WASHINGTON, October 9, 2016 — Anyone paying attention to the media business over the last several decades must be amazed at the speed and depth of its decline. In the 1960s and 1970s, Americans, and indeed most Westerners were glued to the tube or telly as they breathlessly followed—and believed—televised news reports ranging from presidential assassinations to student demonstrations against governments and the Vietnam War to hippie gatherings and rock concerts-turned-orgies, all delivered by somber and experienced reporters turned media icons whose every word we believed.
Even then, however, advances in media technologies and changes that gradually transformed TV newsrooms into entertainment centers that grew lighter on actual news and heavier on trivia, banter and partisanship. Newspapers and news magazines that often provided greater reporting depth embarked on similar journeys, shortening articles and news analysis, giving ever more room to photos and artwork and likewise trivializing the focus of news, shifting now breathless coverage of events to the vagaries, sexual and otherwise, of Hollywood stars and “personalities,” many of whom became famous for being famous.
As news and entertainment consumption (often one and the same) gradually shifted to the Internet—courtesy, initially, of the Mosaic visual browser that replaced primitive text-only information with a vivid, nearly TV-like interface—print media lost ground, unwilling or unable to keep up with new technologies.
We all know the rest. News magazines are now largely kaput. Daily newspapers are viewed as a relic of the past and are almost entirely ignored by millennials who prefer to get their information and entertainment—mostly entertainment—via smartphone apps. Traditional print media has attempted to keep pace both via apps and online editions. But these collapsing business models have yet to find a reliable income stream in the vast realm of electronic media.
Is it all over for the so-called “mainstream media”? Or will the current painful transition take us somewhere entirely unexpected? Here’s one opinion from an unusual source.