Friday, January 3, 2014

Journalism's Sellout: It's a Simple Matter of Surviving

To badly paraphrase Winston Churchill, "This is not the end and not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning."

The Dish has this piece on Time Inc.'s capitualtion to its business side, to which its news division will now directly report. That means--in a nutshell--the end of investigative reporting, criticism of anything having to do with business (at least those businesses that advertise) and a tilt in the world of journalism that, though not new, is certainly now official.

Is this a solution? Not yet.
I've watched this turning tide for years now, hoping against hope that it was temporary, that it would not be as serious as it could be. But it is. It began with those small local publications putting ads on the front page, then accelerated with "sponsored content" and has segued into a full-scale assault on any notion of journalism. Look at magazines like Bella and CITY in Roanoke and tell me if you accidentally trip upon a story that was not paid for in one way or another, that was not written by the institution that would benefit from it, that you can believe.

Those little publications don't amount to a cup of warm spit in the overall scheme, but their influence is felt even by those who would be far more reluctant to sell their news space. When I was with the Blue Ridge Business Journal and co-owned FRONT magazine, we often heard from marketing managers, "Bella is giving us a page of editorial for a page of advertising" and there was nothing we could say except, "We don't do that. It is not ethical." Ethical-schmethical. There goes the financial underpinning of the publication and without the money, there is no news if that's the way you want to play it.

So now here we are, trying desperately to find a way to do this journalism thing in an age where money can buy anything. Anything at all. Just ask the Koch brothers, who are buying a country. On the cheap.

(Graphic: Pew Research Center.)


  1. I believe people define "journalistic ethics" by whether they agree with the journalist or not. Right wingers will defend FOX et al to the death. The disagreement from 'the left' is considered "unethical". Go figure.

  2. Let's toss that 'cup of warm spit' at the Koch brothers. Not that that would solve anything, but it sure would make a lot of people feel good.