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News Media Has a Brightside Despite Constant Negativity

Reading about the news media has been depressing lately on many levels. Layoffs galore, reporters and editors afraid to challenge a threat to democracy, more companies relying on AI to create content… honestly, if you could go back 30 years and warn your younger self to go into any industry but the media, you’d do it and nobody would blame you.

Or maybe you wouldn’t do that, because there’s something about you and something about media that were meant for each other. You can’t imagine doing anything else, or at least, given the option, you wouldn’t want to do something else, money and prestige be damned. You believe in your medium, you believe in journalism or talk radio or whatever it is that you do, and you’re not ready to give up.

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If that’s you, perhaps you could use a little encouragement about now. So, let’s Mr. Brightside this thing and think about the positive, because doomscrolling isn’t going to change anything, either.

First, while it may be frustrating that anyone can post stuff on social media and call themselves “journalists,” it’s encouraging that voices previously shut out of the conversation are able to be heard. Sure, they’re competing with a lot of noise – especially the disinformation merchants and party apparatchiks that spread falsehoods and endanger democracy – but you can get the truth and cogent, accurate analysis if you wisely curate your news sources and avoid the conspiracy theorists.

And, yeah, there are fewer reporting jobs in all media, but at least someone who’s been let go by the big news organizations can go independent and get readers to subscribe through Substack, Medium, Ghost, or Patreon.  Losing your news media job doesn’t have to end your career, although it might make your finances a little touch-and-go for a while.

Talk radio got you down? It’s all the same right-wing ranting aimed squarely at the Villages crowd? Podcasts are the antidote, with spoken word audio for every taste, available on-demand. As for the broadcast version, well… um… maybe there’ll be some more audio advertising dollars aimed at the elderly male listener.

Maybe some radio operator will take a chance on hosts who aren’t like the current crop.  Maybe they’ll discover that the electrical interference buzz on AM radio has therapeutic or medicinal value, or is transmitting communications from aliens or the dearly departed. Or maybe someone under the age of 65 will by accident hit the AM button on the car infotainment display and touch off a trend, like how vinyl records returned to semi-prominence. It could happen!

Public media has its own problems, but the idea of publicly-funded journalism remains promising. In a year when ProPublica won a Pulitzer, it’s not unreasonable to look for more of that. Newspapers – the kind you’d find in your driveway every morning – are pretty moribund, and the number of remaining local papers with few or no local reporters is growing (thanks loads, Gannett!), but there are also some papers managing to get by or even thrive as digital operations and do some great work, so maybe that’ll be better monetized.

Cable television seems to be irrelevant nowadays and cord-cutters are noting the great expense of replicating the cable bundle, but streaming does offer alternatives, and if you don’t like the cable news networks, you’ll find all kinds of streaming news channels online, including from the major broadcast networks and from trusted news brands overseas, so there’s growth there even if it isn’t immediately apparent.

All of this could be moot by the end of the decade, of course. But for now, there are glimmers of hope, tiny, minuscule, almost imperceptible glimmers. Hey, there may even be jobs for some of you, especially when management discovers that AI isn’t infallible and actually requires plenty of human intervention to train the technology and correct the results, that human connection is a far better way to develop an audience than a computer sucking up show prep from the internet and voicing it with an artificial jock, that AI does a terrible job of reporting on sporting events and city council meetings and practically everything other than rewriting celebrity gossip from TMZ.

See? I can be positive about the industry, even though, well, you know. And, hey, look at us here at Barrett Media, ready to expand in July to cover more of the media. Growth! A guy (Jason) who’s willing to roll the dice and invest in building instead of cutting! This could be fun!

Okay, enough sunshine. Next week, back to the usual grumbling. Gonna try doing that as long as someone is willing to pay me to complain. It’s a semi-living.

Perry Michael Simon
Perry Michael Simon
Perry Michael Simon is a weekly news media columnist for Barrett Media. He previously served as VP and Editor/News-Talk-Sports/Podcast for Prior to joining the industry trade publication, Perry spent years in radio working as a Program Director and Operations Manager for KLSX and KLYY in Los Angeles and New Jersey 101.5 in Trenton. He can be found on X (formerly Twitter) @PMSimon.

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