Nikki Usher: The Culture War Swallows the News

From a story on by Nikki Usher headlined “The Culture War Swallows the News”:

It’s 2037, and the expected decline in access to local news and information hasn’t happened — at least not how we thought — but the inequality between those who have access to high-quality journalism and those who don’t mirrors the even starker income inequality dividing the country.

Local digital-first sites, once known as local television, have AI anchors. Audiences (wrongly) believe them to be more neutral than the humans that cover national issues, either for the Republican-backed internet or the “regular internet” now only used by Democrats and for Hollywood’s content distribution.

In Republican states, community newspapers have been replaced by a party-funded local media system that provides partisan news and information specific to a community, especially about local school boards and upcoming elections. In Democrat-majority states, legislators pump public money into the decaying news ecosystem, with journalists self-censoring any critique that might endanger the cash flow, and almost all of which flows to big population centers.

It’s actually a golden time for metropolitan journalism. In large cities, the New York Times and the Washington Post have bought up any remaining newspapers, and are going head-to-head fighting for the well-off city residents willing to pay for news. The Times and the Post are also chasing the expensive and exclusive local POLITICO and Axios outfits, who have cornered the local business and political elite (replacing the Wall Street Journal).

To appeal to the liberal elites who will pay, news outlets seem to now have a social justice focus, but journalism still remains exclusionary and oblivious to historically-marginalized groups. It’s popular for wealthy parents to complain about their “journalism runaway” offspring, who move to rural America and use their trust funds to create digital community journalism zines read only by friends and family. Luckily, these “journalism runaways” come to their senses, generally after a violent encounter with a local who destroys their self-driving electric car, and come running back to the cities to become a new generation of elite news consumers.

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