Technology changed the game and put pressure on the industry. Jobs are being lost at an accelerating rate. Elements once core to the business have gone away and they’re not coming back. Ownership continues to make big money, but for the people doing the actual work, the salaries are flat — if the jobs are available at all. It’s often impossible for employees to afford to live in the places where they work. There’s a lot of talk and a lot of promises, but it’s completely unclear that anyone has a fix.
I’m talking about those industries where working, middle class Americans are angry and feeling hopeless against the tide of so-called progress.
I’m also talking about journalism.
And there’s the rub. There are many troubling conflicts in 2016 America, and one of them that bothers me most is the split between the working class and journalists. First, many journalists have actually made an effort to point attention to the plight of those on the wrong side of the widening economic divide. Second, journalists themselves have watched their industry crumble under the pressure of the modernizing world. Think about it: You were in the newspaper business and the world decided it no longer wanted paper. And that was just for starters. Third, the media really does play an important role in bringing truth to power.
A lot of people have an incentive to keep you from being aware of this fact, but you’re on the same side. Journalists aren’t against working people. They protect working people. They are working people.
Working journalists are working class America.
I was born in Marin County to incredibly supportive and generous parents. I was lucky enough to come of age within a few steps of the epicenter of the Internet boom. When globalization bent the curve of history, piles of equity slid in the direction of me and my tech industry cohort. Many of us in this industry are smart. But we’re also lucky. I am at the top of the latter list. I showed up at a gold rush with a shovel and a pan. That it’s working out sure doesn’t make me a genius.
So there’s no reason for anyone to listen to me wax knowledgeable about the plight of people in the rust belt or coal country. But here’s what I do know. If working people are successfully pitted against working people, the investor class wins.
For those who benefit from the economic divide, the growing distrust and frustration building up between journalists and other workers is good economic news. First, because journalists who write about poor working conditions or unfair business practices will be less likely to be trusted by affected workers. And second — and this is the crucial part — if workers are fighting workers, then they aren’t fighting ownership.
A couple years ago in San Francisco, we had a battle brewing between those who took public transit buses and those who took corporate buses.
Here’s the simple math: If workers taking one bus are fighting with workers taking another bus, then the guy headed to the office in the backseat of limo is the winner.
If our trust in journalism is successfully crippled, the biggest losers will be those who need the journalism’s protection the most. We can all have our political differences. But before we let a shared hate send Americans from the frying pan into the fire, at least pause long enough to ask yourself who’s stirring the pot.