishness.

Well, there is truth to both sides, when you have political opinionated analysis that look at both sides of the coin, but see more evidence of one side of the argument prevail over the other.

It really is a culture war over on their side, and they are winning the fakenews battle.

With the liberals owning 98% of the print and TV media, hardly.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

There are plenty of journalists out there, you just need to read through it all to figure out the truth.

People don't have time to do all that - they have lives to live. For the bit they do have time to read, they don't have the inclination to change their minds, This is all of us to one degree or another.

A very smart direct mail (postal service) marketer (nobody knows people better) I once knew summed it up beautifully. He said that 99% of our opinions and stands on issues are based on hazy ideas implanted in us while we were children, by our families and the people we spend time with - with very little real thought put into most of it. We all have assumptions, and none of us have the time (or inclination) to research more than very few of them. Even when we do research them, we tend to be looking for confirmation rather than truth.

We walk around in a miasma of beliefs that we think are our own. But they are not. Which is why propaganda works so well. I don't know any solution to this other than education so that people are at least aware of their weaknesses.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You don’t think that’s a big issue? I think that’s a very, very serious issue.

You're wrong.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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