Issues & Insights
Can legacy media withstand growing public distrust? Source: Wikimedia Commons

Collapse Of Trust In Legacy Media Will Lead To Its Inevitable Demise

An important consequence of the three-plus years the Deep State attacked President Donald Trump and his conservative base has been a complete loss of credibility for the legacy media. Mainstream news platforms have cannibalized themselves to placate fringe left movements and to enjoy the perceived value of sensation-driven stories that are often not newsworthy. 

To borrow a phrase from Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, who previously served as the United States Global AIDS Coordinator for President Barack Obama, “There is nothing I can believe from these people.”  

This loss of trust has reached the point of inexorable accountability, as mainstream media readership declines, and alternative news platforms spring up out of necessity. These days, readers must search out real news, while wading through propaganda and made-up scandals coming from the former “newspapers of record.”  

Loss of readers means loss of advertisers and revenue, and ultimately profitability.  This inevitably leads to bankruptcy. There has been no shortage of this eventuality in the media business, as newspapers, mainstream news websites, and magazines go under.

 It is no secret that online advertising revenue has been steadily declining for years, making the competition for scarce advertising dollars all that more intense. The Chinese coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this trend. Some large advertisers have cut their budgets by more than half, while others are not paying for advertising at all during the COVID-19 crisis.  

This decline in trust and readership highlights the competition for not only customers (readers and advertisers), but also equity and debt capital, which even the left is reluctant to sacrifice on failing media businesses.

In this environment, one would think that producing newsworthy, truthful content would be paramount for mainstream news organizations in order to harvest the lion’s share of shrinking dollars available. However, this has not been the case.  

Instead, the legacy media has doubled down on ‘fake news’ with made up stories about the American president and his agenda. Dishonest business practices have institutionalized bad corporate citizenship and are continuing unabated. 

Many Trump supporters have been dragged through the mud in the process, as well. For instance, the legacy media was complicit in escalating and weaponizing the Mueller probe and the Flynn prosecution. It is only now that Gen. Michael Flynn has been able to redeem himself.

The king of fake news is the Cable News Network, better known as CNN. Trump has rightly tweeted that due to CNN’s constant stream of “alternate facts,” its credibility, and ratings, have plummeted. Many analysts have stated that if not for the deep pockets of its parent — AT&T’s WarnerMedia — CNN would have long collapsed into financial oblivion. 

One recent high-profile example of media being held accountable for publishing false stories is the settlement of the lawsuit filed by Nick Sandmann (the Catholic high school student who was defamed repeatedly by CNN) for an undisclosed amount. 

Another example is the lawsuit against GawkerMedia, funded by technology magnate Peter Thiel, and brought by wrestling personality Hulk Hogan. After losing its appeals, Gawker and its founders were financially wiped out.

Companies can’t settle or lose lawsuits in perpetuity; they eventually go under.

Another pronounced example of a well-publicized legacy media implosion has been the 2020 bankruptcy of McClatchy, a publicly traded media holding company, which sought protection in the bankruptcy courts in order to shed pension liabilities and debt.  

It seems the bankruptcy of McClatchy could at least be a by-product of stories it ran disguised as “news”, including articles about California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes that led to the congressman suing McClatchy.

In an interview with Nieman Labs, a Harvard-spawned media initiative, Lauren Gustus, director of McClatchy’s community funding initiative, explains that the Fresno Bee’s coverage of Nunes — the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — has driven interest in financially saving McClatchy as a company.

Gustus also notes that the newspaper’s recent coverage of Nunes “reframes our relationship with the community,” as the Breibart web site pointed out in a story that exposes McClatchy’s efforts to raise capital through questionable journalistic practices. 

McClatchy also targeted major Republican donors with similar attacks.

For example, several years ago, its D.C. Bureau and other media properties attacked Yuri Vanetik, a major GOP fundraiser, with stories insinuating some ominous conspiracies regarding “Russia.” The paper made accusations about Vanetik’s ailing father, while also suggesting that Vanetik had ties with unsavory business people and politicians. Vanetik responded in the Wall Street Journal, exposing McClatchy’s reporting to be nothing more than a false smear campaign. McClatchy was forced to publish corrections but failed to remove the questionable stories.

The outcry by the staff at the New York Times after Sen. Tom Cotton wrote an opinion editorial supporting using military force on American soil against marauding looters and vandals shows how serious the lack of responsible journalism is in the legacy media universe. This can only lead to more financial failures in the sector as the public searches for a media paradigm it can trust.  

The situation will likely come to a head as the presidential election approaches in November. The Department of Justice has announced enforcement action against big tech for putting its thumb on the scale of the race. Will the fake news media be next?

L. Todd Wood, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, is a former special operations helicopter pilot. He currently works as a writer, publisher and journalist. 

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  • Don’t be so sure.

    In Israel were I live the press has, till recently, been almost uniformly leftist except for a few niche websites and publications. It’s been this way for over a generation. Israeli MSM suffers from the same shrinking revenue base as its counterparts in the US but the major channels and papers continue to survive quite well, thank you. People buy them, surf them, tune in and the advertisers continue to buy (some) ad space.

    The change has come in what people believe. Most Israelis are right wing – someone described Israel as a Red state – but they simply read what’s written, watch what’s broadcast, and believe the opposite. There are two things that could be reliably counted upon to increase Netanyahu’s support: When he was criticized by Obama, and when he was attacked on Israeli TV.

    • Yes, that seems to be what is happening here as well. At some point they will run out of Bezo’s types to save them. We know at the ground level they are shrinking, they aren’t hiring but shedding massive numbers of employees – and journalism schools are shrinking or failing in response. It is not sustainable – unless of course Trump manages to break up the social media empires. As long as Googel and Facebook dominate ad space, and as cable media lefties continue to lose viewership – the money will run out.

  • Today, no doubt, the NY Slimes is lauding the CCP’S takeover of Hong Kong as a “great leap forward”. The problem right now seems to be that a large number of mindless useful idiots agree. Since the Slimes removed any trace of honesty from that rag, circulation has gone up.

  • This is all spelled out in Levin’s ” Unfreedom of the Press.”

  • Would that it were true.

    The “legacy media” is not journalism, nor is it even a business. It is a propaganda operation supporting the Democrat Party and the political Left, and is increasingly becoming financed by deep-pocket Leftists in and out of the country who are more than willing to operate at a loss in order to promote the Left’s agenda.

    It will NOT die from market forces because it is not dependent on market forces. Anyone who has not sussed that out by now isn’t paying attention.

  • I spent my career in journalism, primarily at daily newspapers, and I am disgusted and embarrassed by what my profession has become. In my working days, I was always aware of the liberal tilt in the media, but reporters and editors threw out the playbook with first Obama and now Trump. One could do no wrong, the other no good.

    The latest and perhaps biggest disgrace is the MSM’s smear of Trump’s magnificent July 4 speech. I generally don’t like how the man behaves, but he does the right thing more often than not. The speech was a wonderful call for unity and the preservation of history, not the divisive and hate-filled rant the cable networks and major newspaper called it.

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