Newspaper chain Gannett has told its newsrooms across the nation to cut down on opinion pieces and biased articles which are “repelling” their readers and driving away subscribers. Gannett, which owns USA Today as well as local papers in virtually every state, is rated “Left-Center” by Media Bias / Fact Check, so you can bet the readers aren’t objecting to the rare conservative viewpoint. No, they’re just sick of being lectured to.
According to DailyMail, a committee of editors from the chain’s newspapers said in an April presentation that “readers don’t want us to tell them what to think. They don’t believe we have the expertise to tell anyone what to think on most issues.” DailyMail continued:
Readers this week reacted to the news by telling the media company to hire ‘writers that aren’t left-wing activists.’ Americans’ faith in the media has nose-dived in recent years thanks largely to the widely left-wing bias of many national publications and news networks.
It’s not their audience’s losing faith in the media that has Gannett spooked though. It’s lost revenue from cancelled subscriptions. From the Washington Post:
Not only are editorials and opinion columns “among our least read content,” the committee said, but they are “frequently cited” by readers as a reason for canceling their subscriptions.
USA Today has one of the largest newspaper circulations in the nation, and, when combined with its website USATODAY.com, reaches seven million readers daily. This decision to pull back on serving up opinion is a big deal.
As a result of the order, Gannet’s over 250 newspapers are already scaling back their opinion pages and scrapping political endorsements except on the local level. It seems that Gannett is learning the same lesson as CNN—that constant lecturing, bias, and shaming don’t make people interested in your content. Ratings-challenged CNN is going through its own re-tooling, as our Nick Arama reported in April:
The CEO (Warner Brothers Discovery head David Zaslav, who oversees CNN) told (Oprah) Winfrey that CNN needs to be about reporting and truth and facts. “If we get that, we can have a civilized society,” he said. “And without it, if it all becomes advocacy, we don’t have a civilized society.”
The NY Post weighed in on Gannett’s bias crackdown Friday with an editorial titled, “Corporate media may at last be waking up to reality”:
When the industry became convinced that its job was to tell readers what to think, and how, and when, it started to destroy its own credibility. The vast majority of Americans now have little to no trust in the media to report the news accurately and fairly, per Gallup.
According to a 2021 Gallup poll, the Post is right:
In all, 7% of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” and 29% “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in newspapers, television and radio news reporting — which, combined, is four points above the 32% record low in 2016, amid the divisive presidential election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The pandemic only increased the media’s credibility problem, probably because people locked up in their homes paid more attention and realized that they were constantly being harangued, gaslit, and lied to:
— Candice Malcolm (@CandiceMalcolm) June 10, 2022
While Gannett’s order focuses on getting rid of editorials, letters to the editor, and national political endorsements, I think the message they’re sending is that “straight” articles need to be less biased too. It’s an open secret that most mainstream newspapers operate as propaganda arms of the Democratic National Committee and ignore at least half the country. We may finally be seeing the beginning of change because America’s readers and viewers are waking up—and walking away.