By Jim Rutenberg, New York Times
The past year has turned the United States into a country of information addicts who compulsively check the television, the smartphone and the good old-fashioned newspaper with a burning question: What fresh twist could our national election drama and its executive producer, Donald Trump, possibly have in store for us now?
No doubt about it: Campaign 2016 has been a smash hit.
And to the news media have gone the spoils. With Trump providing must-see TV theatrics, cable news has drawn record audiences. Newspapers have reached online readership highs that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
On Wednesday comes the reckoning.
The election news bubble that’s about to pop has blocked from plain view the expanding financial sinkhole at the center of the paper-and-ink branch of the news industry, which has recently seen a print advertising plunge that was “much more precipitous, to be honest with you, than anybody expected a year or so ago,” as The Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker said Friday.
Papers including The Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, Gannett publications and others have responded with plans to reorganize, shed staff, kill off whole sections, or all of the above.
Taken together, it means another rapid depletion in the nation’s ranks of traditionally trained journalists whose main mission is to root out corruption, hold the powerful accountable and sort fact from fiction for voters.
It couldn’t be happening at a worse moment in U.S. public life. The internet-borne forces that are eating away at print advertising are enabling a host of faux-journalistic players to pollute the democracy with dangerously fake news items.
In the past couple of weeks, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets have exposed millions of Americans …