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A friend recently asked me if I missed being an active journalist “with all that is happening today?”
My answer was an emphatic “no!” The last score of years has been a terrible time for traditional journalists because of layoffs, the emergence of social media bloggers, and an increasingly sharp left-right division of major media outlets who seem to care more about political agendas than fair- ness and accuracy.
A retired veteran journalist recently commented that finding a “mainstream media outlet willing to report without an agenda… (is) tougher to find than a $2 steak.” Maybe an overstatement, but a widely shared one.
Today’s audiences seem to be sharply divided into camps. In the left corner is MSNBC, The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Huffington Post, left-wing bloggers, etc., all determined to destroy President Trump and other conservatives.
In the right corner is Fox News, Rush Limbaugh (and most of talk radio), the Washington Examiner, Breitbart News, and rightwing bloggers, etc. They are determined to undermine the credibility of the so-called “mainstream” or “drive-by media” which they claim are fully allied with the Democratic Party.
TV talk shows and cable news networks often feature more political operatives than journalists on their panels. Almost all are predictable in their positions and questions.
My old employer—The Associated Press—long has tried to fill the role of neutral arbiter of the news. That’s a role that is increasingly difficult to play as the number of traditional journalists declines.
Most of those old-fashioned journalists are gone now—retired, purged in newspaper and wire service layoffs, or fled to public relations jobs. The once-great news magazines are mere shadows of their previous glory days. Copy editing is an art mostly lost to the world.
Local news used to be covered in many cities by newspaper “beat reporters” who specialized in coverage of city hall, courts, cops, education, business, state house, investigative, politics, etc. They often worked for highly skilled and demanding editors.
Today, most papers (and broadcast outlets) have fewer reporters who—because of limited resources—rely increasingly on press releases and government officials to feed them story leads and details.
When I worked for the AP, the members (newspapers, TV and radio stations) (usually) gladly shared their news with the AP. But