I wrote this piece below a couple years ago for a thing on predictions for the future of journalism and it seems to sadly apply once again to news today that Splinter will be closing. And then at the bottom of the piece it said “Luke O’Neil is a writer-at-large for Esquire” and after it came out I had to take a call from my bosses at the time saying what the fuck was that you gotta let us know when you say some true shit about the industry we work in because it makes us look bad and then I didn’t work for Esquire for too much longer after that.
Anyway RIP to Splinter it was a very good website. RIP to us all.
The End Is Already Here
Here is how it will go. Men with no fewer than four boats and at least as many divorces, whose monetary interests are best served by going entirely unreported on, will continue to purchase existing media properties, either gutting them, running them into the ground, or rendering them effectively toothless, as we’ve seen with numerous alt-weeklies and newspapers throughout the country in the past few years.
Sometimes we won’t even know whose hand it is pulling the lever on the guillotine. The publications who would’ve reported on who bought the publications won’t exist anymore.
Dailies who aren’t already well ahead of the game in terms of reverting back to subscription models, or of significant enough national prominence, or don’t find their own relatively benevolent billionaire owner, will continue to either be neutered or flattened out by conglomerates into content distributors. The ones that don’t will buy some time, but will ultimately become vanity projects read only by people wealthy enough to remain interested in the superficial comings and goings of other wealthy people.
The internet will continue to become increasingly polarized to the point where we no longer merely dismiss the reporting from the other side that we find inconvenient, but we don’t even realize it exists anymore because they won’t penetrate our microscopically focused self-selected social media cocoons.
The last remaining source of local news will be the neighborhood-based Facebook groups people go to right now to complain about leaf-blowing imbroglios. Instead of asking what night of the week street parking is allowed, we’ll ask if anyone knows whether or not the rumors about the mayor’s horse-fucking dungeon are real, then we’ll be suspended for posting profanity.
With fewer checks on the remorseless, shameless, broke dicks on the local level, the worst people alive will graduate from their local grifting operations to the national stage unmolested by conscience or scandal, populating the halls of power with an even worse species of villain than we’ve previously imagined. Nothing anyone of us can now do will stop it. It’s too late. We’re pivoting and pivoting in a widening gyre.
There’s a trope in dystopian fiction and apocalyptic films where it’s almost worse to have survived for just a little longer than everyone else wiped out in the original disaster. Better to be consumed in the nuclear blast than to live rummaging among the ruins. Those of us still left in the business are the poor survivors. We’ve peered into the cannibals’ cellar.
What’s worse is that we are still pretending it didn’t happen. We’re fighting over pools of shit-water that have settled into the craters and bartering with dog meat under the mistaken impression we’re carrying the fire. On the plus side, there will be a lot more Stranger Things posts.