The Richmond Times-Dispatch is losing jobs, and charging more to readers for it. The blood-letting runs amok.

Lots of make-pretend that journalism has never been stronger and is in a Golden Age, but the Richmond Times-Dispatch is cutting employees lose as they increase the price of their newspaper.

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With online-only publications such as Vox letting workers go, journalism is losing ground at a rate the profession has never witnessed before, particularly when the rest of the country is seeing signs of economic life, and have money to spend on advertising and buying newspapers and magazines — print or digital.

It’s not happening.

Not on a local level, and not on a national level.

The Great Web Migration didn’t happen, not for legacy traditional outlets with a history and established readership, and not for brash online upstarts/start-ups, either.

The biggest new story of this decade is the death of journalism.

But as long as we have outlets in extreme denial, it is a story that is being buried under its own corpse.

Why CJR is out of touch.

A pair of articles worth mentioning:

The cost of reporting while female

That article by Anne Helen Petersen whose premise sounds an awful lot like my own writings here.

Mine are here and here.

Both done in 2016.

In case you are averse to clicking links, here is the original poster:

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Here is the visual memo that still serves as the header for this web site.

Gee, how original, CJR. How about trying to write while original.

The second article is all about how dreadful for press freedom it is that Newsweek fired their reporters for reporting on the company’s dark deeds.

And the fact they never reported on their employer’s questionable dealings before the authorities raided their offices wasn’t a blow to press freedoms?

Because when you work for people like that, they give you no freedom to write on reality.

Hello-a! You are working in a place that has secrets that need to be kept secret. Just how much freedom do you think you ever had?

Think, Sherlock, think!

CJR has always been out-of-touch. No critical thought. No original thought. No thought whatsoever.

And when you do not have critical or original thoughts, or have no thought at all, here is one thought to go by:

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If you are still wondering why journalism collapsed, it’s because thinking is really not an easy thing for many in the profession.

Information-gathering requires an active, radical, vigilant, original, and skeptical mind.

Otherwise, you have a profession of glorified stenographers…

A mission for journalism in a time of crisis? How about finally coming to grips with its destructive side: The Guardian may wish to keep the status quo, but it is time for an alternative model of journalism.

The Guardian, which as a needlessly long piece trying to drum up support for journalism is…well-meaning, but clueless.

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That cover itself reminds me of my high school Man in Society class, and could very well serve as a collage cover you have to make for your big essay, except it would Margaret Thatcher instead of Theresa May. (When I was in high school, I was wearing my Free Nelson Mandela t-shirt proudly, and it was in my final year when he finally was freed. I was a typical politicized kid who was heavily involved in world issues as well as local ones, and had even given a much-played radio interview on my take on things as I organized one anti-apartheid event in my school that caused controversy and angry parents calling both the school and media outlets to complain about me bringing reality to the classroom. The school caved in by lunch, but the local press loved our event. Even back then, social justice was my life as well as fashion and publishing).

But back to the Guardian.

You do not need to talk about journalism, Ms. Viner.

You need to listen.

You do not need a long article. That is not going to change fortunes. For someone talking about technology, the author should have kept her ideas short to reflect today’s attention spans.

So let me be brief.

Journalism collapsed because of long, meandering pieces that have a confirmation bias.

You need facts. You need to have system of finding, processing, and disseminating facts. You need to get rid of spin and narrative, and have a quality control that is effective in preventing grifters, psychopaths, and narcissists from hijacking your vehicle.

Journalists had that mission over a decade ago, and chose not to accept it. The end.

You had people like me who screamed from the top of my lungs that the Internet was a serious business, that reporters were sloppy and unprepared, that a new system was needed, and it began with a radical new method of educating journalists and altering the method of information-gathering while the Internet was still young and accommodating.

I was dismissed and ignored. I wrote books and articles in places such as Skeptic and Critical review. I even started a hard news site with the idea of fixing a profession.

It meant absolutely nothing. I am female, and unless I am prancing in a Versace gown with a distinctive jiggle, I am blending into white noise.

Now that journalism turned into a hot mess, now we have people such as Katharine Viner making pleas that mean nothing. Journalists never learned to listen, let alone consider they were the ones who needed to make deeper, atomic changes to the way they did business, but learning a new set of rules was, like, really hard.

And so, they paid the price.

It all imploded, and there aren’t that many gullible patrons left to fund a vanity project.

We need an alternative to journalism. Something fresh from scratch, and something that compels those in it never to take anything for granted, and embrace changing and improving what they do as they honour those who began before them.

Has journalism become a crime? Many times, it has been hate speech that cost people their lives and freedoms: the rot that has yet to be addressed.

Al Jazeera has an interesting article with the title Journalism is not a crime.

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In this case, they are talking about the dentition of their journalist Mahmoud Hussein in Egypt, and though I do not believe his journalism is a crime, it the headline posed a very interesting dilemma.

Is journalism never a crime?

Often, it is.

We have had hate speech disguised as journalism with racist, sexist, and homophobic assumptions presented as news.

It has caused deaths of innocents, and many reporters should have been dragged to The Hague for war crimes, such as creating and disseminating propaganda that prolonged conflicts as it incited people with false stories of barbarity.

It propped grifters into titans of industry. People got jobs with companies they thought were safe because journalists told them they were, such as in the cases of Enron.

Innocent people were wrongly convicted.

We had people, such as the late Richard Jewell be seen as terrorists based on a press deciding he was guilty without a shred of proof.

Lives have been ruined. People have been harmed.

It is not as if journalists didn’t help others. Many did, in a different time and place, and it was thanks to exposing those toxic collectives and individuals, that much of society was helped.

But there were always the others: the ones who openly lied, or ran with propaganda in their stories, that often nullified the good others in the profession once did.

Journalism should have stopped those toxic elements from corrupting the product. Journalism was once a noble profession that changed lives and exposed the corrupt.

But it never took on those who undid all those games with their own devious or credulous actions.

When journalism turns into a weapon, it becomes a crime. Al Jazeera may wish to look at the entire profession to ensure the Mahmoud Husseins don’t end up suffering because of the ones who think of nothing of spreading lies and rumours in their quest for power, glory, and control.

Why Hero Worship and Monster Making hasn’t saved journalism.

Once upon a time when ratings or circulation lagged, the press had a couple of tricks to spice things up.

The first was to slap a hero, and sometimes heroine on the cover:

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People magazine is soft news and celebrity-centric, but they had always relied on Princess Diana to boost their circulation.

Have a swagger winner on a cover also applied to the hard news sister publication of Time:

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Particularly in the 1980s:

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Maybe the grandkids will pick up this issue, or not:

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In case everyone confuses Time with People, we still have hope:

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Exploit a built-in fanbase who will hopefully snatch up the magazine as a “collector’s item”:

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All while telling people who to cheer on, even if you are not Time magazine:

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But the lure of gaining extra readers with a “sell” over “tell” cover is irresistible:

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Sometimes, you cannot always fawn in the open to the admirers of your cover boy or girl, or else people will become suspicious that maybe you aren’t so much about news, but trying to crib from the old Tiger Beat magazine.

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Except the difference is men do not have to have their shirts buttoned down for Time magazine.

For a long time, this strategy worked: after all the teeny bopper rags were driven strictly on cover photos with no deep articles at all. It was pure Patriarchal visual storytelling of propping up a hero for the little people to worship, or at least imagine what they looked like naked on the reader’s bed.

But there was another trick to make it seem as if the coverage was news and not mere propaganda: finding a monster to scare the people out of their wits, or make them hate:

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Because there are those who will buy the cover just to incite themselves:

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You would think facts tell a story, but it is the monster who used to sell it instead, even if his image is manipulated to do it:

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Or you turn those monsters into airheads who don’t even know how to look professional, even if they got a different invitation:

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Once long ago, these visual memos did the trick. People bought covers with their favourite heroes and villains on the covers.

And now, not so much.

Simple: people prefer their own partisan takes, and do not need to pay for the covers they can create themselves online, with their own spin and opinion.

The magazine cover has been replaced by the meme poster.

Why pay for propaganda, when you can generate your own for free?

Hero worship and monster making were cheap ways for the press to snag attention, but when their audience co-opted those same economical tricks, it no longer had an impact, and a reliable feint stopped working entirely.

Sugarmommies to the Atlantic’s Rescue: Happy news’ sleight of hand, and why seemingly happy news is no news at all.

Once upon a time, I was a journalist who covered the journalism industry for the likes of Presstime as well as other publications.

I was a complete newbie when I began, but I learned fast. I learned a lot about venture capital, Ebitda, paywalls, and the smoke and mirrors game of keeping up pretences.

Newspapers were very good at hiding the extent of circulation declines at the time. Canada began including free giveaway newspapers (count as one cent) as part of their circulation way back in 1999. This would include all those untouched newspapers you see at restaurants, laundry mats, and college campuses. I always had to understand the rig, and why it placed there.

I also understood that when everyone’s fortunes are crumbling, and one seems to buck the odds, you have to look at it with skepticism, and not awe. Bernie Madoff seemed to have the golden touch, and it was revealed that he didn’t.

So when the Atlantic boasted of hiring 100 people, I already was not surprised. They are not bucking a trend, but what they are experiencing is the largesse of a sugar mommy: in this case the widow of Great Man Steve Jobs.

This is not uncommon, but it requires some explaining.

This isn’t the first media player who has had this kind of set-up. Steven Bannon had billionaire widow Rebekah Mercer play patron to him until he became a liability with a big mouth and she kicked him to the curb. These relationships usually end in the patron wising up, realizing they are being used as their endgame is not going to happen funding a sinking ship, and they cut their losses.

I had known about this wrinkle for some time, and knew the score when I was invited by a friend to attend a little Fear and Pity Talk in Toronto at Facebook’s satellite headquarters last year. The little panel discussion on uncomfortable bar stools was supposed to about truth and journalism, but it mostly about how no one in the business was getting any clicks anymore…and too much left-field praise about The Atlantic magazine.

It was more than obvious that people in traditional media semi-got together and tried to rebuild their decimated fortunes with a brand name the same way they tried to bluff advertisers by including not-read-newspapers as part of their circulation (or currently with fake Twitter followers). As a tactical move, it could not be worse, but from a single discussion, it was easy to see right through those see-through heads, as the Hives once sang.

But patrons and venture capitalists are not uncommon, and online publications are now imploding because those funders have seen the writing on the wall, and are bailing out.

For the uninitiated, Crunch Base is a good start in seeing various publications getting funding — not from subscriptions or advertisers, but from funding (or venture) rounds.  You can look at Buzzfeed’s funding rounds, for example.

The upside is that you can raise big money faster with the theory that money will give you a push. Sometimes it works, and other times, not.

Take Meez, for instance, a non-journalism vehicle.

They raised over 12 million dollars for instance, allowing people to make their own cartoony avatars, like this one:

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That one pretty much looks like me now (surprising given that the animation is about a decade old), and it was a handy way to add humour to my web site.

But Meez no longer exists.

They had millions of subscribers, and many (such as me who used it for website graphics rather than personal entertainment) who paid for premium perks. They had high-end retailers have virtual clothing for cash purchase so your avatar could dress in that season’s fashions. Bands, movies, and television shows also sponsored various items and backgrounds over the years. You could make animations, such as the one above, or you could enter chat rooms to talk.

It was all the rage in the 2000s. It had subscribers, advertisers, and venture funding.

And then it imploded, going offline permanent in December 2017 without a prior warning (though users had been expecting doom as moderators seemed to have vanished).

I stopped using Meez years ago, but always kept a watch on its fortunes.

If me-centred media could not make it a go with patrons and/or funding rounds, it should aa serious sign for journalism.

How so?

Meez was the ultimate in embracing technology, courting youth, embracing progressive values, and keeping hip and with the times. Time magazine called it one of the worst sites of the year back in the day, as traditional media has always had a fear and disdain for technology. They did everything right.

And they couldn’t make the venture funding translate into self-sustaining success.

Steve Bannon, a shrewd man who understood strategy and managed to secure funding, also couldn’t sustain it.

The Atlantic will not be able to sustain it, either.

Its sophistry is too weak to be taken seriously, and it is no contender to any ideological challenge (when I wish to practice my critical thinking skills, all I have to do is read an Atlantic article, and I can take it down to shreds in seconds). It is the same smug, patriarchal mess that is offered everywhere else, including, the now crumbling Vox which is letting staff go. It has no new model of journalism, meaning there is no way for it to be able to take advantage of any kind of funding. Wealthy widow money burns at the same rate as any other kind of patron funding. Hiring a bigger staff when people no longer see journalism as something to consume will not change its fortunes.

But it will serve as a reason why government funding will not change journalism’s fortunes in Canada, either. You cannot keep opening the same door and expecting a different horizon. The news is pure PR, nothing more, and nothing for a dead profession to celebrate.

It is interesting how they are trying their hand at the same kinds of bluffs Canadian newspapers tried to pull in 1999. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now, either. The Left are losing communications resources, and have decided their best bet is to focus on the inert Atlantic.

They will watch their fortunes continue to shrink with intellectual lightweights trying clumsily to psyche out detractors.

It’s not working. It will comfort the fearful flock for a moment, until the money runs out, and it flops just like everyone else around them.

 

Vox layoffs: No, it is not just traditional media that is blood-letting. Journalism is just dead.

Vox is letting go staffers as it shrinks. Online publications can make excuses all they want as to why they are blood-letting, but there is a single reason for it.

The mindset is broken. No foundation, no base, no future.

Online journalism is more disgraceful because they had a superior mode of dissemination, and could have created an alternative to journalism entirely.

What they did was use the old model, and then do everything that sunk journalism, only did more of it.

There should have been more experimentation, not less. The online kids thought they could just pump up the opinion, narrative, smugness, sophistry, attitude, and snark, and that was all that was needed.

They kept the Patriarchal structure in a medium that screams for Matriarchal. They were as misogynistic as their forefathers of the previous three media. It was all white boys swaggering around, trying to be the One as they shut down people whose beliefs weren’t exactly like their own.

Well played, gentlemen.

They cribbed ideas, never giving credit where credit was due. They filled their product with listicles and quizzes.

Now that reality is sinking in, they are not special, and the fate that befell the traditional outlets befell them, too.

You are now dealing with a selfie generation who do not care about anything else save for their Facebook likes and Twitter retweets. To engage a public is an uphill battle as people are now convinced their thoughts are perfect as they are, their opinions are facts, and differing points of views should be shut down in favour of a photograph of their free appetizer from the Outback.

It is an information crisis. Information literacy is now nonexistent. People are schooling themselves on meme propaganda posters.

And it is a serious problem with no end in sight.