News for the Rich, White, and Blue
How Place and Power Distort American Journalism
by Nikki Usher
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 29 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 06 Oct 2021
As cash-strapped metropolitan newspapers struggle to maintain their traditional influence and quality reporting, large national and international outlets have pivoted to serving readers who can and will choose to pay for news, skewing coverage toward a wealthy, white, and liberal audience. Amid rampant inequality and distrust, media outlets have become more out of touch with the democracy they purport to serve. How did journalism end up in such a predicament, and what are the prospects for achieving a more equitable future?
In News for the Rich, White, and Blue, Nikki Usher recasts the challenges facing journalism in terms of place, power, and inequality. Drawing on more than a decade of field research, she illuminates how journalists decide what becomes news and how news organizations strategize about the future. Usher shows how newsrooms remain places of power, largely white institutions growing more elite as journalists confront a shrinking job market. She details how Google, Facebook, and the digital-advertising ecosystem have wreaked havoc on the economic model for quality journalism, leaving local news to suffer. Usher also highlights how the handful of likely survivors—well-funded media outlets such as the New York Times—increasingly appeal to a global, “placeless” reader.
News for the Rich, White, and Blue concludes with a series of provocative recommendations to reimagine journalism to ensure its resiliency and its ability to speak to a diverse set of issues and readers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nikki Usher is an associate professor of journalism in the College of Media at the University of Illinois with affiliate appointments in communication and political science. She is the author of Making News at the “New York Times” (2014) and Interactive Journalism: Hackers, Data, and Code (2016).
"News for the Rich, White, and Blue provides clear-eyed accounting of the monumental challenges facing American journalism, and the rare non-nostalgic examination of how we've arrived here. At a time in which everyone is a media critic, they break into two distinct groups: those who criticize with the aim of further discrediting the press and those who offer critiques because they dream of a better, and thus stronger, fourth estate. It's clear that Nikki Usher belongs to the latter, and it would serve our industry and our democracy for us to truly wrestle with the implications of her research and what they should mean for our path forward."
--Wesley Lowery, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 7 members
An effective if occasionally dry assessment of the dire situation that journalism is in right now, how their actions and events got themselves there, and the incredibly grim prospects of escaping from the depths it has sunken to.
Insightful, well-researched, and at times dense, News for the Rich, White, and Blue: How Place and Power Distort American Journalism is exactly what it sounds like. Nikki Usher argues that newspapers and news outlets have systematically focused on their rich, white, and democratic readers as they are the most likely to adhere to subscription models. In a modern era where advertisements are more profitable on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, newspapers are left behind and funding becomes more scarce. Usher's analysis is repetitive, but convincing. A quarter of the book (located in the Appendices) covers the research methods that Usher conducted in her own research studies, and then all the sources and interviews obtained from others are also posted. Every condition is viewed, from distance from Washington, donors, local participation, and the different cultures which exist in each region--all of which have an impact on what news is and how well funded it in throughout America. My favorite parts of the book were focused on newspapers I grew up with, such as The Boston Globe and The New York Times, and how they were both exceptions to the rules in a way. Other details that surprised me was what cities had hired the most reporters in recent years. I would have never expected Duval County, Florida to be hiring more news reporters than places in California. Something I found ironic while reading Usher's book is that it also will likely be picked up by the very people who are invested in newspapers: the rich, white, and democrat-leaning individuals. In this book, Usher discusses that local news must focus away from weather and health information, and instead cover more locally meaningful stories which are inclusive to their neighborhoods. Most of the information gathered for the book was between 2016-2019, which poses a very unique time in history with the popularization of "fake news" and related slang. This book is written in a way which caters to the highly educated, and also those who love newspapers as they are now. It is unlikely that the poor rural elder farmer will pick this book up and find it meaningful, even though it validates a lot of the Republican's fear of Democrat-dominated media.
The book shows the situation among the publications in the United States and the trends in the media overseas. However, the book can also serve as an example for the media in Europe. Particularly interesting are the examples and the focus on local media, which are experiencing more and more problems to survive. I recommend it for people with an interest in the topic.