Dial Up The Wayback Machine

I’ve been a fan of Michael Crichton’s fiction (Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man, etc.) since my teens, and a fan of his opinion pieces since my thirties. Even so I had missed this gem:


Today’s mass media is tomorrow’s fossil fuel. Michael Crichton is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore.

By Michael Crichton, Wired Magazine [04.01.93]

I am the author of a novel about dinosaurs, a novel about US-Japanese trade relations, and a forthcoming novel about sexual harassment – what some people have called my dinosaur trilogy. But I want to focus on another dinosaur, one that may be on the road to extinction. I am referring to the American media. And I use the term extinction literally. To my mind, it is likely that what we now understand as the mass media will be gone within ten years. Vanished, without a trace.

Well, it’s nearly 14 years on and the Decrepid Gray Crone of Gotham lurches on, as do the other outlets that I refer to as the Lame Stream Media. But few would argue that they are more than ghosts of their 1993 selves…

Michael Crichton, Vindicated

His 1993 prediction of mass-media extinction now looks on target.

By Jack Shaffer

Had Crichton’s prediction been on track, by 2002 the New York Times should have been half-fossilized. But the newspaper’s vital signs were so positive that its parent company commissioned a 1,046-foot Modernist tower, which now stands in Midtown Manhattan. Other trends predicted by Crichton in 1993 hadn’t materialized in 2002, either. Customized news turned out to be harder to create than hypothesize; news consumers weren’t switching to unfiltered sources such as C-SPAN; and the mainstream media weren’t on anyone’s endangered species list.

When I interviewed Crichton in 2002 about his failed predictions for Slate, he was anything but defensive.

“I assume that nobody can predict the future well. But in this particular case, I doubt I’m wrong; it’s just too early,” Crichton said via e-mail.

As we pass his prediction’s 15-year anniversary, I’ve got to declare advantage Crichton. Rot afflicts the newspaper industry, which is shedding staff, circulation, and revenues. It’s gotten so bad in newspaperville that some people want Google to buy the Times and run it as a charity! Evening news viewership continues to evaporate, and while the mass media aren’t going extinct tomorrow, Crichton’s original observations about the media future now ring more true than false. Ask any journalist.

I’ve an old colleague I need to lookup in another four years or so to collect on my bet that the NYT would, if still extant, be trading as penny stock ten years hence.

It’s coming slower than we anticipated, but it is coming.

Hat Tip: Ed Driscoll writing at Instapundit.

An Inauspicious Start For 2017; Captain Gene Cernan, USN(ret), Last Man To Walk On The Moon, Dies.
Republicans Being Tone-Deaf Again
  • Scalia

    And if it becomes extinct, it will appear to be by its own hand.

    • Extinction by Suicide may be a first…

      • Brett Buck

        Unlike the lemmings, this one is real!

  • Hank_M

    I think he’s correct in that his prediction was just too early.

    My wife almost always watched GMA, probably due to it being a life time habit.
    But she’s increasingly changing the channel once they start “reporting” the “news”.
    She’s not the political junky I am but even she can tell that they’re out right lying most all of the time.

  • yetanotherjohn

    What do you want to bet that the news media (print and television) gives as much time/space to the protests as they do to the inauguration? The real question isn’t that, but will they split screen the protests with the swearing in or split the front page above the fold with the swearing in and protests (It’s a given that if the swearing in makes the front page the protesters will also).

    • pennywit

      If I were still working in a newsroom, the lede would go to whichever event is more newsworthy. I would LIKELY create something that looks a little like this:

      Overline: Pity Quote From Inauguration Speech, possibly with mug shot of Trump speaking
      Headline: Trump Sworn In as President
      Lede Art: Either 1) President Trump taking the oath of office or 2) Trump or his family reacting to something interesting in inauguration parade
      Lede story, right rail: Story about inauguration speech
      Secondary story, running at three columns w/ secondary art: “Local Guy Does Something in Washington with Inauguration.”

      Secondary art: A little kid with his mouth open (or similar photogenic reaction art).

      If room on front page package, either a story about the protesters or a story about what experts predict for the Trump administration.

      Refer box to items inside:

      * Page 3A, AP scene-setter about what it’s like to watch inauguration
      * Page 3A: Article/Graphic, local people comment on Trump inauguration.
      * Page 3A: International leaders and/or congressional types react to Trump Inauguration
      * Page 4A-5A: One story previewing Trump administration, one story about protesters.
      * Page 8A: Newspaper editorial about Trump.

      • pennywit

        Page 9A: Op-ed by me talking about how inaugurations are too damned monarchical and reviewing the differences between a king and a president.

        Also, if the protesters manage something truly newsworthy that disrupts the inauguration, that becomes the lead story.

        • yetanotherjohn

          Stop your liberal nattering a moment and think. I know its hard for liberals but try very hard. Imagine this country without peaceful transfer of power. Liberals tend to think first order effects. “I don’t like Trump, so playing up opposition to Trump will hurt Trump and I like that.” Second order effect aren’t the intended, but the unintended consequences. Roughly half the country didn’t vote for Hillary. So you are pissing on about half your customer base. You are also moving the country a step closer to the non-peaceful transfer of power. Remember your assignment to imagine this country without peaceful transfer of power? Apply some of that thinking here. Let me help you. Put black lives matter on one side and the police on the other. Put those who believe enough in this country to serve in the military and your social justice snow flake on the other. Put your average GOP voter on one side and your average dem voter on the other. Notice anything? Look closely. One side tends to have most of the guns. Now go back and imagine non-peaceful transfers of power again.
          You are part of the problem. And if you don’t like Trump as president, you’ll really not like what comes next if you keep being an ass about peaceful transfer of power.

          • pennywit

            What the fuck are you talking about?

          • pennywit

            What, exactly, is “liberal nattering” or “playing up” protesters about a story package I outlined above? It seems pretty basic to me. If fifty or a hundred protesters show up at the inauguration, it’s not really front-page news. It’s a “color” or “scene” bit for the inside of the paper. If the protesters do something that seriously disrupts the inauguration, then that’s news and goes above the fold — metaphorically, at least.

            And honestly, whether the protests go “above the fold” as it were, depends a lot less on political balance and a lot more on whether the dominant art is horizontal or vertical.

          • yetanotherjohn

            I see I’m going to have to walk you through this. I’ll go slow as your screen name seems well deserved.
            Why does the NYT almost never mention race in a story about a crime? Why do newspapers often withhold coverage of copycat murders?

          • pennywit

            Oh, cut the crap. Just say what you mean. And tell me what, specifically, you issue is with the fairly standard inauguration news package I outlined.

          • yetanotherjohn

            Your not even bright enough to answer simple questions.

          • pennywit

            And you, apparently, are not bright enough to use an apostrophe. Conversation over.

          • WHO’S THE BUSTER

            How was he being an ass and why is there an implied threat that he really won’t like what comes next?

  • Scalia

    Accelerating their demise, the MSM continues to play with polls:

    In the month leaded up to the election on November 8th, we repeatedly demonstrated how the mainstream media polls from the likes of ABC/Washington Post, CNN and Reuters repeatedly manipulated their poll samples to engineer their desired results, namely a large Hillary Clinton lead (see “New Podesta Email Exposes Playbook For Rigging Polls Through ‘Oversamples'” and “ABC/Wapo Effectively Admit To Poll Tampering As Hillary’s “Lead” Shrinks To 2-Points”). In fact, just 16 days prior to the election an ABC/Wapo poll showed a 12-point lead for Hillary, a result that obviously turned out to be embarrassingly wrong for the pollsters.

    But, proving they still got it, ABC/Washington Post and CNN are out with a pair of polls on Trump’s favorability this morning that sport some of the most egregious “oversamples” we’ve seen. The ABC/Wapo poll showed an 8-point sampling margin for Democrats with only 23% of the results taken from Republicans…


    …while the CNN poll showed a similar 8-point advantage for Democrats with only 24% of respondents identifying as Republicans.

    “A total of 1,000 adults were interviewed by telephone nationwide by live interviewers calling both landline and cell phones. Among the entire sample, 32% described themselves as Democrats, 24% described themselves as Republicans, and 44% described themselves as independents or members of another party.

    The entire piece is worth a read. At this point, I kinda feel like General Sherman: War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want.

    • Brett Buck

      SOP for these idiots. It’s just one of the unending attempts to manipulate “reality” to fit the narrative. Expect it to continue, even if it destroys the traditional media. They will go down fighting.

      • Aye, and the contrary opinion (un-supported by the facts as they are) is magical thinking.

    • pennywit

      Considering the margin of the popular vote, I consider it entirely likely that President-elect Trump has a low approval rating. But given that the approval rating measures nationwide popularity, it is not that relevant to the vote.

      • Go look at the poll internal demographics and try to repeat that claim with a strait face.

      • Scalia

        pennywit, the numbers were padded. The MSM is lying again with those fake poll numbers. I have no doubt that a lot of Americans hate Trump, but the dishonesty of the press is only intensifying. They must consider it their personal responsibility to bring down Trump, but their inability to exercise a choke-hold on information will make that exceedingly difficult.

  • Steven Modica

    Much of the “Lame Steam Media” was sustained by corruption. If not for that, it may not have taken this long.

  • Ken in Camarillo

    24 years, not 14. What did Michael say was the reason the newspapers would decline? Did he think it would be technological developments, or the loss of quality due to gross bias in the way news was presented?