President Donald Trump is an unpredictable man, but two things have remained constant over the course of his administration: He loves coal miners and hates journalists.
One of Trump’s core campaign promises involved bringing back mining jobs and increasing the use of “clean coal,” which he described as “tak(ing) the coal out of the ground and cleaning it.” That’s not really a thing.
But ironically, while the number of coal jobs has declined in recent decades, there’s one industry that’s faring even worse. It’s the one he routinely degrades as “fake news.”
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New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger discussed this dichotomy with CNN host Brian Stelter at the Citizen conference in New York today. Sulzberger rattled off many familiar talking points about how “the journalism ecosystem is systematically collapsing” and “the underlying notions of free press and democracy are under attack” in the Trump era.
But he also made the case that this collapse isn’t all Trump’s fault—and he used the coal miner statistic as proof.
“The number of working journalists in this country over the last 20 years has dropped faster than the number of coal miners,” Sulzberger said.
Given Trump’s constant rhetoric about the threats facing coal miners, this statistic seems a little hard to believe. But it turns out Sulzberger is (mostly) right.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, newspapers employed more than 400,000 people across the country in 2000. But that number has fallen almost 65 percent in the ensuing two decades, and about 1,000 journalists get laid off every month.
By contrast, the bureau reports that the amount of coal mining jobs has decreased 61 percent. The exact number of people affected is unclear, because some sources combine all miners (of materials like coal, steel and platinum) into one statistic. But from a percentage standpoint, it’s clear journalists got the short end of the stick.
And while coal (clean or otherwise) has continued to flow out of the ground, the flow of information hasn’t kept pace. Nearly 300 English-language daily newspapers have closed up shop in the last 20 years, creating news deserts in many communities. Florida, California, New Jersey and Michigan have each lost about 70 percent of their journalism jobs in that period.
Both small towns and big cities are feeling the impact. New York and Washington, D.C. have shed 50 percent of their reporters in recent years. The decline is even more pronounced in other cities.
- In Dallas and Atlanta, newspaper employment is down 67 percent.
- In Denver, the number is 73 percent.
- In Miami, it’s 75 percent.
- And in San Diego, the number of journalists is down 83 percent.
It would be nice if Trump gave lip service to the importance of journalism, just as he does to the importance of coal. Because given its impact on climate change, coal is the real enemy of the people.