This article is worth re-posting here about the decline and fall of the press in the Internet age.
The non Trump portion of the article starts with this intro, some paragraphs into the story:
Trump adviser Steve Bannon calls the media the opposition party, but that’s misleading. Everyone knows that the press typically tilts left, and no one is surprised, for instance, that The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican candidate since 1956. But that’s not what we’re seeing now—rather, the media has become an instrument in a campaign of political warfare. What was once an American political institution and a central part of the public sphere became something more like state-owned media used to advance the ruling party’s agenda and bully the opposition into silence. Russia’s RT network, the emir of Qatar’s Al Jazeera network—indeed, all of the Arab press—and media typically furnished by Third World regimes became the American press’ new paradigm; not journalism, but information operation.
How did this happen? It’s not about a few journalists, many of whom still do honor to the profession, or a few papers or networks. It’s a structural issue.
Smith's argument is that media decline began when they reacted to the Internet by giving everything away, which devalued their work in the consumer's mind:
I was at the Voice when the meteor hit. Like many papers back then, dailies and weeklies, the Voice made its money on classified advertising. The New York Times, for instance, had three important classifieds sections—employment, automotive, and housing—but if New Yorkers really wanted to find a great apartment, they’d line up at the newsstand on 42nd Street to get a copy of the Voice hot off the press.
And then the internet came along, and it was all there in one place—for free. The press panicked. The Voice’s publisher at the time, David Schneiderman, announced to the staff that the paper was going free. It made no sense, he argued, to keep charging $1 for what consumers could get on the internet for nothing.
Here’s how the staff heard it: Who would want to pay $1 a week to read Nat Hentoff on civil liberties, Robert Christgau on music, Michael Musto on New York nightlife—or Wayne Barrett on the follies of real-estate mogul Donald Trump? That is, who would want to pay $1 a week to feel themselves a part of what the Village Voice had made them feel part of for decades? But at the time, devaluing content was in fashion—which meant, as few saw back then, the profession was digging its own grave.
These cutbacks in the 90s and 00s combined with generational turnover, led to a press filled with empty-headed reporters who willingly lent themselves as political operatives to the Democratic party, particularly Obama.
It took The New York Times more than a decade to settle on billing consumers for its product—after giving it away, charging for it, giving it away again, then billing for “premium content,” etc. By then, it was too late. Entire papers went under, and even at places that survived, the costliest enterprises, like foreign bureaus and investigative teams, were cut. An entire generation’s worth of expertise, experience, and journalistic ethics evaporated into thin air.
This is the media environment that Barack Obama walked into—where Post columnist David Ignatius was no more important a media figure than Zach Galifianakis, on whose precious and often funny internet show Between Two Ferns the president marketed the Affordable Care Act...
Obama didn’t kill journalism, but he took advantage of it in its weakness, because he knew the press would do anything to feel relevant again. All those 27-year-olds at the Times, the Washington Post and others hired as bloggers—“who literally know nothing,” as Rhodes told the Times Magazine—when the foreign and national bureaus were closed, they didn’t know it wasn’t OK to be a trickle-down media whore and a political operative at the same time. They thought it made them more valuable, even patriotic, to put themselves in the service of a historic presidency. And they’d replaced for pennies on the dollar all the adults who could have taught them otherwise.
That’s the raw material out of which the Obama administration built its echo chamber, the purpose of which was to drown out the few remaining vestiges of journalism in order to sell the president’s policies.
Which brings us to today:
Now with Trump in the White House, commentators on the right are critical of those angry with the press for calling out Trump on the same stuff that Obama got away with. Let’s be above it, they argue. Just because Obama did it doesn’t make it OK for Trump to do it. Fine, obviously, call out Trump—but this isn’t about playing gotcha. It’s about a self-aggrandizing press corps gaslighting the electorate. The public is astonished and appalled that the media has now returned after an eight-year absence to arrogate to itself the role of conscience of the nation.
It’s not working out very well.