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.