The Sucking Sounds Gets Louder

by James A. Bacon

Six Virginia newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises — the Bristol Herald Courier, the (Charlottesville) Daily Progress, the (Culpeper) Star-Exponent, the (Danville) Register & Bee, the Martinsville Bulletin, and the (Waynesboro) News Virginian — will begin publishing “expanded” print editions three days a week and deliver them by postal mail rather than using traditional newspaper carriers, reports Cardinal News… a digital publication.

How long until the Richmond, Norfolk, and Roanoke newspapers are reduced to three days a week?

Lee Enterprises, I’m quite certain, knew this day was coming. The corporation’s business plan is to suck out enough money from their stable of failing newspapers to recoup its original bargain-basement investment plus a decent return on its capital. After tri-weekly status comes weekly, then Internet only. When that, too, fails, it’s all she wrote.

Actually, we all knew this day was coming — we just didn’t know how long it would take to get here. The perennial question is this: who will report the news, if not commercial enterprises?

For-profit businesses always had their drawbacks. They were highly motivated to suck up to advertisers… or at least the big ones. But journalistic ethics dictated that a Chinese wall be maintained between news and advertising operations and, for the most part, the resulting news could be trusted. Sure, individual journalists or newsrooms had agendas on particular stories, but they maintained a semblance of balance and objectivity in most of their reporting.

People have to get their news from somewhere. Rest assured that the vacuum will be filled. What will the news look like then? Ruling Class Media (The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, network broadcasting, cable TV, etc.) will support the partisan and ideological narratives of America’s cultural elites. The alternative appears to be unchecked rumor-mongering on social media filtered by someone’s invisible algorithm.

Which is worse? It’s like the old game: would you rather… have a giant splinter jammed up your fingernail or…. find out your steady girl is sleeping with your best friend?

This cannot possibly end well.