How did America become so corrupt? You can blame the death of the newspaper for much of it.

Tyler S. Farley

In light of recent events, many Americans are scratching their heads and wondering how in the world did America become so corrupt. Story after story has the same underlying tone suggesting that yet another American institution is corrupt at the highest level.

But it’s not just big institutions like the FBI, at the local level we are seeing rampant and out of control corruption as well. Small towns, big cities, and the suburbs are all awash in the type of corruption most people have never seen before.

So how did this all happen and how did it get so bad so fast? Well, much of it can be traced back to the death of the newspaper. You see, when the newspaper died, so did long form journalism. And long form journalism, fueled by investigations that would go on for months, are what roots out and exposes corruption and illegal politicians.

In an era of cable and internet news, it’s simply not profitable to have a team of journalists working full time on a story for months only to reveal the findings in a 15 minute story. That story won’t boost ratings, even if the story resonates and become national news. It’s much easier for cable news to just recycle the talking points of the day. Pay a few “experts” to talk about it on camera, then just rinse and repeat day after day.

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Internet news sites operate much the same way. Most “journalists” they hire are required to write several articles a day. It’s impossible to do any real investigative reporting at that rate, so they simply rehash what’s in the 24 hour news cycle that day in what becomes an endless cycle of headlines but no substance.

And that’s the problem, the newspaper and its business model was the only medium where it was profitable to have teams of journalists investigating a story, even if that story took months to complete.

A perfect modern example before newspapers totally died and were bought by billionaires to spread propaganda, was the story featured in the movie Spotlight. The movie tells the real-life story of The Boston Globe “Spotlight” reporters investigating the Catholic church priest abuse scandal. They broke the story and brought it to world’s attention, a story that is still reverberating today.

But the story took months and years of investigation. Cable news or internet click-bait sites could never perform an investigation like that now. It’s simply not profitable for them do so.

At the local level it’s even worse. At least at the national level, cable news will cover corruption when it’s finally found. But at the local level, newspapers were the only ones keeping local politicians and companies honest. But without local papers, or with local papers with very small budgets or ones that are owned by national companies, local politicians are allowed to work with almost no oversight from the media. Their corruption goes totally unchecked until it reaches such a level where they feel they no longer have to even hide it.

Compounding this problem is the fact that billionaires seized on the opportunity to buy marquee newspaper brands for pennies on the dollar. A perfect example is how Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post for $250 million. Just to put that into perspective, reports have shown that Jeff Bezos earns about $250 million a day. So Bezos bought his own global propaganda mouthpiece for what amounts to a day’s salary.

Of course, I don’t want to suggest that in the not-to-distant past journalism was perfect. However, before the decline of the newspaper, there was a functioning fourth estate that kept most corruption from running wild. Sure, the media was always an institution with a liberal bias, but it still functioned when it needed to. You can almost think of it like an old car. It may give you problems but for the most part, it gets the job done. It may be a little ugly and frustrating at times, but at the end of the day you got to where you needed to go. The old-guard media was a lot like this. Sure they injected their petty biases into stories, but high level corruption was always a juicy enough story that they would investigate and publish.

Much of this isn’t really new at all as many honest journalists have lamented for years about the death of the newspaper and the rise of corruption. But I feel this is a story that isn’t well understood among everyday Americans who may think that newspapers going out of business was simply the result of technological changes, and they were replaced by something easier and better, say like the way Craigslist replaced classified ads. But the truth is far from that. Newspapers weren’t replaced by any comparable medium. Instead, they either went away or were bought by billionaires who took advantage of the trust and legacy that many newspaper brands brought to them.

So while corruption has always been around and always will be, newspapers were one of the strongest lines of defense people had to fight and expose it. The newspaper model of old actually made it profitable for journalists to do true investigative journalism on a large scale, and do it regularly. Sadly, there is nothing like that out there today to take their place and we are seeing the repercussions on an almost daily basis.

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