A devastating hit to arguably the most important institution in a democracy — the exercise of a free press — occured this week with the decision by the new owners of the New York Daily News to slash 50 percent of the newsroom staff of the 99-year-old newspaper.
This one was done by the paper’s new owners, something called Tronc, a news conglomerate based in Chicago operating on the ashes of the old Chicago Tribune, whose ownership includes the Baltimore Sun group which includes the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. As a publicly-traded company, Tronc is clearly concerned about one thing, its bottom line, news be damned. Under such pressure, Tronc sold the Los Angeles Times to one of its shareholders and otherwise has operated like the New York hedge fund that is decimating the Denver Post. These are the main remaining newspapers of some of the biggest cities in America.
So, it is not only Donald Trump — although he’s using his bully pulpit to do as much as he can to cause news organizations like CNN, NBC, The Washington Post and New York Times to also disappear. What’s killing the news in America is not the Internet, just as it wasn’t the onset or radio and television, deemed an equal threat to a free press more than half a century ago. It’s the subordination of the news, of the public’s right to know, to the almighty dollar, and a particularly craven and hostilely indifferent crowd that now is setting the tone for Wall Street in America in recent years that has insisted that there is nothing wrong with stomping all over all their assets, including newspapers, to bleed them to meet their profit margin goals.
It is not surprising that most of these cynics and nihilists also support Trump, and even glory in how he’s tearing the decorum of the presidency to shreds. It goes with his stampeding deregulation mania such that they are even willing to give him some leash while trying to temper his boundless trade war obsessions.
Yes, the personality of Trump conforms perfectly with what Wall Street is doing to the democratic institution of the free press. Who needs news? Why not settle for binging on episodes of “South Park” or “Family Guy?” Why not accept Trump’s relentless gaslighting campaign to redefine truth to be what he, and not the media, says it is, even when people can see and hear with their own eyes and ears that he’s a chronic and habitual liar.
There’s a method to this madness, and it is madness, but so far the American media has been unwilling to take this head-on in a meaningful or effective way.
Nothing, except the hope for a true uprising led by the nation’s women and its youth, seems effective or working.