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“Stop the Presses!” Now, that old saw means transform U.S. journalism to — what?

“It couldn’t be happening at a worse moment in American public life.”

That’s the money quote in New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg’s must-read commentary today, “Media’s Next Challenge: Overcoming the Threat of Fake News”

 Rutenberg is distressed with the likely aftermath of the “fake news election”impacting a wounded journalism profession and news business:

“The election news bubble that’s about to pop has blocked from plain view the expanding sinkhole at the center of the paper-and-ink branch of the news industry … Papers … have responded with plans to reorganize, shed staff, kill off whole sections, or all of the above.

Taken together it means another rapid depletion in the nation’s ranks of traditionally trained journalists whose main mission is to root out corruption, hold the powerful accountable and sort fact from fiction for the voter.

Rutenberg cities a recent census by the American Society of News Editors and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University estimating that fulltime daily journalists now number only half that cadre’s 2000 number and warns:

 “That contraction in the reporting corps, combined with the success of disinformation this year, is making for some sleepless nights for those in Washington who will have to govern in this bifurcated, real-news-fake-news environment.

 “‘It’s the biggest crisis facing our democracy, the failing business model of real journalism’, Senator Clair McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri and a longtime critic of fake news, told me.”

 For a long-shot antidote to this depressing prospect, Ruttenberg turns to a colleague:


“As the Times national political correspondent Jonathan Martin wrote on Twitter last week, ‘Folks, subscribe to a newspaper. Democracy demands it.’ “