I vaguely remember a time when a journalist could be universally revered. I’m not too young to have missed Dan Rather cover a presidential campaign. I can easily pull out a Walter Cronkite impersonation. I’ve read Hunter S Thompson and Bob Woodward is certainly still writing (or at least making) headlines. Today, good journalism is further out of reach than in past generations. Which is a bit odd, as the industry has attempted to embrace the 24 hour news cycle and provide constant coverage. Americans today are inundated with a quantity of news, but where’s the quality?
CNN and Fox News began the all day news channels. Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite gave way to Wolf Blitzers and Chuck Todds. Lipstick on a pig. Print media was similarly without innovative ideas to embrace the internet. Free, or worse, sponsored content became the path forward. Where people once paid for a subscription to their local newspaper, they could now log onto the paper’s website and get the same articles for free as long as they didn’t mind some advertising alongside. The decades to follow have proven that to be a terrible mistake. You’d think a decade of people saying “don’t read the comments” would prove to editors their web design may be a tad bit flawed.
Social Media has only made things worse. The dumbing down of America’s politics has accelerated at a shocking pace over the last ten years. While the Tea Party was clearly anti-intellectual, no one could have predicted the cult-like following of the Qanon conspiracists. Judd Legum at Popular Information has detailed how companies like Facebook are not just passive players, but actively promote such disinformation. This alternate reality the country now lives in has paralyzed an already weak journalism industry. Eric Boehlert provides a regular newsletter, Press Run, detailing the failures of the media in covering the nonsense that persists in political coverage.
Spend a little cash
The democratization of the news has proven dangerous as seemingly ‘free’ content is actually being controlled by those with the advertising budgets. It’s up to the consumer to raise the standard of work by taking back the financial responsibility of supporting journalism. There are a number of outlets providing exceedingly quality content for fairly low costs, and they are worth every penny. Vanity Fair had Ta-Nehisi Coates guest edit their September issue. The New Yorker, while quite the financial and time commitment, still contains the best writing. The Daily Beast, Washington Post, or The New York Times can keep you in tune with the daily grind of America’s political wasteland.
Your local paper is worth saving too. The investigative journalists are still out there working to uncover intriguing stories that affect your neighborhood. Do a little digging by searching for your paper’s award winners. If the state of Alabama can maintain the work of the staff at Reckon, I’m sure you can find something similar nearby. If you do, please throw some financial support their way.