The climate of heightened hostility toward the US press under Donald Trump shows no signs of abating as attention turns to the 2020 election. The relentless attacks appear to be exacerbating already low levels of media trust — especially on the proper .
Over the last year, major US news outlets have reaped both audience attention and near-constant derision for his or her coverage of President Trump, and particularly of the federal inquiry, headed by Robert Mueller, into whether his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. That inquiry yielded dozens of criminal indictments, but when it bound up in March without firmly establishing collusion, Trump and his supporters declared victory and involved retribution against CNN, MSNBC, BuzzFeed, and other news outlets they said misled the American public.
Warning against overcorrection, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan defended aggressive reporting on the Russia story from the Post, the ny Times, the Wall Street Journal, ProPublica, et al. . Recent revelations included a trove of documents showing that plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow continued through the 2016 race — a serious investigative coup for BuzzFeed. Meanwhile, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer exposed deepening ties between the White House and Fox News, including the charge that before the election the broadcaster buried a story on Trump’s payoffs to adult movie star Stormy Daniels.
These controversies have unfolded during a news environment during which audiences remain deeply polarised, far more so than most other countries covered during this report. Concerns about Trump’s continued antagonising of the press as ‘the enemy of the people’ were reinforced within the wake of a shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, in June 2018, that left five staff members dead.
News outlets are navigating this complex political environment within the face of persistent economic pressure. Job cuts have affected a spread of publications, from the venerable Cleveland Plain-Dealer to digital-born First Look Media. Most notably, in January 2019, BuzzFeed laid off 15% of its worldwide workforce (220 positions) an equivalent week that Verizon Media Group, which owns HuffPost, announced a 7% reduction across its media properties, totalling about 800 positions. Gannett, the most important news publisher within the US, also recently announced layoffs at local newspapers in regions round the country, stoking continued concerns about the longer term of local news.
Although viewership of local newscast has held steady, a recent report finds that about 1,800 metro and community newspapers within the US have closed or merged since 2004, and quite 1,300 US communities have lost news coverage completely.1 New efforts to deal with these deficits include an expansion of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network; a reporting collaborative, sponsored by the Solutions Journalism Network, among local newsrooms and institutions in Charlotte, North Carolina; and a $20m fund from the Knight Foundation and therefore the Lenfest Institute to ‘strengthen local journalism for the digital age’.
Significant growth in digital revenues remains elusive for about a couple of large US news outlets. The ny Times announced in February that it had surpassed $709m in digital revenues in 2018 and was on target to grow its digital subscriptions to quite 10m by 2025. Some digital-born organisations aimed to diversify revenue streams by introducing membership models, including BuzzFeed and Quartz. Meanwhile De Correspondent, the digital-born ‘slow news’ operation within the Netherlands whose membership model has made it a darling of the many commentators and pundits, announced plans for an English-language site in November. Enthusiasm quickly soured when CEO Ernst Pfauth revealed in March that De Correspondent would close its ny campaign headquarters and operate the English-language edition from Amsterdam.
The US continues to steer the planet in podcast listening and has seen a wave of daily news-focused offerings. The ny Times’ The Daily, which started in 2017 and now averages 1.75m daily downloads, has been joined by the Washington Post’s Post Reports, Vox’s Today, Explained, Slate’s What Next, ABC News’ Start Here, et al. . Another notable development saw VICE News partner with Spotify to supply the bilingual podcast series Chapo.
Platforms still invest in new initiatives to bolster the news industry. Google recently launched a camp for eight publishers within the US and Canada to develop new digital subscription strategies, while Facebook announced in January that it might dedicate $300m to programmes focused on developing local newsrooms and content globally.
Despite such steps, there are new calls to manage platforms both from the left, led by presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren’s decide to hack tech giants, and from the proper , with prominent Republicans like Senator Ted Cruz accusing Google and Facebook of bias against conservative views.