If Journalists Are Not Producing Material For Which People Are Willing To Pay, They’ve No One But Themselves To Blame.

My site covered the Vanity Fair article about the shake-up at The Washington Post last Tuesday — also published on American Free News Network — so The Philadelphia Inquirer’s hard-left, #TrumpDerangementSyndrome consumed columnist, Will Bunch, is a little bit late to the party. The problem is that you peasants just haven’t been willing to shell out your hard-earned dollars to pay for Mr Bunch and his writing!

Can America save democracy when no one is even reading about it?

After mass layoffs, U.S. journalism is about to be flattened by AI. When democracy falls, will the public even know about it?

by Will Bunch | D-Day + 80, June 6, 2024 | 3:18 PM EDT

“Your audience has halved in recent years. People are not reading your stuff. Right? I can’t sugarcoat it anymore.”

That’s pretty much what I hear from my legion of right-wing trolls every time I post a new column link on X/Twitter, but this time the words didn’t come from @ben94756387 from St. Petersburg. Instead, this was uttered by Will Lewis, the controversial Brit whom one of Earth’s richest men, Jeff Bezos, brought in as publisher of his Washington Post — the storied newspaper whose investigative journalism brought down a president and became the stuff of Hollywood legend.

Can I say that I’m proud to be one of those “right-wing trolls,” though perhaps I’m less known by the distinguished Mr Bunch than some of his faves?

Lewis’ blunt lecture in announcing a radical shake-up at the Post to a room of unhappy journalists was kind of obnoxious (he also implied Americans are too dumb to know what penultimate means), but it wasn’t wrong. A decade after the owner who made Amazon into the 800-pound gorilla of American capitalism took his talents inside the Beltway, Bezos’ Post reportedly lost a whopping $77 million last year. Just as Lewis said, the Post has lost about half its once-sizable digital readership since 2020, undoing a temporary surge during Donald Trump’s nightmare presidency.

Considering that I listened to Lexington Herald-Leader Managing Editor Lauren Gorla tell us, on April 30th, that their newspaper was written for those who have an 8th grade education, something which was normally specified in journalism schools in the 1970s, it’s unsurprising that Mr Lewis might not think Americans know the definition of penultimate.

But what Mr Bunch missed was what he actually said: the Post had experienced a “temporary surge” in its readership during the pretty great presidency of Mr Trump. If that “surge” was “temporary,” then it was inevitably going to falter as well. And my $120 per year basic digital subscription to the Post is a lot less than my $285.48 per year digital subscription to the Inquirer.

Mr Bunch doesn’t appear to like the fact the “owner who made Amazon into the 800-pound of American capitalism” bought the Post in 2013, but that ignores the obvious question: what would have happened to The Washington Post, which had “been unable to escape the financial turmoil that has engulfed newspapers and other ‘legacy’ media organizations,” if Mr Bezos hadn’t bought it? The Inky has had its own “financial turmoil” in recent years, and even being bought out for a measly $55 million by the Leftist Lenfest Institute hasn’t saved it from layoffs and buyouts.

The radical shake-up Lewis announced for the Post was highlighted by a so-called third newsroom, tasked with finding ways to reach the millions of Americans, and especially young people, who get most of their information from social media sites like TikTok, if they get any information at all. But it had the feel of a Hail Mary pass in an annus horribilis for the American news media that began with a wave of layoffs, buyouts, and more closures. (My own newsroom at The Inquirer has, sadly, not been immune.) So, have we now hit rock bottom?

I knew, and wrote about, the five recent layoffs at the Inky, because the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia tweeted about them, but I’m greatly amused that Mr Bunch had to document that using the Philadelphia Business Journal, which is hidden behind a paywall, because the Inquirer didn’t report on the layoffs itself. The NewsGuild also noted 32 buyouts in February, which “would have been layoffs had those employees not accepted buyouts.”

There is, of course, the fact that Jesse Bunch is a reporter for the Inky, and one wonders just how much of his employment offer was due to the elder Mr Bunch’s position. He wasn’t laid off or bought out.

Further down, we come to Mr Bunch once again pegging the irony meter:

A perfect storm happens for more than one reason. For one thing, even before the Google AI and Facebook crises, traditional journalism — still under the sway of newsroom leaders who came up with a (supposedly) objective, voice-of-God tone that was empowered by newspapers’ 20th-century monopoly — seems ill-suited to a 21st century in which young people clamor for the visual vibe of Instagram and rapid-fire, highly opinionated world of TikTok. In the fast-food nation of today’s social media, a legacy publisher can taste like kale. This inherent culture clash makes me dubious that Lewis’ youth-oriented “third newsroom” at the Post can succeed.

The other problem is that, in a nearly impossible environment, newsroom leadership would have to hold an almost perfect vision for steering through the immediate crisis and imagining a brighter future. And the current crop of top editors feels like anything but. Exhibit A is the New York Times, which has used its (ironically) Amazon-like grip as the “category killer” of U.S. journalism to actually grow its digital audience, but serves this mass audience an unappealing gruel of forced objectivity in which Trump can be portrayed as a hypermasculine outlaw, and not the would-be dictator who might prosecute the Times’ top editors if elected in November.

The distinguished Mr Bunch complains about the “highly opinionated world of TikTok,” a platform which makes no claim at all to objectivity, yet that The New York Times has what he called “an unappealing gruel of forced objectivity” because he sees the Times as not all out anti-Trump, the way the Inquirer is. The Times, he noted, has managed to grow its digital audience — with a subscription rate lower than that of the Inky — so perhaps, just perhaps, not being as thoroughly consumed by #TrumpDerangementSyndrome as is our nation’s third oldest continuously published daily newspaper might be a way to profitability?

“Profitability” might be a bad word as far as the esteemed Mr Bunch is concerned, but money has to come in for he and his son to be paid, and as Mr Lewis said of the Post, “People are not reading your stuff,” people are not paying for their stuff.

If journalists are not producing material for which people are willing to pay, they’ve no one but themselves to blame.
Follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, The First Street Journal, for stories not on American Free News network.

If you enjoyed this article, then please REPOST or SHARE with others; encourage them to follow AFNN. If you’d like to become a citizen contributor for AFNN, contact us at managingeditor@afnn.us Help keep us ad-free by donating here.

Substack: American Free News Network Substack
Truth Social: @AFNN_USA
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/afnnusa
Telegram: https://t.me/joinchat/2_-GAzcXmIRjODNh
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AfnnUsa
GETTR: https://gettr.com/user/AFNN_USA
CloutHub: @AFNN_USA

Leave a Comment