Failure of journalism? As local newspapers close, they are being taken over by news sites that purport to be local news but tend to be wards of a political party or corporate interests.
Journalism in peril
Throughout the country, newspapers and real, local news are disappearing. The following map is probative.
Interestingly, the places where people are the most ill-informed are where this is occurring. And this endangers our pseudo-representative democracy. If one looks at the places where there is little overage, it is clear it is in the Red States with smaller populations. And in a country where a voter in Wyoming has more per capita power in our democracy, that allows the killing of democracy by controlling the information of a small number of people. After all, how can we call America a Democracy when California and Wyoming get the same number of Senators? It is less expensive to misinform states with small populations.
The Washington Post article “Newspapers are disappearing where democracy needs them most” says it best.
Every couple of weeks you can read about another newspaper shutting its doors, or moving from daily to weekly, or hollowing out its newsroom until it’s little more than a skeleton staff bulked up with j-school students. Study the maps made by Penny Abernathy, visiting professor at Northwestern University and an expert on dwindling sources of news, and you can see the dead zones — the 200 or so counties with no local paper. About 1,600 other counties have only one.
Local news is the oxygen of democracy, the most trusted source for the most essential information, and we’ve long known why dying newsrooms damage communities. But look at the maps again, and another alarming picture comes into focus: The very places where local news is disappearing are often the same places that wield disproportionate political power. …
Think of a typical voter in South Dakota, with its single congressional district and, of course, two senators for a population of about 895,000. Thanks to the Senate’s structural bias toward less-populated states, that gives each of the nearly 600,000 registered voters in South Dakota about 28 times more power in that body than each of the 17 million voters in Texas. When it comes to electing presidents, that South Dakota voter carries twice the weight in the electoral college as their Texas counterpart. …
You could do the same math for residents of Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont or Delaware, all states with similarly enhanced political clout. But finding reliable local news sources is much harder in the first three — geographically larger, rural states with dispersed populations, which are much more likely to lack high-speed internet as well. In contrast, Delaware’s three small counties have 13 newspapers; Vermont’s 14 counties have 39.
Political operatives and our oligarchy are not citing by the wayside. They know that most Americans give value to their local news resources. And that is why they are moving into those vacuums to misinform these populations.
The Washington Post’s article “How ‘pink slime’ journalism exploits our faith in local news reveals a most sinister act.
he 17th-century word “courant,” which once meant “newspaper,” is obsolete, according to Merriam-Webster, except in the rare case of the title of a periodical. Papers with that moniker in their masthead got grandfathered in because they were founded hundreds of years ago. Hearing something called “courant” today, I imagine a time-tested media institution anchored in a specific city or region, such as Connecticut’s Hartford Courant, which is a decade older than the United States government.
At first glance, the Mobile Courant, the site covering my home city of Mobile, Ala., has all the trappings of a traditional community news portal like Hartford’s. It’s got the old-timey-sounding name and familiar sections dedicated to local government, business, real estate and sports.
But that’s a smokescreen. The Mobile Courant not only lacks real-life reporters and editors, but the articles are regurgitated news releases. Clicking on the Politics section directs the reader to word-for-word releases straight from the desk of Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville: “Tuberville Meets with President Biden’s Supreme Court Nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson,” for example, or “Tuberville Veterans Bill Passes U.S. Senate.” Below this, you’ll find a steady stream of Federal Election Commission notifications about individual donations to various Republican politicians, the dull text seemingly optimized for search engines rather than human consumption.
That Democrats don’t seem to exist in the Courant’s world is a feature, not a bug. The Courant is merely one of dozens of networked sites mass-produced by the digital news company Metric Media since 2019. It’s part of a growing right-wing propaganda project cosplaying as a network of nonpartisan local newspapers.
In effect, any devious entity can have a local news facade and use it to brainwash its readers. And that partially explains why so many people continue to vote against their interests are easily believe provably false fantastical stories.
The article went on to show how devious these faux-local news entities can be. The following graphically sick example is just the tip of the iceberg.
Nothing written by pink-slime journalism sites will win a Pulitzer Prize, but sometimes one of its thousands of articles about a right-wing talking point manages to go viral. That’s certainly true of articles about “critical race theory” and public schools’ alleged “wokeness.”
Most notoriously, an article from a Chicago-based pink-slime site published in May went viral on social media, especially in right-wing circles, because it claimed that suburban school administrators were implementing race-based grading. The article prompted school officials in Oak Park, Ill., to release a statement calling the report “not true,” but days after the story was proved false, right-wing outlets such as One America News were still reporting it as fact.
The Oak Park case is unusual in that it broke through nationally, but it’s not an exceptional incident. A study published by the Popular Information Substack found that 28 pink-slime sites in Virginia published 4,657 articles about critical race theory in schools between January and November 2021 — many of which contained unverified or false information — just in time for the election of Republican Glenn Youngkin, who rode a wave of anti-CRT sentiment to win the governor’s race. It’s difficult to say whether these stories are helping drive the trend or merely mirroring it, but it’s clear that they speak to a partisan political pattern that has little to do with what’s happening on the ground in this or that local community.
The above is the Powell Memo in action. Our Oligarchy and the Right Wing deceptively put their tentacles into every aspect of our lives. They use local news and other methods to fool low-information citizens or people with little time to research and verify.
The news model must change, and it does not have to be bad. After all, journalism of the past was very patriarchal, where a few controlled the orderly dissemination of the news for our consumption. So we had the point of view they considered objective and trustworthy. While not perfect, at least they tried to be fair within the boundaries of the country’s indoctrination.
A self-policed crowdsourced Independent Media media funded by the support of millions of readers with voluntary contributions and support is the answer. It ensures that a party, the oligarchy, plutocracy, or the rich, does not own or control the news.
We view paying monthly for cable or telephone services as essential justifiably. Democracy requires truth. Independent Media journalists must make the case that the news, opinion, and analysis they provide are essential to ensure its survival and deserving of support from those who can afford to support it.