By Mike Rhodes
We know about the crisis in the newspaper industry, how the Internet and social media have strangled their primary source of income from advertising and how newspapers all over the country are going bankrupt. The Fresno Bee, our local newspaper, is in bankruptcy now and is being taken over by the New Jersey–based Chatham Asset Management hedge fund.
More than 2,000 newspapers have folded since 2004, and that has brought about an opportunity for big corporations and right-wing politicians to control the news you read.
A New York Times article, “As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises,” details a dangerous trend in journalism that is beginning to emerge here in Fresno. A takeover of small local newspapers and the development of online news Web sites are being used by conservative interests to further their goals. They want more Republicans elected to local office, deregulation of industry, privatization of public resources and smaller government.
As Grover Norquist so elegantly put it, “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
Conservative forces are paying to have articles written by journalists that praise Republican candidates, criticize their opponents and whose content is totally controlled by the person paying for the article. These articles are then provided to print outlets all over the country and on the Internet. For newspapers and Web sites controlled by these groups, running the articles is mandatory.
If a big corporation is caught in a scandal, that information might not be printed in the local paper. Instead, you will get articles paid for by the corporation’s public relations team or from a writer paid to produce an article about how wonderful the company is.
Several years ago, I read an article in The New Yorker about a newspaper in India that had perfected this approach to journalism. The Times of India would write a series of articles on how great a politician was based on how much that politician paid the newspaper. How many glowing articles depended on how much the politician paid. If you wanted articles about how awful your opponent was, that cost extra. It was right there in the contract!
Metric Media was cited in a New York Times article as one of the primary players in this “New Journalism” in the United States. They have gone from controlling 300 news sites last year to nearly 1,300 today. The Fresno Leader is their publication in this community. Metric Media has many news outlets in the Central Valley and more than 100 in California.
The Community Alliance newspaper, the one you are holding in your hands, is the antidote to the corrupt journalism being pushed at you by conservative news outlets. If you want alternative/independent journalism to survive in this area, subscribe to this newspaper. If you want the Community Alliance to thrive, subscribe, donate and/or become a monthly sustainer.
Also, you are invited to attend our annual fundraiser. This will be a Zoom event (login and other details to come). The theme will be “Where Do We Go From Here?” and will include speakers, music and insight about where this newspaper and the political landscape of this country are headed.
Mike Rhodes is a Fresno Bee retiree whose pension is threatened by the bankruptcy and takeover by the hedge fund. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.