To the Editor:
Mr. Oberfest’s Jan. 31, 2019, editorial (Journalism 2019: Disruption roadkill) blames the closures and layoffs in the newspaper industry and in other news media on a number of economic and social phenomena; however, his analysis misses the point that these phenomena are themselves merely the symptoms of a much more dangerous disease. The actual cause for the downward spiral and ultimate collapse of many of the news organizations described by Mr. Oberfest is their decision to abandon traditional journalistic standards in favor of biased reporting calculated to promote an agenda of progressive policies and “political correctness.” This trend toward agenda-driven reporting in the news industry was documented as early as 2002 by William McGowan in his book titled “Coloring the News,” but it is most meticulously documented in his later work, “Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America.” As these two books show, many of the failing news organizations that Mr. Oberfest describes in his editorial find themselves in their lowly state not because of any external economic or social phenomena, but because their credibility and integrity have been repeatedly eroded by embarrassing journalistic scandals.
These agenda-driven news organizations are now “circling the drain,” as Mr. Oberfest describes it, precisely because their readers and subscribers have taken Mr. Oberfest’s advice to “read and watch [the media] critically”; and, as a result are abandoning these biased news organizations in droves. That dramatic decline in readership leads to a dramatic decline in advertising revenues, and that in turn brings on the drastic cost-cutting measures which Mr. Oberfest bemoans in his editorial. Yet these external economic problems are merely symptoms brought on by the underlying “disease” of deceptive reporting calculated to advance a vague agenda of “social justice” by any means. When that “disease” becomes systemic in a news organization, the integrity and credibility of that organization rot away from the inside — and it is that permanent loss of credibility which causes readership, and so revenues, to plummet.
Mr. Oberfest’s editorial further mistakenly presumes that every failing news organization is a blow to our American democracy. Yet logically the winnowing of these biased sources of misinformation from the American discourse by the actions of critical readers should, in fact, be applauded for having precisely the opposite effect.
Ronald L. Monterosso