I want to feel sorry for the laid off staff of the New York Daily News. I really, truly do.

I want to feel sorry for the laid off staff of the New York Daily News.  I really, truly do.

Being let go from any job is always dispiriting.  Never mind the financial uncertainty it brings; to involuntarily lose your situation (to borrow some Dickensian terms) strikes a big psychological blow to your confidence, as you dread the moment in every interview thereafter when you have to explain how you did not leave your previous position on terms of your own choosing.

To put it crudely, it sucks losing your job.  I've known the feeling.  And I normally wouldn't wish it upon others – but there is an exception.  Our trigger-happy media profession fails to elicit my sympathy.

When Tronc, the vast media conglomerate that controls dozens of the country's newspapers, slimmed the Daily News's newsroom staff by half, a primal scream filled the hot and heavy air of the dense Twitter wilderness.  Reporters, clutching their verified blue check marks tightly, bemoaned the heartless downsizing.  "In any other industry, deliberately making a product worse and then asking consumers to pay more for it would rightly be seen as a stupid long-term move," lectured CNN's Brian Stelter.  "Tronc to Daily News: Drop Dead," summarized Justin Miller of The Daily Beast.

On and on these comments went, the bereaved singing threnodies to the long gone days of well requited journalism.  And yet I remain unmoved.  My heart, try as it might, just won't grieve for these newly unemployed gazetteers.

It's probably a personal failing on my part.  I should empathize with their troubles.  There but for the grace of God go I, and all that.  Yet the current state of journalism holds me back, a fetter on my feelings.  The press's practitioners have overstepped their bounds one too many times in the Trump era.  They've become less reporters and more like advocates over the course of nearly two years.

Trump's presidency, which is symbiotically connected to our attention-obsessed media, has driven many reporters mad.  And the whining – good Lord, the incessant whining by self-appointed guardians of propriety over how "This Isn't Normal" when Trump talks like a working stiff instead of the 500-odd walking dictation machines in Congress.

Trump angst led to innumerable reporting errors by wannabe muckrakers eager to sniff out scandal within the administration.  The multitude of "fake news" over the past twelve months would exhaust the space of this column.  So I'll keep it to the course of about a week: MSNBC's Rachel Maddow lying to viewers, claiming the White House deliberately cut out an embarrassing question from Trump's joint press conference with Vladimir Putin; Twitter being exposed for "shadowbanning" conservative accounts despite years-long denial from journalists; an article on The Root asserting that Russian hackers changed votes in the 2016 election that was subsequently removed for failing to meet basic fact-checking standards.

And that's just the past ten days.  In some sense, the media can't help but chase sensationalist stories.  The digitization of news, and its increased reach through the internet, has commoditized its purpose.  Social media's democratization of communication has increased competition for attention spans.  The media industry had no choice but to follow Albert Jay Nock's three ineluctable laws of economics: news has become cheaper, simpler, and produced in such vast quantity that stories chase an increasingly elusive perception of novelty.

Reader demand can't be forgotten, either.  In fact, it's reader demand, or the lack thereof, that has been the real death sentence of traditional media, particularly physical papers like the Daily News.  "The owner didn't decide to shrink the paper.  The reader decided to shrink the paper," said reporter Charlie LeDuff back in 2008.  So it is with Daily News.  Tronc may be a profit-hungry company, but you can't print news copy on sentimentality.  Readers – customers, really – have to want to buy a newspaper.  And the demand just isn't there anymore.

Again, in any other industry, Willy Loman's dictum that "a man is not a piece of fruit" would guide my sympathy.  Just not journalism, which has been forced into trading its soul for clicks and page views.

There's a rough justice in reporters facing the same prospects of the working-class grunts whom they snidely suggested learn to code in lieu of their local factory closing.  It turns out that Schumpeterian creative destruction can worm its way into any industry.

Journalists will finally get firsthand experience with the feeling casting machine-setters and metal-fitters have when their final paycheck arrives.  It couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch.

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