There’s an excellent, if scary, article by Eric Klinenberg in the most recent issue of Mother Jones. In “Breaking the News” he reports that the FCC chairman wants to lift the cap on media cross-ownership – so badly that his office destroyed a study that found it would be bad for society. Case in point: Tribune Media, exempt from the FCC rules. It gutted its subsidiary, the L.A. Times.
The number of newspaper employees has dropped 20% since 1990; in-depth news and investigative reporting is becoming a luxury even though newspapers are profitable – with many publicly-traded chains raking in 20-25% profit margins.
As Dean Basquet, formerly of the L.A. Times, says in a sidebar – this is bad news.
We are not a regular business . . . We insist that the mayor and governor meet us when we want to meet with them. We insist that the military let us travel with them; we insist that the president has press conferences. There aren’t a lot of companies that can make those kinds of demands of the government or even private business. In return we’re going to act a little bit like a public-service institution. We can’t pretend we’re like just another private business, because we’re not. We get too many benefits from government and have too much responsibility to act like Microsoft.