Judith Miller, adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, City Journal contributing editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter formerly with The New York Times, delivered the forum address on Tuesday. She discussed the current climate for newspapers and why journalism matters so much.
“A free and independent press is a national security imperative for our nation,” Miller began.
“These, my friends, are very weird times. I can’t remember a stranger time in our country. Just when we’re in need of thoughtful, factual, objective and in-depth reporting, such reporting is in danger.”
However, she explained, newspapers are dying—especially local newspapers in places like Provo and Salt Lake. She shared statistics about the decline of print journalism:
- At least 1,000 rural communities don’t have a single local outlet for reporting news
- Newspapers dropped from 9,000 in 2004 to 7,000 in 2018
- Of those 7,000 only about 1,200 are daily newspapers
- 75% have a circulation of 10,000 or less
- Between 2004 and 2018 1,800 newspapers shut down or merged and many more cutback from daily circulation
- Ownership of newspapers is becoming more highly concentrated as the largest 25 newspaper chains own about 1/3 of papers
- 60% of newspaper jobs have vanished – more than in coal mining, steel or fishing
- Newspapers are still declining by 1,000 jobs a month
In this shrinkage and consolidation, Americans are suffering, Miller explained. They don’t get local news or objective reporting about politics and policy. TV and social media are not making up for the decline in newspaper reporting.
“TV is no substitute for newspapers are watchdogs, nor is social media,” said Miller.
“Most of what we get as news on the internet is un-vetted, the product is uneven and surveys show that Americans don’t trust what they see and read on the internet nearly as much as they do to what is printed in their local newspaper.”
With the decline of newspapers, there has been an uptake in misinformation and “fake news” that is malicious and disruptive to the political process, Miller warned.
“This is the new form of warfare, a new weapon in the hands of America’s enemies,” she said.
Attacking the free press has also been an internal threat as politicians like Donald Trump mock and discredit journalists, she said.
“A free and open press is a guarantor of democracy,” concluded Miller.
“Continue producing real news. A free, independent, responsible press must survivor or our republic will not.”
Next Devotional: Scott Miller, College of Humanities
Scott Miller, dean of the BYU College of Humanities and professor of Asian & Near Eastern Languages, will deliver the next BYU Devotional on Tuesday, October 2, at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center.