This week, the Rappahannock News (with whom we have a media agreement) reposted an article that caught my eye. In it, journalist Spencer Jakab suggests that America’s media is under threat.
The culprits: Changing habits and the Internet.
Few of us pick up a newspaper and read it cover to cover any more, especially in my generation. Today, most of us come by our news according to what pops up on our newsfeed. A Pew Research poll found that 66 percent of all of us get our news from Facebook.
Trouble is, that newsfeed is cluttered with bogus and biased information. This week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is facing pressure from inside his company and outside critics to take an active role in shutting down fake news sites. They go by names like Blue Nation Review, CivicTribune and Red State. It will be interesting to see what happens in the days to come. I hope satirical sites like The Onion and Borowitz Report survive the purge; we do need our dose of humor.
On Sunday, HBO’s John Oliver rightly called journalists – and pollsters, pundits and the campaign’s themselves – to task for failing to understand the strength of the voter surge that led to Donald Trump’s election as our 45th president. Oliver asked the question: “What the bleep do we do now?” and answered it immediately with:
“If you want good journalism, pay for it.”
He continued: “You need to support actual journalism by buying a subscription to outlets like The (New York) Times, The (Washington) Post, your local newspaper, or donate to groups like ProPublica, a nonprofit group which does great investigative journalism.”
Campaign followers saw how candidate Trump denigrated the media in his rallies. Fresh tweets this week from the president-elect attacked The New York Times, claiming it had lost subscribers. The company responded by saying readership in print and online had in fact grown four times normal rates.
As Jakab points out,
“Reading a print paper instead of zeroing in on the specific article you want to read on your phone or computer leads you to read all sorts of other articles you weren’t looking for but are glad you found. You don’t get that kind of serendipity in your targeted Facebook news feed or even a digital newspaper app. You’re also getting something hand-delivered to your house that’s an amazing daily undertaking put together by people who could be earning more in a different job and who take a lot of infuriating crap doing it.”
So I say, let’s get our fingers dirty and pick up a paper…