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.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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