The year local media gets conservative

“2018 will be the year that every media market in the country gets its own Fox News-style voice at the local level.”

2018 will be the year that every media market in the country gets its own Fox News-style voice at the local level.

The FCC looks set to approve Sinclair Broadcast Group’s nearly $4 billion takeover of Tribune Media, ensuring that Sinclair’s reliably conservative take on the news will soon reach 70 percent of households through TV affiliates. Not coincidentally, this will also be the breakout year for former Trump surrogate Boris Epshteyn, whose scorching commentaries in the president’s defense Sinclair stations are required to air multiple times a week.

Meanwhile, conservative tycoons with less money to spend on their hobbies will recognize that a number of local papers are primed to be purchased on the cheap. This has already happened at LA Weekly, which was taken over late in 2017 by a shadowy conservative group of investors out of Orange County.

Armstrong Williams, the Ben Carson confidante who proved his commitment to journalistic standards back in the aughts by taking money to promote Bush administration policy pushes in his column, expressed an interest in buying Washington City Paper. Williams’s editorial ideas, according to The Washington Post, included soft-focus profiles of Hope Hicks’s hobbies and Steve Bannon’s charitable work.

Williams eventually dropped his bid, but there are plenty of other distressed papers around the country that can be purchased at rock-bottom rates. As local papers continue to struggle, expect GOP donors with money to burn to follow Williams’s lead.

Other predictions:

— The media infrastructure pushing hoaxes and conspiracy theories will only continue to grow, with increasingly dangerous effects offline.

— New technology will make it much easier to convincingly doctor video, leading to a high-profile reporting disaster after an outlet reports on faked video. Enterprising youth in a former Soviet bloc country will master the art of doctoring “real” news video, further shaking the foundations of objective truth and giving Macedonian teens a break from the discourse.

— This one is more of a wish than a prediction, but I hope 2018 is the year that media prognosticators stop hoping that “media literacy” programs will educate away the problem of people falling for obvious hoaxes in their news.

Anyone who would actually seek out media literacy training doesn’t need it, and Republican legislators would never allow a school curriculum that advised against trusting, say, Infowars.

Until then, calls for media literacy education will remain a comforting idea that journalists tell themselves to avoid confronting ugly facts about their industry and country.

Will Sommer writes Right Richter, a weekly newsletter about right-wing media.

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