4. RIP: The 4th Estate

The daily newspaper dies in 2017.

Don’t read one anyway? Why should you care?

For nearly a century, fat-staffed newsrooms, populated with reporter-class curmudgeons who questioned authority at every turn and made it their life’s mission to expose the bad guys, set the agenda for public discourse.

Back then, broadcast outlets didn’t have the staffing, investigative chops or clout the print world did.

Over the years, more expedient media – radio, TV, cable and now digital outlets – and a far less patient audience whacked newspapers’ laborious printing processes that accommodated tedious layers of fact-checking, editor scrutiny and other exercises in thoughtfulness.

What is news?

Today, information fragments – whether sound bites on broadcast news or Twitter firestorms between news sources and media – now pass as news. “The masses,” as Gerald Celente says, “are headline-strong and knowledge-empty.”

But what stands out in 2017 is the perfect storm that’s been raking over the so-called mainstream media this autumn.

Poll after poll show trust rates well below 10 percent. Then, the “mainstream” get the presidential race all wrong, driving barely detectable positive sentiment deeper into the mud.

But there’s more that unfolded in the fall of 2016.

The financial fundamentals of media – print, digital and broadcast outlets largely owned by one of six mega corporations – hit lows not seen since the economy’s fall in 2008-09. Declining revenue is triggering layoffs and massive expense reductions. They’ll continue in early 2017.

Sinking revenue

Second- and third-quarter 2016 revenue for all major newspaper companies is dramatically down – from 12 to 18 percent. That necessitated rounds of layoffs at The New York Times; News Corp., which includes The Wall Street Journal; Gannett, America’s biggest newspaper company; and many others.

The across-the-board bad news prompted staffing cutbacks, merged operations and reductions in published space allocated for news by those companies and others.

The industry is closing in on a decade of dramatic cutbacks in reporting and editing power. According to estimates from The American Society of News Editors and Poynter Institute, those reductions add up to about half of all newsroom jobs being eliminated in less than 10 years.

TREND FORECAST: Expect dramatic shifts to begin early in 2017. National and metro newspapers, as well as smaller newspapers, will aggressively cut space for news to save costs. Print-publication frequency will reduce. The daily newspaper – as we know it today as something you hold in your hand and page through – will fade.

Investigative and in-depth reporting will become even more scant. That will leave the door wide open for unprofessional, poorly resourced and purely biased media to produce shoddy, untrustworthy reporting disguised as legitimate and in-depth.

The truth will be harder to find.

And when upstart or existing alternative-news sites begin to make news, the mainstream media, taking their last breaths, will label it “fake news.”

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