The newspaper industry was said to be dead and buried – a victim of technology. But, since the election of Donald Trump as president, two “huge” things have happened.
First, the industry itself has been revived. The numbers are striking. A recent study found that more than 169 million U. S. adults now read newspapers every month, in print, online or mobile. That’s nearly 70% of the population. Moreover, newspapers such as the New York Times have made stunning strides in increasing their circulation. The Times added 276,000 net digital-only subscriptions in the final three months of 2016. We can assume that since Trump took up residence in the White House, these numbers have escalated still further.
This is not to say that newspapers are out of the financial woods. Digital success is not yet offsetting a severe slump in print advertising, which historically has been the biggest source of industry revenue. Moreover, Donald Trump is not the only reason that people are returning to reading the papers. Public distaste for ubiquitous ads is another contributor. Still, the public’s appetite for “fake news” is demonstrably higher than it’s been in years.
This sharply increased interest in news is mirrored, not incidentally, on cable channels. During the first three months of 2017 Fox News had its highest rated quarter ever. During this same period, CNN had its most-watched quarter since 2003. And MSNBC registered its largest total audience ever, becoming in the early months of 2017 the fastest growing of the cable networks.
But the second thing that has happened to revive the newspaper industry is much, much more important. It is that the press – in particular, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and now also the Wall Street Journal – has been nearly single-handedly responsible for digging up and daring to disclose the truths of this administration. Journalists such as Robert Costa of the Post, and Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush of the Times, are just three examples of a small army of reporters who, with the obvious support of their superiors, have changed the narrative of American politics.
The press is not, constitutionally, one of the pillars of American government. But, when the history of this period is written, if the Republic is to be saved, it will be the press that will be credited with saving it.