News About the News

I have to admit that since January 21, for obvious reasons, I’ve been consuming less news. I’m not alone. On Monday, Paul Farhi at The Washington Post wrote about the Trump Slump in news media, which have seen a significant readership/viewership drop-off since February.1 (CNN, for example, has lost 45 percent of its prime-time audience in the past five weeks; The Times has seen a 17 percent drop on its web traffic.)

Back in 2017, former President Trump boasted that media ratings/clicks would “tank” if he weren’t around. Well, that’s true, but it’s also true that fire departments tend to get fewer calls when there isn’t a serial arsonist on the loose. Farhi puts the why a little more delicately than that:

Since then [January], many economies have partially recovered, the rollout of coronavirus vaccines has raised hopes for an end to the pandemic, and Biden has governed in a more low-key fashion than his predecessor.

But the reality is that taking too many media-free deep breaths from the troubles of the world for many—myself included, myself in particular—is a luxury. And not everyone gets that luxury.2

Disengagement is part of why no heads have rolled after a totally avoidable infrastructure collapse allowed dozens of people in Texas to freeze to death in their own homes last month. It’s why the governor here in New York has skated away from multiple sexual harassment claims. It’s why Jay Baker, a sheriff’s captain in Georgia, still has a job after saying (in his role as a spokesperson!) that shooter Robert Long killed eight people in Atlanta last week—six of them of Asian descent—in the course of a “really bad day.”

We’re now in the aftermath of a mass shooting in Boulder—don’t click on this unless you’re prepared to be utterly devastated— which, coupled with last week’s attack, already has a sad resemblance to the pre-Trump helplessness about gun violence.

I swear I’m not trying to be a scold. (This is my public pledge to be better.) But a lot of truly terrible things are still happening.

Yesterday, I did an old-fashioned click-around of the ACLU website—which I did more regularly in the more chaotic recent past—as one way to focus on issues I was probably missing out there.

And here’s something that blew my mind: The list of all the state-level measures aiming to strip the LGBTQ community of civil rights and basic freedoms in the first three months of this year alone. Check it out here; I also made a short video of it below. Just the sheer length of it is dumbfounding:

Anyhow, this has been on my mind. Tomorrow’s Crunchwrap will be about Taco Bell.


I’m aware of the irony of this message coming via a Substack newsletter, which is another force nominally pecking at traditional media dollars, BUT let me be the first to say, plz keep up your newspaper and magazine subscriptions. It’s the patriotic thing to do.


Caveat #1: Yes yes yes, there’s also some blame for the slump to be had on the short-term thinking of media executives at news orgs.

Caveat #2: Politics isn’t the only news there is, even if it has absolutely felt that way.