A few years ago a friend of mine, who at the time worked for a great metropolitan newspaper (let’s call her Lois), told me that the paper had installed exercise equipment in the offices for free use of the staff, something I suspect their health insurance company might have encouraged them to do. It was nice to have the machines on site, she said, and the only problem was that they had been set up in a gigantic empty room, and it was spooky to work out with nobody else around. I asked her if this was the newsroom, and she replied very solemnly that that was very funny Gary, ha, ha.
I used to work in journalism (or at least its periphery) myself, way back in my distant youth, and I still subscribe to Columbia Journalism Review, which in recent years has made for depressing reading (and in fact has just converted itself into a website with a very infrequent print magazine as a sort of vestigial organ). Newspapers used to be a license to print money, and a lot of them employed a lot of very dedicated reporters. I was fortunate to grow up when most newspapers and network radio and television news were close to their peak of quality and professionalism. They weren’t perfect, but they mainly tried to do a good job, and they had the budget to report on state and local governments and to carry out serious investigations.
Now nobody knows how to make news pay (update: except a certain French duck). Advertising revenues are down, and few of us are willing to pay a subscription fee. Papers now even look undernourished. I remember when holding open a full size bedsheet newspaper almost required stretching your arms apart as far as they’d go. Now look at them: scrawny, emaciated things.
Here’s John Oliver from HBO’s Last Week Tonight last August lamenting the state of the press. As usual for Oliver it’s very informative and entertaining, and while it’s longer that the clips I normally include here, I think this is worth the time. If we can’t find a way to preserve journalism, we’re among other things creating a great environment from corrupt politicians, especially at the state and local level. There’s a funny but depressing star-filled movie parody at the end.