An excellent point from Dave Roberts:
The classic post-war American newspaper has been largely insulated from market pressure and competition. Typically, you’d have a city and the city would have a newspaper. People could choose to subscribe to the newspaper, or they could choose not to. But they couldn’t choose a different paper. You just had to decide, as a citizen and as an individual, if you wanted to be the sort of person who read his town’s broadsheet or else if you didn’t want to be that sort of person. Thus, the audience was guaranteed and, at the time, so was the advertising. Under the circumstances, papers were remarkably free to just do whatever they wanted to do with their actual content.
When you talk about this with working journalists and newspaper nostalgics, there’s a tendency to focus on the upsides of this insulation from market competition. You could dispatch some reporters to work on a Pulitzer-contending feature or major investigation and not really worry too much if the marginal increase in readership justified the cost. You could keep a Moscow bureau open just because you thought it was important. All good stuff. But it’s also bread this weird arrogance where nobody in the business seems to think that the deplorably low quality of the product plays any role whatsoever in the declining relevance of these institutions. But here’s a George Will column in my paper, lying to me about global warming. Here’s Will’s editor refusing to correct the record or say anything about why he decided it would be a good idea to run a column in which George Will lies about global warming. And now here’s the very same indifferent-to-the-truth editorial team writing about global warming. And I’m supposed to read the editorial why? What value to me, as a consumer of information, do inaccurate uncorrected George Will columns offer me? How will the addition of Bill Kristol to the roster increase the value of the newspaper to me as a consumer of information?
These issues don’t get considered, at all. These guys are Important Conservatives so it’s important that we pay them to lie to people.