The Pew Research Center just released a study that must awaken newspaperpeople in cold sweats, or urine: 81% of Americans get their news from a screen — either online outlets or social media (a putrid redundancy) sites. That doesn’t even include TV. Of the stragglers left over who get their news from papers or magazines, more than 60% are 65 and older.
So newspapers are literally dying.
That’s hardly new, news or surprising. I’m in the business, and can’t say I really support the concept of newspapers in a modern era. One day, historians will look back at our cultural institutions and think it quaint that we used to get our news from day-old parchment. That living things needed to be killed, shredded and delivered manually for mankind to learn who won yesterday’s game shows.
Still, the death of papers is not like the death of coal. There has been little evidence that news coverage contributes to global warming (unless you count Trump as a carbon emissions threat). In fact, consumption of news is at a record high.
So there are elements of newspapers that could still flourish, if not most newspapers themselves. The New York Times and Washington Post have seen a revival of scoops and influence unmatched since the Nixon years. So, they’re likely safe, if Jeff Sessions doesn’t equate reading news to heroin.
But, for the few who have little access to or interest in the Post or Times, the question over what constitutes news becomes as gray as uncertainty.
Our preeminent TV news outlets aren’t helping things any. Every MSNBC segment is simply asking a commentator, ‘Don’t you think Donald Trump is a nincompoop?’ The answer — and endless supply of examples — make for great comedy. Just ask Alec Baldwin. And it soothes the confirmation biases of two-thirds of the country.
CNN is entering similarly shark-infested waters, accentuating sermonizers over strategists. Still, they’re the only network that gets A-list commentators Woodward, Bernstein and the NYT’s Maggie Haberman, the Three Musketeers of the White House. But they are three in a house of neophytes — who make enough errors to provide the administration defensive mortars.
That leaves the short-bus student, Fox News. For the first time, the network is losing regularly to MSNBC, once unthinkable. The state news agency is learning the limited punditry appeal of columnists from obscure outlets like Axios and The Washington Examiner, whoever the fuck they are now (I worked in DC for six years and never saw a copy). Hint: the outlet is the only measure of a commentator, who are interchangeably uniform.
So who to watch? When does news actually occur? Who to watch when it does?
There may be a simple but pretty accurate algorithm to measure the issue, and perhaps an answer that won’t even require you listen to a single word from the blowhards. Plus, it’s color-coded, so Alabamans can understand it.
It works this way. If possible, put CNN, FOX and MSNBC next to each other on the TV guide, so you can quickly flip up just two clicks for the world pulse.
Don’t bother listening, or even making out he pictures on the screen. Just look at the bottom of the screen: There will be a blue strip or a red one emblazoned across the bottom. Marketing research must dictate those colors — only.
Now click quickly twice, noting the color bands on the bottom.
If you see three red bands splashing BREAKING NEWS, you know that something real happened. An example of this would be the hurricanes or the Vegas shootings, incidents that demanded attention across all manner political spectrum.
If there are two red banners and one blue banner, the news will be negative against trump. The alleged Bannon-Trump split, for instance, dominated the broadcasts of CNN and MSNBC for an interminable span. Fox’s lead stories on the day of Fire and Fury’s release were the cold temperatures in the Northeast, and Jeff Sessions consideration of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s role into Russian meddling.
If there’s one red banner, the news is good for Trump. Trump’s strike on Syria. His choice of Gorsuch. Stock news.
Finally, if all the banners are all screaming in blue, there is no real news that day. Turn off the TV. Step outside. Forget the Gnash.
We’ve come to measure our world in analytics. Why not the news that dictates it?