Listen To Mother: A Gloomy Take On The Creaking News Business

Will Lewis, the new CEO of The Washington Post, wasn’t joking when he said, “ “My hunch is that the existing model is creaking.” 

“Creaking??” exclaims Monika Bauerlein in Mother Jones. “We are losing newspapers at the rate of 10 a month. Some of the biggest newsrooms of the digital age have shut down or are circling the drain.” 

To be precise, layoffs are “happening at a record pace (at least 800 of them this January alone, on top of a record layoff year in 2023),” Bauerlein adds.“The Washington PostViceTimeSports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times. Even the Wall Street Journal. Not to mention the Baltimore Sunpurchased by the conservative billionaire who owns Sinclair Broadcasting (of anchors-reading-canned-editorial fame).”



Mother Jones, a pioneering journalistic product, should know. 

“What is—to use a word smart men love to toss out—the gamechanger for the news business?” Bauerlein asks. 

The answer: “There isn’t one. Period. End of story.

“That’s not a doom prediction,” Bauerlein adds. “It’s just a reality check. Because the news ‘business’ is over. Dead. No smart guy or better mousetrap is going to get us to a world where quality journalism makes enough money to survive as a for-profit business.”

“And the truth is, it never did. There was a period when publishers and broadcasters raked in the dough because they were the only ones who could get ads in front of eyeballs. But even then, what made the money was not the shoeleather accountability work. It was the sports section, the real estate supplement, the bar ads.”

Ouch. But it gets worse. “Sure, there are zombies walking around: hedge fund–owned newspapers, digital startups trying to party like it’s 2009magazines run by Anna Wintour. But they are getting shakier with each year, sometimes each week. The Messenger, which launched last year with a promise to assemble a giant audience with viral stories and softball Donald Trump interviews, was still publishing when I started writing this column. By the time I found a closing sentence eight hours later it was gone, having set on fire $50 million in startup capital—enough to run Mother Jones well into 2026.”

Hang in there, Monika. Mother Jones is still an absolutely essential read. 




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