An excellent Salon article, “Mainstream media meltdown!” by Robert McChesney explores the accelerating decline of journalism, how the internet magnifies the tension between journalism and commercialism, and the threat this poses to democracy.
The article is excerpted from McChesney’s new book, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy. McChesney describes the financial struggle to keep news rooms alive, staff layoffs, outsourcing, and corporate business models that allow content to be determined by the number of page views it will produce and the advertising that can be placed next to it.
McChesney also describes how the online journalism business model has led to slashing journalists’ wages while workloads are “increased to levels never before seen.” When AOL bought The Huffington Post, AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong sent a memo stating that all of AOL’s journalistic employees will be required to produce ‘five to 10 stories per day.’”
To save money, dozens of commercial news media now contract with the firm Journatic to provide local news coverage. “Journatic’s local coverage is provided by low-paid writers and freelancers in the United States and, ironically enough, the Philippines, where Journatic hires writers ‘able to commit to 250 pieces/week minimum’ at 35 to 40 cents a piece.” The pieces are “little more than rewritten news releases,” according to a whistleblower.
As McChesney asks: “What will happen to democracy if the Web business model can’t fund journalism?”