For years — until the advent of talk radio, Fox News and social media — the left-leaning mainstream media held a stranglehold over the coverage of news and politics. The New York Times was nicknamed “The Gray Lady,” reflecting its dominance as the most powerful news source in the world. Located in fancy downtown high-rises, with flashy slogans and logos, these media conglomerates presented an illusion of immense power and influence.
The reality was never that good. Like the entertainment industry, much of the media industry functions on slim margins and bare bones operations. Behind the glamorous facade of the left-leaning newspapers and magazines has always been overworked employees, low wages and cutthroat competition — and it’s just getting worse. A study this year found that out of 200 common jobs, newspaper reporter finished dead last as the worst job possible.
I worked in the magazine publishing industry for a couple of years recently, and heard stories from co-workers who had fled newspapers so heavily leveraged they were barely in existence. One reporter was pushed out with a miserly severance package.
The fun titles and photos of media whooping it up, taking trips and having a blast on the job? Much of it is fake. Instead, many employees are chained to their cubicle desks for long hours, churning out stories and headlines as quickly as possible. Employees sit in long, tortuous meetings straining to come up with catchy titles that may have little to do with an article, but are meant to draw readers in as clickbait. That guide to Europe one writer joyously wrote about was probably from a trip he took in college, before he worked long, slavish hours.
The righteous claims of objectivity and journalistic ethics, which conservatives have long found suspect? The truth is, much reporting is driven by the almighty dollar. Advertisers greatly dictate the content. Sometimes the correlation is blatant. Jane Grant, the first woman journalist at The New York Times, exposed in her book, Confession of a Feminist, that as far back as the mid to late 1950s, fashion writers for the paper were instructed to write about the newspapers’ fashion-related advertisers.
Many magazines today consist of little more than disguised advertising. For example, if a company purchases an ad for a product, the magazine will reward it with an “editorial” review of one of their products. Those articles called “The 10 Top Widgets You Must Have?” Probably just ten products from advertisers, nothing more.
Similarly, reporters learn really fast that if they provide favorable coverage to politicians, they will be rewarded with scoops and special access. Right-leaning politicians don’t get this advantage, since reporters for the mainstream media are expected to give them rotten coverage. The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican for president since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. There is a “revolving door” between Democrats in politics and the dominant media, which further reinforces this cozy relationship.
Some magazines and newspapers will lie about their circulation and subscription numbers if they can get away with it. Ever try to cancel your newspaper subscription but still continue receiving it for free? That’s so the newspaper can keep its circulation numbers up for advertisers. Some publications are so brazen they have zero circulation, merely sending copies to their advertisers as window dressing.
The new media has finally crushed the old media’s ability to keep up the facade. In 2005, The New York Times cut 500 employees. In 2009, it began placing ads on the front page of its print edition. The company stopped offering lifelong positions for its editors and journalists in 2013. Former editor Jill Abramson reportedly begged senior editors that year to resign with a buyout plan.
The quality of what’s left of these left-leaning publications is sharply declining. Lacking money for copy editors and journalists, reporting is left to unpaid, young interns, and is increasingly riddled with glaring typos. Dependent upon free content from bloggers and contributors, the once-revered AP style of journalism has started disappearing. Many news websites are covered with so many obnoxiously placed ads and required surveys that the hassle of accessing them outweighs any interest in reading the content.
Google News still gives preference to left-leaning news sites in its search results, so the illusion is being propped up artificially a bit longer — sort of like life support. Fortunately, conservative sites like the Drudge Report, which is almost as popular as Google, provide significant exposure for right-leaning news sites.
It is telling that circulation of The New York Times has decreased so much that it is now behind the more moderate USA Today and the right-leaning Wall Street Journal. Even the large, autoplaying ad at the top of the Times website isn’t going to save it. Thanks to the advent of technology, Americans are choosing with their mouse clicks and finally dismantling one of the longtime liberal monoliths, the media.