By Opinion & Editorial Editer James Mellen
In November 2019 popular sports journalist website Deadspin was completely gutted when it was taken under new ownership. When the company was purchased in April, the former bosses of the company were fired in favor of representatives of the new owners. Quickly after that the company was changed for the worse. Their website was made completely unusable within a few months. The writers of Deadspin were eventually told to “stick to sports”, that’s to say not write anything that doesn’t directly relate to sporting events.The end result was a group of writers resigning from Deadspin simultaneously.
Almost nobody went to Deadspin to find out who won the Red Sox game, there are approximately a thousand other sites that can do that better than Deadspin. People came to Deadspin in order to read niche content that wasn’t related to sports. I personally went to Deadspin everytime Chapo Trap House host Virgil Texas wrote an article.
The thing about niche media however, is that it doesn’t maximize profits in literally every way possible. So if you’re a big media company like G/O media, there’s no point in keeping you. For G/O it makes as much sense to buy 10 companies, gut all of them and hope that one of them increases in popularity (therefore having one business that makes maximum profit), than it does to buy 10 companies and allow all of them to continue writing niche content (and make modest profit). As consumers of journalism we might think of it as “just the news”, as this kind of public recourse that exists to the public, similar to parks or rodes. However in reality news articles are a commodity that consumers are paying for ny looking at ad space.
This brings me to the fundamental flaw with journalism as it has been existing in recent years. In order for anything to get published it has to be funded by someone, and that someone is usually the elite billionaire who owns the publishing company. In the case of Deadspin the elite billionaire is Jim Spanfeller. In the case of say The Washington Post that elite billionaire is Jeff Bezos.
The effects of major corporations owning these media companies is evident. In the case of Deadspin the writers were no longer allowed to write the type of articles that they enjoyed writing, because those articles were not seen as profitable. However in the case of The Washington Post a much more sinister trend can be seen, the articles that relate to Amazon on the website are much more in favor of the company than those that are not. At the very least, any article that is going to be critical of the way Amazon treats its workers is going to come from somewhere other than The Washington Post.
Another trend that is emerging in the modern media landscape, is the complete lack of coverage of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Sanders fought hard against Jeff Bezos in order to get the workers of Amazon a union. So it makes perfect sense that Jeff Bezos media company is creating fewer articles about Bernie Sanders than it is about the other front runners of the 2020 primary race.
It wasn’t always as necessary for journalists to be funded by a major corporation. One hundred years ago newspapers by and large were local papers, which served to create local news for the people of a certain area. It was during this time period that politically radical and labor journalism thrived. However in 2019 in order for something to get published, and the person who wrote it to get paid for their labor it needs to be done by a major corporation, which means that what is published is only going to service those corporations.