Mediaculture: Reflections on the effect of media and culture on our faith
Most of you, though not all, reading this are doing so by holding a magazine made of paper. That print medium is under durress in a culture obsessed with immediate profits rather than long-term health.
He reports on how, in just over a week, “three of the biggest players in American newspapers—Gannett, Tribune Company and E. W. Scripps, companies built on print franchises that expanded into television—dumped those properties like yesterday’s news in a series of spinoffs.”
It’s one more example of how the financial desires of Wall Street are deemed more important than the needs of Main Street, where most of us live.
Although newspapers continue to generate cash and solid earnings, those results are not enough to satisfy investors.
Media giant Time Warner cut loose Time, Inc., the largest magazine publisher in the United States, which carried $1.3 billion in debt.
E. W. Scripps and Journal Communications merged, then spun off their combined newspapers, leaving behind a company focused on broadcast television.
On Aug. 5, the Tribune Company officially introduced a separate publishing division so that it could concentrate on television and handed the new company $350 million in debt.
That same day, Gannett, the largest U.S. newspaper publisher and publisher of USA Today, said its print division would go it alone.
Carr compares these events to one long episode of “Divorce Court.”
He writes: “It’s not that television is such a spectacular business—there are plenty of challenges on that front—but newspapers and magazines are clearly going to be smaller, less ambitious businesses and journalistic enterprises regardless of how carefully they are operated.”
What does this mean for those of us on Main Street? It means a diminishment of quality news reporting.
A better question is, Do we care? Are we happy reading opinions (generally the ones we agree with) and looking at cute cat videos on Facebook rather than learning what’s going on in the world and how we might help make it a better place?
Carr doesn’t look to blame anyone. “A free-market economy is moving to reallocate capital to its more productive uses, which happens all the time,” he writes.
But then he points to our apathy. “It’s a measure of the basic problem that many people haven’t cared or noticed as their hometown newspapers have reduced staffing, days of circulation, delivery and coverage,” he writes. “Will they notice or care when those newspapers go away altogether? I’m not optimistic about that.”
We live in a culture where making money for investors supercedes creating a better society for everyone in the long-term. We’d rather build more prisons and live with a crumbling infrastructure than pay for education and help those living in poverty.
Our values are myopic, focused on our immediate desires instead of on the needs of our children or grandchildren.
Leaving newspapers and magazines to make it (or not make it) on their own is one more example of such myopic thinking. We’ll all pay for it.
Gordon Houser is associate editor of The Mennonite.