For the legacy news media, the bad news just keeps on coming. In recent days, for instance, the Pew Research Center released a piece titled "The Declining Value of U.S. Newspapers," chronicling the extraordinary decline in the purchase and sale price of major U.S. dailies.

Some of the examples given are so extreme they look like misprints. The New York Times Co., for instance, purchased The Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette for a little over $2.2 billion, and sold them both in 2013 for $71 million — a valuation change of minus 96 percent!

ADVERTISEMENT

Not far behind are newspapers like the The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times and the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, all of which themselves sold in 2011 and 2012 for around 90 percent less than their earlier purchase prices.

Nor is the challenge to newspapers just an American phenomenon. Recognizing the importance of the American media, and its similarity to their own challenges, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) is holding its annual World News Congress in Washington June 1 to June 3, only the fifth time in the past 60 years that they have held this event in the United States.

A WAN backgrounder puts the matter succinctly: "The 2015 [Congress] comes at a time when independent news media are under enormous pressure, one that threatens their societal role as the provider of credible news and information to citizens so they can make informed decisions in democratic societies."

A good example of precisely this problem can be found in a recent RealClearPolitics piece written by Richard Benedetto, the former USA Today White House correspondent and current contributor to The Hill. Lamenting the quality of news coverage, Benedetto writes:

Where new media were supposed to keep us even better informed than we were, on many issues, such as the fighting in the Middle East, we are seriously lacking solid, reliable information. Part of this is because Old Media, those news professionals trained to go out and report the news wherever it breaks, are not always up to the task. Or, due to the economic squeeze applied by new media, they are not able to financially afford to perform those on-the-scene reporting chores which once were so basic, and so essential.

As Benedetto suggests, the proximate cause of the newspaper (and television) industries' problems is, of course, the advent of the Internet and digital media, and more recently the rise of social media, developments that have cost the legacy media readers, viewers and advertising revenue in bunches.

The Old Media, of course, are fighting back, and with some success as they roll out their own digital, and increasingly mobile, offerings. But there is another aspect of the mainstream media's travail that is being completely ignored, and that is the perception on the part of Republicans, libertarians and conservatives (taken together, maybe half the country) that the media are biased in favor of liberals and Democrats.

Gallup has reported some variation of this perception for years now, while the so-called conservative media (and conservative journalists working for mainstream media) make the same point explicitly and often.

Meanwhile, and at the same time that the legacy media are struggling, the conservative media are prospering. FOX dominates cable news, conservatives rule talk radio, the Drudge Report generates more clicks for linked stories than just about anybody and news outlets like the Washington Examiner, the Washington Free Beacon, and The Federalist are increasingly generating investigative news pieces that become lead stories for the media generally.

Given all this, one would expect that, as with any consumer product, consumer complaints would be met with an attempt by the providers to correct the perception. But if that is happening with the legacy media, it's not registering with Republicans and conservatives.

None of which is to suggest that the future belongs, or should belong, to news organizations of any kind whose reason for being is the promotion of specific political or ideological views. There are, after all, issues about which people of all political persuasions want and need to know the unvarnished, objective facts, and nothing short of the perception of ongoing evenhandedness can meet that test.

Still, at a time when all the legacy media are challenged technologically, commercially, financially and journalistically, it is imperative that they examine and try to meet all of their problems.

Maines is president of the Media Institute. The opinions expressed above are those of Maines alone.