The Media Mess of Pottage?

The 2012 election season has begun in earnest, and the mainstream media find themselves in the position of having to defend and reinforce a failed president, Barack Obama -- the man they chose to sleep with in 2008.  The media are systematically pulling out all the stops to destroy Mitt Romney, the Tea Party movement, and major Republican financial contributors in an undeclared but understood alliance with the Obama re-election machine.

The two pre-eminent pillars of the mainstream media, The Washington Post and The New York Times, have put all Republicans on notice that the media will hunt down rumors of anything untoward, even as far back as from when these Republicans were in high school, and feature it on their front page regardless of its veracity.  Further, any conservative thinking of speaking out against Barack Obama, even if he plans to spend his own money, will be publicly labeled as a racist and a bigot, and his business will be the target of left-wing pressure groups.

The Washington Post, the day after President Obama declared his approval of same-sex marriage, published a front-page hit piece on Mitt Romney's supposed bullying of a fellow high school student who years later declared himself gay, and is now deceased and unable to provide his own account.  That the story quoted someone as upset for years who had just learned of the incident months before and was denounced by the family of the deceased victim did not hobble the mission.  The entire point of the article was to cast a shadow of doubt on Mitt Romney and insinuate that he was a bully who hated gay people.  Once propelled into the media ether, the story became a national topic of conversation for a week during a period of heavy Obama campaign fundraising within the gay community.

Yet the Post denied any coordination with the Obama re-election campaign, claiming that the timing of the story and Obama's cynical and nakedly opportunistic "evolution" into supporting gay marriage was a merely a coincidence.

The New York Times ran a front-page story on May 17 accusing Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, of commissioning a $10-million plan to run commercials linking Obama to Rev. Wright's past incendiary comments.  These comments have been brought back to national attention by Wright's recent interview with Ed Klein for the latter's biography, The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House.  But the Times story was a complete fabrication. 

While Joe Ricketts and his super-PAC, Ending Spending Action Fund, are planning to attack Obama's fiscal record, there was never any consideration of an off-the-cuff proposal by a media consultant to run an ad campaign centered on Rev. Wright.  Mr. Ricketts's only "crime" was that he announced plans to spend up to $10 million to highlight the abysmal economic record of President Obama.  Yet the New York Times story was dutifully picked up by other media outlets and highlighted on various sympathetic broadcast and cable networks.  

At 5:42 am on the same day the article appeared, the Obama campaign and the left-wing noise machine, including MSNBC, immediately called on Mitt Romney to denounce this "smear" and condemn "the purveyors of slime" that were doing this on his behalf.  The ever-vigilant and impartial Center for American Progress ran an article with a headline screaming: "Revealed: The Racist GOP Campaign to Smear the President."  There will be, without doubt, denials of any coordination.  

Ideology plays a major role, as an overwhelming majority of journalists and editors are politically left of the majority of the American people.  But this craven cheerleading for and knee-jerk defense of the president raises the question: is there another more practical and base factor behind this unprecedented sycophancy?

It is no secret that the mainstream media, as a business, is on the verge of bankruptcy and collapse, as virtually all sectors are hemorrhaging red ink -- with no end in sight.

The New York Times Company, often considered the bellwether of the national media, has reduced its labor force by 47% (6,600 jobs) since 2000.  The average daily circulation for the Times has dropped by over 21% (234,000 readers) during the same period.  The Company has been liquidating as many assets as possible in order to stay afloat -- it now has few viable assets left to sell, as the stock price has dropped from $41.00 in 2000 to $6.26 today (-85%).

The Washington Post, the other most influential metropolitan newspaper in the country, has seen its average daily circulation drop by 37% (294,000 readers) since 2000.  More devastating has been the plummet in print advertising revenue, which has plunged by over 60% since 2000.  The newspaper division had an operating loss of $23 million in the first quarter of 2012.

Among the largest chain of newspapers in the country, the McClatchy Company has experienced a similar downturn.  Since acquiring the Knight-Ridder chain in 2006, the Company has seen its average daily circulation decline from 2.84 million readers to 2.0 million (a drop of 30% in only four years).  Many of the individual papers within the group have resorted to massive layoffs and selling assets, as not only circulation, but ad revenue has dropped precipitously.  McClatchy stock has fallen from $30.88 in 2000 to $2.40 (-93%) today.

The Gannet family of newspapers (the largest in the country) has lost over 2 million in paid circulation since 2000 (-28%), while their ad revenue has dropped by 48%.  Their stock has also fallen dramatically from $64.94 in 2000 to $13.04 today (-80%).

The traditional news magazines (TIME, Newsweek, and US News & World Report) have experienced even more devastating results since 2000.  Their readership has declined by over 3.9 million (-46%).  Advertising revenue has dropped by nearly 70%.  A clear indicator of the demise of this media sector is the sale of Newsweek by the Washington Post Company for $1.00. 

The three network evening news broadcasts have suffered a similar fate.  Since 1991 they have lost nearly16.0 million viewers (-44%).

The mainstream media is first and foremost a business.  Like any business, it must generate revenue, pay its bills, and make a profit for its shareholders.  To produce income, it must attract customers (advertisers and subscribers) to buy its product (the news as well as viewers or readers).  Based on the results over the past twelve years, it is obvious that the product the mainstream media are promoting is not selling.

Yet there is no willingness to change their biased reporting and editorial policies -- one of the major factors in the loss of readership and viewers, as more people each year are turning to the new media as an alternative source of news.

But there has been a willingness to openly discuss the very real possibility of government bailouts, permanent subsidies, and use of the regulatory process to cripple their competition.  This discussion began not long after Barack Obama was inaugurated.

Per Ezra Klein at The Washington Post: "My long held belief is that newspapers should be funded by direct government subsidies" (July 2009).

Per U.S. News: "The idea of a media's something that has been discussed for a little while, but support for the idea seems to be building all the time" (August 2009).

Jon McTaggart, CEO of the American Media Group, openly stated that as a civil society, we don't trust the free market to provide valuable services, and neither should the media be allowed to suffer because of market forces (December 2009).  Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, said that the country has no choice but to move in that direction in order to halt the "significant erosion of the fourth estate" (December 2009).

This was discussed not just on the media side of the fence, but on the government side as well.  In June 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a draft proposal on bailing out the media as well as potentially using antitrust and copyright laws to shut down the alternative media.  

In December of 2009, the then-chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Waxman (D-California), delivered a message to the FTC and the media stating that they needed to work out a consensus so the government could put a package together to bailout the struggling news industry.  Barack Obama in September of 2009 told the media he was open to a newspaper bailout bill.  

The Democrats in Congress and the White House made clear their willingness to bail out the media.  Unfortunately, the Republicans captured the House of Representatives in November of 2010, forcing the president to focus solely his re-election.  The bailout and any punitive action toward the alternative media would have to wait until after the 2012 election. 

Barack Obama in a second term would be free, through executive orders and manipulating the regulatory agencies such as the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to grant the media permanent subsidies and de facto bailouts, or to place potentially devastating restrictions on the alternative media regardless of who controls Congress.  As revealed during his first term, despite facing re-election, Obama has not been reluctant to use his usurped executive power, regardless of public opinion, to bypass and ignore a spineless and nearly irrelevant legislative branch.

It is difficult for Americans to accept the possibility that the media have become so craven that they would sell their souls to the government they are supposed to monitor.  One's livelihood and future are of paramount importance for far too many, and throughout the history of mankind, the overriding factor in selling out for not for the proverbial pot of gold, but for dependence on handouts and government favor is a form of indentured servitude.  The media are gaining only a mess of pottage.

There has been no summit held by the mainstream media outlets where they decided to cast their lot with the Democrats in the hope of financial and regulatory support.  Nor has there been overt coordination among these entities.  But there need not be; the handwriting is on the wall, and in keeping with the leftist mindset of the vast majority of the members of the media, they look to the government as the solution to all problems, including theirs.  

By not accepting responsibility for their plight, the mainstream media are apparently willing to surrender their independence and become a wholly owned mouthpiece for a regime determined not only to control all aspects of American society, but to bankrupt the country.