The deluded tears of Taylor Lorenz
The death of the mainstream media is nothing to cry about.
American media’s preeminent Mean Girl, Taylor Lorenz, would like all us plebs to know that things are, like, really, really hard for her and her fellow mainstream-media journalists right now.
Earlier this week, in a video breathtaking for its profound lack of self-awareness, Lorenz decried a ‘really dark’ period of mass lay-offs throughout the media industry. ‘Tens of thousands of journalists have been laid off in the past year’, she said. ‘Pretty much the entire digital media ecosystem which myself and a lot of other millennial journalists came up in, has been completely hollowed out.’ ‘If you’re a young journalist today’, she continued, ‘there’s almost no on-ramp to traditional journalism’.
In a sense, she is right – people losing their livelihoods is always awful. But to be very blunt, and putting individuals to one side, the mainstream media only have themselves to blame for their demise. For one, they have catastrophically failed in their duties to inform the American public these past few years. Instead, today’s journalism nags, it propagandises, it lies and it misrepresents.
Besides, what would Lorenz, the queen of Twitter and TikTok, know about ‘traditional’ journalism, anyway? In truth, so-called traditional journalism is merely a nostalgic memory wafting around in the Trump-deranged brains of well-heeled, blue-state Boomers. It’s gone. It’s dead. It has ceased to exist. And it’s been that way for a lot longer than Lorenz seems to realise.
A good 10 years before Twitter even existed, I was given a very similar message about the state of the media from almost every single editor I worked with at the New York Times. I was told – correctly – that the golden age was over, and I had missed it by about 20 years. The lionisation of reporters like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the 1970s, after they broke the Watergate scandal, produced an oversupply of crusading young Ivy Leaguers, keen to right the wrongs of society. And there were not enough jobs to go around.
The internet then revived the media landscape somewhat. But what the internet giveth, the internet taketh away. Instead of producing a new digital golden age, what the internet gave instead was a horde of millennials with Twitter accounts and unearned superiority complexes.
At the same time as print sales were declining, the class divide between the people writing the news and the general public grew to Jupiter-sized proportions. It has been decades since young people from poor or working-class backgrounds could realistically get the connections required to land media jobs. And even if they could, they would struggle to afford to live in expensive cities like New York or Washington, DC. With prestigious graduate programmes in journalism costing an actual fortune – Columbia has the nerve to charge $126,691 for its nine-month course – anyone starting out in the media who does not have millions in a trust fund is, at this point, purchasing a one-way ticket to penury.
Lorenz’s current employer is the Washington Post, which also shed a lot of its staff late last year – despite, as Lorenz points out, having the potentially limitless financial backing of ‘billionaires’. Four years ago, the Washington Post had to pay out a whopping $250million to a schoolboy it falsely accused of being a racist. It was later revealed that the teenager, Nicholas Sandmann, was actually the victim of harassment. He was widely condemned in the media, which assumed, because he was wearing a MAGA cap and was anti-abortion, that he must have been the bad guy, without bothering to check the facts.
Despite this and many other instances of journalistic malfeasance, Lorenz thinks Americans should feel really, really sorry for the poor old mainstream media.
Watching this once-vital part of American public life crumble before our eyes is undoubtedly alarming. But far more alarming has been the depths of the self-delusion and corruption into which the American media have sunk in recent years.
This is what Lorenz gets most wrong in her impassioned little speech. She seems to imply that journalists deserve special protection because they are so darn virtuous. Their jobs are so important. When, in reality, the mainstream media have outraged and alienated at least half of the American population. Mainstream journalists have been the main purveyor of government disinformation on topics ranging from Russiagate to the origins of Covid-19 to the culture war. They treat ordinary Americans as akin to domestic terrorists if they do not want boys in girls’ school bathrooms. Far too many media professionals exist in privileged bubbles and make their contempt for regular people – who they never tire of stereotyping as racist, sexist, homophobic mouthbreathers – abundantly clear.
And now we should feel sorry for them? It’s a little late for that.
Jenny Holland is a former newspaper reporter and speechwriter. Visit her Substack here.
Picture by: Getty.
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