By SKIP TUCKER, Alabama Daily News Contributor
I love newspapers, and always have. I love the smell of printer’s ink. I love the hum and ubiquitous clack of the newsroom.
Journalism chose me for a profession the night Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I was a sophomore at college, studying business and psychology, driving through a rainy Mississippi night to New Orleans to meet a friend. I heard the news on the radio and by the time I arrived in the French Quarter I knew I would be changing majors.
Changes, all right. When I started at the Mountain Eagle in Jasper a couple of years later, it had just switched to a cold-type offset copy process for printing, which was a monumental change within the business, and two years after that we had the first front-end computer system of any small state daily. Now pages are sent to print at a button-click.
The Montgomery Advertiser is now Gannett (USA Today) paper and much of its design work comes from out of state. They’ve recently made a transition to hyper-local “solutions” journalism, which shows you that people are more interested in reading about local and state issues that affect them in their hometown newspaper.
The business is changing exponentially and, nationally, big journalism is going to hell in a handcar, just about that same rate.
Listen to this. According to industry-standard Pew Research, in 2017 the total weekday newspaper circulation fell another 8 percent. It marks the 28th consecutive year of decline.
Around 2010, the New York Times weekday print circulation dipped below a million for the first time in decades. Now it’s about 570,000, though its losses are offset some by its digital. Its owners say “print” will last may be ten more years. Digital is the future.
That isn’t all, though. The Times is not just liberal, it is the Mother of American liberal thought. What it produces trickles down through national news services, TV and radio.
Its opposite number, The Wall Street Journal showed a circulation of .2.3 million in its June, 2017 filing with the SEC. USA Today, maybe more middle of the road, showed 1.7 million.
Basically, those circulations, respectively, at least to my mind, show conservative, liberal and moderate. As recently noted, America is, happily, almost equally divided between conservative and liberal thought, with the moderates making the difference in circulations and politics.
The same holds true with television news. Fox in February had 2.7 million viewers while MSNBC, CNN and CBS share the liberal viewership, which totaled near the same number.
While conservatives and liberals stand at the same strength nationally, that is not the case in Sweet Home Alabama. Gallup polls show Alabama and Mississippi swap year to year as American’s most conservative states.
In Alabama, 46.5 percent of people identify as conservative; 31.3 percent as moderate; and 15.3 percent as liberal. For comparison, the most liberal state in the union is the District of Columbia, 40.3 percent.
Let me make that clear. The larger news outlets in Alabama would be classified, to me at least, as leaning to the left. Place 100 of their readers or listeners in a row and only 15 of them would agree with their embedded points of view.
Alabama is more wildly conservative, so to speak, than DC is wildly liberal.
I guess the thing that can be drawn from this is to ask dwindling liberal news outlets just what the hell they think they are doing, if they intend to stay in business.
Do liberal Alabama news outlets think everyone in the state will wake up suddenly one morning, slap their collective foreheads, and exclaim, “Why, I am a dunder and a head and perhaps worse, and it is clear to me now that members of the liberal media are right (well, correct) and have been right all along.”
Or are their readerships and viewerships going to keep spinning down the big porcelain until nothing is left but for them to see which can out-liberal the other, the winner being determined by seeing who closes its doors first.
It reminds me of the two farmers, next door neighbors, who “traded” with each other all the time, and their main item of trade was a fine mule. Every few months, one would sell it to the other until one day the present owner sold it to a man in town.
When the other farmer learned of it, he stormed over to see his neighbor.
“What do you think you’re doing,” he yelled. “We were both making a fine living off that animal.”
Skip Tucker was editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle in Jasper, then communications secretary for gubernatorial folks like George McMillan, Charlie Graddick and Jim Folsom. He ran Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse for in Montgomery for 15 years. He has published one novel, Pale Blue Light, a spy thriller set in The Civil War.