John Oliver Takes On the Bleak Future of Journalism

“The media is a food chain that would fall apart without local newspapers.”

On Sunday, John Oliver focused the main segment of the latest Last Week Tonight on the steady collapse of print journalism and the overwhelming focus newsrooms have today on pushing viral content. This is despite the fact that most digital outlets rely heavily on the newspapers they are quickly replacing.

“It’s pretty obvious without newspapers around to cite, TV news would just be Wolf Blitzer endlessly batting a ball of yarn around,” Oliver said.

But with plummeting profits and people’s unwillingness to pay for news, local journalism is struggling to survive.

“We’ve just grown accustom to getting our news for free,” Oliver said. “The longer that we get something for free, the less willing we are to pay for it.”

To help make his point, Oliver concluded his segment with a frightening Spotlight spoof about a hard-hitting reporter (played by Bobby Cannavale) trying to break a story about city hall corruption—all in the face of his manager’s demand for story clicks.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

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