Guest Post: Sequestration And The Death Of Mainstream Journalism

Tyler Durden's picture

Originally posted by Peter Klein at Organizations and Markets blog,

Much virtual ink has been spilled over the decline of the mainstream media, measured by circulation, advertising revenue, or a general sense of irrelevance. Usual explanations relate to the changing economics of news gathering and publication, the growth of social media, demographic and cultural shifts, and the like. These are all important but the main issue, I believe, is the characteristics of the product itself. Specifically, news consumers increasingly recognize that the mainstream media outlets are basically public relations services for government agencies, large companies, and other influential organizations.

Journalists do very little actual journalism — independent investigation, analysis, reporting. They are told what stories are “important” and, for each story, there is an official Narrative, explaining the key issues and acceptable opinions on these issues. Journalists’ primary sources are off-the-record, anonymous briefings by government officials or other insiders, who provide the Narrative.

A news outlet that deviates from the Narrative by doing its own investigation or offering its own interpretation risks being cut off from the flow of anonymous briefings (and, potentially, excluded from the White House Press Corps and similar groups), which means a loss of prestige and a lower status. Basically, the mainstream news outlets offer their readers a neatly packaged summary of the politically correct positions on various issues. In exchange for sticking to the Narrative, they get access to official sources. Give up one, you lose the other. Readers are beginning to recognize this, and they don’t want to pay.

Nowhere is this situation more apparent than the mainstream reporting on budget sequestration. The Narrative is that sequestration imposes large and dangerous cuts — $85 billion, a Really Big Number! — to essential government services, and that the public reaction should be outrage at the President and Congress (mostly Congressional Republicans) for failing to “cut a deal.” You can picture the reporters and editors grabbing their thesauruses to find the right words to describe the cuts — “sweeping,” “drastic,” “draconian,” “devastating.” In virtually none of these stories will you find any basic facts about the budget, which are easily found on the CBO’s website, e.g.:

  • Sequestration reduces the rate of increase in federal spending. It does not cut a penny of actual (nominal) spending. 
  • The CBO’s estimate of the reduction in increased spending between 2012 and 2013 is $43 billion, not $85 billion.
  • Total federal spending in 2012 was $3.53 trillion. The President’s budget request for 2013 was $3.59 trillion, an increase of $68 billion (about 2%). Under sequestration, total federal spending in 2013 will be $3.55 trillion, an increase of only $25 billion (a little less than 1%). 
  • Did you catch that? Under sequestration, total federal spending goes up, just by less than it would have gone up without sequestration. This is what the Narrative calls a “cut” in spending! It’s as if you asked your boss for a 10% raise, and got only a 5% raise, then told your friends you got a 5% pay cut.
  • Of course, these are nominal figures. In real terms, expenditures could go down, depending on the rate of inflation. Even so, the cuts would be tiny — 1 or 2%.
  • The news media also talk a lot about “debt reduction,” but what they mean is a reduction in the rate at which the debt increases. Even with sequestration, there is a projected budget deficit — the government will spend more than it takes in — during every year until 2023, the last year of the CBO estimates. The Narrative grudgingly admits that sequestration might be necessary to reduce the national debt, but sequestration doesn’t even do that. It’s as if you went on a “dramatic” weight-loss plan by gaining 5 pounds every year instead of 10.

This is all public information, easily accessible from the usual places. But mainstream news reporters can’t be bothered to look it up, and don’t feel any need to, because they have the Narrative, which tells them what to say. Seriously, have you read anything in the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal or heard anything on CNN or MSNBC clarifying that the “cuts” are reductions in the rate of increase? Even Wikipedia, much maligned by the establishment media, gets it right: “ sequestration refers to across the board reductions to the planned increases in federal spending that began on March 1, 2013.” If we have Wikipedia, why on earth would we pay for expensive government PR firms?

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Abraxas's picture

Mainstream journalism has been dead for years... at least in my books

MrX's picture

here is some mainstream journalism:

SafelyGraze's picture

The news media also talk a lot about “debt reduction,” but what they mean is a reduction in the rate at which the debt increases

the distinction probably doesn't matter if the debt is (proportional to) the rate of change of the debt

hey! wouldn't that mean debt(t) = C d/dt debt(t)?

imapopulistnow's picture

Journalists are not known for their math skills.  Neither is the President and his most trusted advisers apparently.

hedgeless_horseman's picture




Here the "New American Journalism" workflow for economics...

  2. Ctrl-A
  3. Ctrl-C
  4. Alt/Tab
  5. Ctrl-V
  6. Ctrl-S
  7. Ctrl-P

And represented graphically....

...The "journalist" is in blue and we are the geese.

SafelyGraze's picture

lucky ducks.

maybe, one day, *I* can post a picture too.

you mean "lucky *goose*"


dwdollar's picture

As I've said before, refering to them as "mainstream" gives the credit they so desperately desire and really defeats the purpose of writing an article like this one. They are the legacy media. An old model for a bygone era. They do hold a piece in the new mainstream, but the new mainstream is a "frankensteined" pie which includes the legacy media, talk radio, and the various Internet media (which is by far the largest piece).

TruthInSunshine's picture

Legacy Media is better than Main Stream Media, but I prefer Establishment Media or even Proxy Media.

Lest we forget, they're ALL (whether print- newspaper, magazine, etc.-, cable, network, radio) owned by 5 corporations (all having deep tentacles in the banking/financial complex, among others). What could possibly go wrong in terms of objectivity?

And the good news is that their base of consumers is less loyal and more fractured than ever, as evidenced in their ratings (here's looking at you CNN, NBC and anything printed).

New_Meat's picture

"State Controlled Media" was a perjorative term, now simply the truth.

The Heart's picture

"Lest we forget, they're ALL (whether print- newspaper, magazine, etc.-, cable, network, radio) owned by 5 corporations (all having deep tentacles in the banking/financial complex, among others)"

Long have many pronounced that the lame stream media IS the greatest weapon of mass distraction aligned against the people of the world. The evil truth killing media propaganda dis/mis-info machine has chugged down more lies and deceit than anything to mis/dis-lead the nations of gullible people into the mazes of lies and seducing mind controlling subliminal suggestive horse-wash, and overall pig excrement.

In the future, should there be one, they might say, yup, without the media propaganda weapons, they never could have pulled it all off. The babylonians own it all. They might say, had all the people of the world got their REAL NEWS AND INFORMATION from the REAL Main Stream Media like Zero Hedge, they might have made better choices in leadership, instead of electing the same old criminal corruption over and over and over again.

OutLookingIn's picture

"Legacy media' ????

Lets call it what it REALLY IS - Department of PROPAGANDA.

sgorem's picture

no, i believe he meant, fuck-a-duck...............................

tenpanhandle's picture

goose inflater (helps them fly).

AlaricBalth's picture

Intelligence has a normal distribution along the Bell curve. The majority of the people don't understand the distinction between between decline of rate of increases and actual budget cuts.

tenpanhandle's picture

Here in the U.S., there is nothing like normal a bell curve for intelligence.  In reality it is a U curve where most of the population falls below the "dumb" designation.

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

There are still real journalists in Peru.  They are often VERY bright, some of the smartest people I have met.  They are opinionated and speak for themselves.  Here´s an example, a gentleman and a scholar who gave me two hours of his time and expertise to learn about gold mining in Peru (among other things):

JonNadler's picture

pero....donde esta la foto del senor Do Chen?

Ignatius's picture

"Journalists do very little actual journalism..."  which is why they're hired.

max2205's picture

It's 11:59 pm on the total blow up clock

Spastica Rex's picture

Courtiers and courtesans. Liberal? Conservative? Left? Right?


Neo-feudalism on a global scale. This is the New World Order. The Enlightenment is long over, and no - we didn't keep our republic.

Translational Lift's picture

MSM journalists are paid to look convincing while reading the garbage from their teleprompters..........

wee-weed up's picture

The MSM had been dying for many years, but in about 2007 they finally commited suicide with self-inflicted Political Correctness.

MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...

Taint Boil's picture



That was a good post put into simple terms that even I could understand. 

There is no “crack reporting” anymore – just nauseating theatrics. I haven’t turned on the TV in years and never will. My information comes from Zero Hedge and I always find some good links / info in the comments – got to weed through them though.

New_Meat's picture

Yep, the feminists got rid of that particularly useful term as well.

NoDebt's picture

Where to journalists come from?  Oh, yeah.

Royal Fleming's picture

American Pravda...nothing less...Tyler..what happened with your Anonymous hack story..when are they to release encrypted files..was it also a fake news story????

Pseudo Anonym's picture

oh, that?

what happened with your Anonymous hack story

didnt you hear?  it went away.  if you ignore it, it usually goes away

JustObserving's picture

Operation Mockingbird, a CIA effort to control news, was exposed in 1975:


Intelligent people have varying degrees of suspicion that the US government is in bed with the American mainstream media, and anyone who monitors the news media with discerning eyes can quite easily identify specific stories and strategies that are being used to persuade and intimidate the population.  For those who want “evidence” of such manipulation, one needs to look no further than the findings of a Senate Select Committee in 1975, which confirms and details this, has occurred for decades on a scale larger than most people could imagine. 

 Operation Mockingbird, as it was called, was exposed in 1975 during the Church Committee investigation, which then published its findings the following year.  The full name of the committee which investigated and uncovered such activities was called, “The United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities” which was chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID). 

 Through this investigation it became clear that such a program was developed in the 1950s for the purpose of persuading American and foreign media, as well as to use the media as gate-keepers to prevent certain information from being published and reaching the masses. 

The committee also concluded that the cost of the program was approximately $265 million a year, which when adjusted for inflation as of 2010 means that in today’s dollars the program costs an astounding one billion dollars a year.



Ident 7777 economy's picture

Crazy talk ... convince me otherwise ...

rich_wicks's picture

Crazy talk ... convince me otherwise ...

It would be a fool's errand.

If we had a functional media, one of the largest stories of the mid 2000's would be where the weapons of mass destruction story came from.  Also why wasn't anybody held accountable for the "errors" that led to that war.  There would have been heads rolling for dragging the nation into a war and exploiting 9/11 to do it, under false pretenses.

If we had a real media today, it would be pointing out that everything Bush did that the "left" complained about (Guantanamo, warrantless wiretapping, war) are all still going on today.

Believe the media is independent.  People like to believe that all Russians knew Pravda was a load of malarky.  Well, they didn't.  Only a few did and that's the situation we are in today.  The media today has slipped entirely into propaganda and misinformation, becuase that's what keeps this going, and it's not going to stop until this entire system collapses.

Never One Roach's picture

MSM is losing readers like crazy to blogs like ZH, Jesse's Cafe and so on.... I read.

tango's picture

No, actually the vast majority are not switching to anything.  They are simply not trying to stay informed.  They get their news from Leno, MTV, the Morning Show, talk radio, the cooler and Aunt Sally.  The younger generation doesn't give a flip - they celebrate their ignorance. 

Hobbleknee's picture

Journalism died on 9-11.

francis_sawyer's picture

Who are the 'contestants' on this years MAIN STREET JOURNALISM?... [& why did I miss the casting call when it came to my city]?

nmewn's picture

[& why did I miss the casting call when it came to my city]?

The messenger is coming by Pony Express and is now making his way through the bureaucratic maze of cubicles inhabited by paper shufflers and is being accosted from every side by all those janitors about to be furloughed.

Those mop handles hurt!...he'll be there about the time Obama offers up a budget ;-)


francis_sawyer's picture

 Obama offers up a budget...


That'll be January 2017... When he declares himself emperor...

nmewn's picture


We've just identified another area to cut! The salaries, pensions, perks and services of the "employees" within the Office of Management & Budget obviously aren't needed because there is no sign of life in there.

No budget proposal means, no salary for work not done ;-) 

Pseudo Anonym's picture

let me guess

why did I miss the casting call when it came to my city

umm ..hmm, you're subversive, critical of joos, everything to you is a conspiracy; there's more but that would do

francis_sawyer's picture

should I take myself to the woodshed & beat the shit out of myself, or are your biting, stinging comments enough punishment?



sub·ver·sive(sb-vûrsv, -zv)

Intended or serving to subvert, especially intended to overthrow or undermine an established government: & "critical of joos" [in the same sentence] ~~~ Yes people ~ It is an 'ESTABLISHED' fact that all joos are selfless do-gooders who are trying to make YOUR life better by stealing Palestinian lands, counterfeitting money, influencing the political systems of foreign governments, stealing the fruit of your labor, telling you how to think, & taking away your guns... NEVER QUESTION AUTHORITY!
ifishivote's picture

Sports Illustrated named Obama the 44th most powerful man in sports...enough said.

francis_sawyer's picture

Just thank your lucky stars that Chewbacca didn't make the swimsuit issue cover

nmewn's picture

He's got that hard pivot thingy goin on!!!

BooMushroom's picture

He's pivoted to jobs so many times, he's worn the paint off the hardwood under his toe.

TruthInSunshine's picture

 "Sports Illustrated named Obama the 44th most powerful man in sports...enough said."

And Kim Jong-il regularly nailed holes in one as reported by North Korea's state...I mean Main Stream Media.