The media is a food chain, which would fall apart without local newspapers, John Oliver warned on his HBO late-night show Last Week Tonight. Spotlight winning the Best Picture Oscar this year was poignant because newspapers are in big trouble. In even bigger trouble: all those news sites, TV news divisions and places such as Last Week Tonight that often just repackage the work of newspapers.
“Without newspapers around to cite, TV news would just be Wolf Blitzer endlessly batting a ball of yarn around,” Oliver said. “Stupid shows like ours lean heavily on local newspapers. Whenever this show is mistakenly called journalismm it is a slap in the face to the actual journalists whose work we rely on.”
The trouble with the newspaper industry, Oliver said, is that print ads are less popular with advertisers than they used to be, and online ads produce much less revenue — which, sadly, might be the first some of his viewers are hearing of this long-running trend.
Cut to David Simon, The Wire creator and former Baltimore Sun reporter, at a Senate hearing on the “future” of journalism and newspapers, covered by C-SPAN3.
“The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore zoning board hearing is the day that I will be confident that we have reached some sort of equilibrium,” Simon warned. “The next 10 or 15 years in this country are going to be a halcyon era for state and local political corruption. It is going to be one of the great times to be a corrupt politician. I really envy them,” Simon said, and many of Oliver’s viewers saw for the first time.
Except Simon gave that address in 2009 – so long ago that John Kerry, who oversaw the clambake, was still a senator.
Last Week did not show the moment in which Simon made Oliver’s point, only seven years earlier, that “leeches” offer “news” that is mere aggregation, contributing little more than “repetition, commentary and froth.” News consumers acquire their information from these aggregators, abandoning the point of origin.
“In short, the parasite is slowly killing the host,” Simon said.
Which you can watch here: