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Continuing major media circulation collapse: Implications for ID

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In “’Washington Post’ Faces Circulation, Revenue Collapse” (Breitbart, May 8, 2012), John Nolte reports,

… the Post just reported one of the biggest circulation drops of any major newspaper with the lucrative Sunday edition selling 5.2% fewer copies and the daily edition skidding almost 10%.

We’re seeing the same with the collapse of CNN’s ratings.

Big changes in how news is gathered and disseminated could be good or bad for intellectual freedom and free speech – which are as important to our community as silencing dissent is to the Darwin lobby.

Which leads me to say: Nolte makes several questionable assumptions, one of which is that progressive, left-wing bias caused the collapse of the big traditional media.

Here’s another view: As these behemoths declined in importance to the dissemination of news, they grew increasingly easy for partisan interests to capture and completely dominate.

In other words, the decline in the need for their services is the horse, and the capture by exclusively partisan interests is the cart.

Which resulted in this, for example: Simple tasks like actually reading the Tennessee schools bill and reporting on what it said could not be carried out.

Which doesn’t mean that no one anywhere would carry out such tasks. Thousands of people did. It only means that no one still working in the behemoth is likely to carry them out. Increasingly, thoughtful critique and dissent is moving both online and indie.

The news behemoths are, as a result, more likely to be the consumption choice of less well-informed people – who do not mind being less well-informed. Which in turns frees the behemoths to be more irresponsible. They pay few penalties apart from their declining circulation.

Two risks are: That governments they favour will try to rescue them. What an expensive way of prolonging their agony! Put another way, their rescue is an unreasonable burden on the taxpayer when the government has cheaper and more efficient propaganda vehicles available.

Second, that the behemoths will increasingly function as impediments to intellectual freedom and public discussion. It makes sense; their remaining core readers will increasingly view such exercises as threats or impediments. But maintaining intellectual freedom has never been easy anyway.

And it’s a great time to be an indie!

I am working on a proposal for a NASA mission and suggested that we could have a graduate student analyze the data. This would give it some educational benefit, check some boxes in the proposal evaluation process, and build some bridges between NASA and higher ed. And everyone knows that graduate students are cheap labor too. Well, the student may feel that way, but the overhead on a graduate student salary is about 150%. The student gets something like $25k/year, but the school gets $40k. I remember about 20 years ago a fiasco when Stanford charged 200% overhead and used it to buy a yacht for the president. At that point two things happened: (a) every school that charged more dropped their rates to 42% overhead, and (b) my school raised their overhead from 25% to 42%. Except that this was 20 years ago, and the rates are now up to 150% and no one seems to care. What does this have to do with legacy media? Well, the government took over the funding of higher education, first by funding students with Pell Grants, and then by funding researchers with NSF, NASA and NIH grants. The grant givers, like all government bureaucracies, don't care what the rates are because it is "other people's money", as long as they can't be accused of favoritism. So as long as everybody charges the same amount, the system runs smoothly. But look at what this does. If your school charges less, it gets fewer grants because it is making everybody else look bad. So the price goes up every year, fewer graduate students can be afforded, less education occurs, fewer grants get awarded, less research is done, more proposal writing is needed which takes away from research, and the system goes into "educational collapse". It is more than mainstream media that is collapsing, and it is not just "indie" news that is responsible. Something more basic is happening to the interaction between government and society. Something sapping the energy and vitality out of our society. Something related to entitlements and welfare. Something related to money and short-term profits. Something related to ethics and goal-oriented planning. Robert Sheldon
JB: Multiply the tuition bubble by the patent rise of politically correct indoctrination, polarisation and censorship by the projected rise of the open OS -- Android -- educational tablet PC as a platform and see if you do not see a major opportunity for a completely different style of education and general information, news, views and even publishing, as a balance or even replacement. Think, cybercampuses backed up by digital libraries and local micro-campus centres based in community institutions such as businesses, private schools, youth centres or even churches etc. (I am actually working down this sort of line, for somewhat different reasons, in my part of the world.) KF kairosfocus
YEAHHHHHH!! Surely the left wing bias or any bias has damaged these rags finally. Yet another big point is the intellectual and creativity situation. If they are left wing then they wouldn't be as talented as a cross section or anyways as right wing talent. (If I may say so). Further the great passion of big media was that because it was prestiges they selected people based on identity. In short no true Americans (white, yankee, Southern, Protestant,now some Catholic, men) were being hired or promoted. the big media is skewed to ethnic/female demographics in front and behind the scenes. They dumbed it down. They bored it down. Right wing stuff is more open to american men and so superior . this despite less money or other details of big media. Likewise other sources of news allows better people to prevail over the controlled identity quotos and passions. Nothing wrong with the news but with newsgathers. People will read and watch but its got to have quality and fairness. its too many people of colour and too many chicks relative to talent and moral and legal justice in hiring/promotion. This surely must be a factor in the small circles that actually are responsible for getting and keeping audiences. A great head start and then blow it. hire the best and give a fair shake on great matters of civilization and your ratings should be fine. How about in the science section creationist commentators?? Robert Byers
It not just mainstream media that's in a free fall. Academia is too, with the tuition bubble about to burst. Large layoffs at many universities are coming and research grants will be cut. How do you think that will affect pro Darwinian professors like PZ Meyers? Is he a help or hindrance to the University? I think he's an embarrassment. julianbre
And, I am seeing the 7" Android Tablet that wants to go for about US$100 as a break-point where a viable access device shifts the balance of everything. kairosfocus
Yes, probably, kairosfocus, in the sense that the core readership doesn't provide any incentive for them to pull out of the vortex. New media is not by any means an unalloyed benefit, but it is certainly the way things are going. And for at least a decade it is likely to be dominated by startups and indies. Old media was like that too, when it was vital. In Canada, for example, it is amazing how many stories are now broken by indie blogs and only later picked up by the legacies. News
News, I suspect the two factors may be mutually reinforcing, in a spiral, or even a vortex. kairosfocus

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