More: “We envision a day when CNN is no longer in business. We envision a day when The New York Times closes its doors. I think that day is possible.”
The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins suggests taking these threats seriously. In an essay for Columbia Journalism Review, Coppins writes that Boyle’s doomsday talk “barely registered in broader media circles. The site and its staff have become known for this kind of bluster, and most journalists have taught themselves to tune it out. Maybe we ought to be paying closer attention.” And the kicker: “If the Trump era has taught us anything, it should be that these elements of the conservative media are not to be underestimated. In 2016, they conquered the Republican Party. Now they’re coming for the press.”
Indeed they are. As Coppins points out, there’s a concerted effort among outlets like Breitbart and their ilk to discredit the mainstream media out of existence. Election night was a watershed, as the projections of various establishment news outlets crumbled in real time on TV screens across the country. Those projections erred.
Yet we’re more than two years into the Trump-Breitbart assault on the organs of establishment media. By now, we’d surely see some evidence that the ABC Newses and the New York Timeses and The Washington Posts are beginning their march toward extinction. Coppins writes:
This is, of course, a worst-case scenario. But is it really so far-fetched? Already, many of the nation’s most important outlets—the publications and networks that comprise the core of American journalism—have seen their audience shrink and splinter; their credibility plummet among vast swathes of the public; and their financial futures turn bleak. If The New York Times and ABC News were to shut down or, more likely, dwindle into shells of their former selves, would they be replaced with new mega-outlets that share their resources, their reach, and their editorial values? It’s possible. But it seems just as likely that they wouldn’t be replaced at all.
There’s no question that mainstream outlets could “dwindle.” But thanks in part to the assault of President Trump, Boyle and other guys on their team, these organizations appear to have found a third wind. To wit:
- CNN was headed toward $1 billion in profits last year. Fox News? Nearly $1.7 billion in profits. To understand from where those profits arise, have a look at a chart from Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media” report from June:
- The major news networks broadcast a dinosaur of a news report every night. Even in the digital age, that institution appears to be hanging on. Again, Pew:
- As for the Sunday political talk shows? Pew:
- The New York Times has been gathering digital subscriptions as quickly as Twitter-born allegations of liberal bias.
- The Washington Post is roaring.
There are business-model problems across the industry. Local and regional newspapers are sucking wind. Audiences are fragmenting, and digital revenue strategies are still evolving.
But! The very forces that Coppins cites as an existential problem — Breitbartians and their threats and their flimsy stories — are producing a golden-age-ito for the mainstream media. There are not just more stories; there are more readers, more viewers. And more passion.
Another thing, Coppins: If fellows like Boyle actually succeeded in eliminating the mainstream media, what on earth would they write about? Try searching under “fake news” at Breitbart.com. Mainstream media is a founding plank of conservative media’s business model.