The Decline of Corporate Journalism — 1791
Written by Christian O’Brien
To talk about the “death of journalism” has been somewhat of a cliche for awhile now. But with the announcement of mass layoffs from Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and VICE that have risen to 2,100 journos, it’s finally ringing true. From BuzzFeed’s imploding claim that Trump told his attorney to lie to Congress to the media’s ravenous feeding frenzy to ruin the Covington kids to their spreading of Jussie’s made up hate crime story, this couldn’t be more fitting.
We’re told the axing of this group of writers is a blow to our democracy. What happens next is we’re commanded to feel bad for these same journalists and writers, many of whom waged smear campaigns against YouTubers to destroy their sources of funding. National journalists finger wag at the public. It’s ‘never right to be pleased when people lose their jobs,’ they say. What’s willfully ignored by those scolding the public is that these groups were not displaced by a force outside of their control like those in middle America. In their curious minds, average Americans should be able to relate to those who lost their jobs writing inane, social justice listicles in needlessly extravagant Manhattan offices. That’s at best, at worst these writers were displaced for being glaringly incompetent at their jobs, all while never once receiving punishment when they spread false stories. If any other American worker like a mechanic or plumber botched so many jobs, they’d naturally expect to be fired or lose business. Their fellow tradesmen wouldn’t care that incompetent workers left the industry. For some odd reason, though, when it comes to the national media racket, you’re met with with a sea of journalists scolding the public for not caring. They’ve never undergone those real world consequences and the strain these often malicious organizations are showing should be celebrated.
It’s odd to see mainstream media journalists, both on the right and the left, pleading with us to feel sympathy for writers who have worked for organizations that published headlines that with only slight adjustments could have easily been found on Stormfront in their racist substance. It’s obviously true that the journalistic class will always protect their own, but the public won’t buy their pleas for sympathy.
Not only have they abused their perch of influence and power across the board, they resent the public for their own laziness to adapt to the changing media landscape. This even applies to honest journalists and writers. While every indication the market could send without beating you upside the head has shown that video and audio are what the public wants, they continue to scorn anyone who doesn’t come from their stale, conventional background.
These mass layoffs and the many more sure to come are the byproduct of radically overshooting predictions of future demand. They overexpanded their workforce and this is the contraction. More than that, journalist Tim Pool claims on Rogan’s podcast that these same dying outlets are relying on “traffic assignment” click farms to inflate their numbers (2:14:33). They have effectively set up bubble economies through these controversial services, misleading investors. Their reliance on this strategy was highlighted when VICE Media’s clicks plummeted by 17% when it’s largest booster, Distractify, broke down. VICE is notably one of the largest outlets to engage in these deceptive tactics, but hardly the only one. By misrepresenting its reach, it’s allowed to prop itself up in a way that almost guarantees it will fail the moment that bubble pops. Undoubtedly, it’s because of the lack of real demand for what they’re offering that they have to resort to such desperate measures, which inevitably comes at the expense of their misbegotten employees.
And it’s that fundamental lack of demand that takes us beyond the blinding ideological flaws of this or that outlet. The media is undergoing an industry wide transition from conventional articles hosted on a publication’s website to video and audio. Its leaders should have been able to foresee those trends ever since the collapse of the newspaper. Instead, they chose to stubbornly stick their heads into the digital sand, and this is the price they’re paying. It’s from here that the “learn to code” meme sprouts forth, having offered that up as a solution in so many op-eds about dying industries that they don’t belong to. They wagered that they could rely on ultra-rich mega-donors for a product that has no real demand, and the market is finally calling their bluff. It’s likely no coincidence that the most notorious left-wing rags have been hit hardest, but this doesn’t neglect that we’ll be seeing much more of the same to come across the sphere of journalism.
People from that world have all of the entrenched victim-hierarchy biases we all by now expect, but that goes part and parcel with a different one: they’re elitist clinging to a world gone by. A world in which a degree in journalism gave you more credibility or a louder voice than any other schmuck with a keyboard and a microphone. As their incompetence across the board has come into full, embarrassing view, coupled with the fact that nobody cares to read print whether it’s digital or on paper, their role in the information economy is becoming obsolete.
This theory would explain why you see writers from across the traditional media sphere telling us how terrible it is for some of the laziest, most exploitative and mentally weak people in any of America’s industries to get laid off for their redundancy. It’s also why you see so many people in alternative media celebrating it who’ve long been the victims of one journalist hit-piece after another.
For even honest journalists, they can see the writing on the wall; they may not be HuffPo opinion writers who yammer endlessly about toxic masculinity, but they rely on that same model that is withering away on the vine. This tells us that some of them might simply not get why this is occurring in the first place. Take for example the confusion of National Review writer Jonah Goldberg, who wonders why Tucker Carlson’s conversation-starting segment about the role of the free market had the far-reaching influence it had.
On his podcast the Remnant, Jonah discusses with researcher and scholar Michael Strain the fact that there has been a library of books on the same subject of rapid economic progress raised by Tucker. Going beyond the meat of the conversation itself, Goldberg simply doesn’t get why Tucker’s screen rant got the attention it did, while much more thoughtful works have explored it years before. In this exchange we have a window into journalism’s fatal conceit, which is its constant frustration that people aren’t as attentive or curious as those in established media think they should be. It’s extremely similar to the envy and frustration academics feel at their own lack of recognition and relevance. It’s an understandable frustration in the same way that it’s frustrating to fall short of any ideal world. The proper response to people’s lack of interest in important topics is to change the medium — not to shake your head in frustration and hold firm to what’s worked until now. That isn’t even to say that Tucker Carlson even is a model for that. He helms one of the most successful talking head shows in television, but that’s an expiring industry, too. It does demonstrate that appealing directly to people in a consumable way is the only effective mode to get ideas across and to make them stick. The question then becomes one of, how can good or at least novel ideas be communicated most effectively?
We already know what that looks like. It’s why individual YouTube channels generally produce vastly more reliably honest analysis than any mainstream media outlet that can be named. Simply hamfisting a publication or news source’s narrative may have flown three decades ago, but in a world in which correct information is one Google search or one viral tweet away you’ll inevitably be discredited. Be discredited enough times through an intrinsically boring machine and, much like the boy who cried wolf, consumers aren’t going to bother listening to what you have to say. Such is the fate of our dying media establishment. With any luck, its death will pave the way for a much more accountable, entertaining, and decentralized media world.