The Death of the Press

Wednesday November 2nd 2016
Mounted police break up demonstrating print workers in Wapping 1986.

Mounted police break up demonstrating print workers in Wapping 1986.

Hot-metal printing was finally killed off in the mid-1980s. Its demise had been a long time coming, as it was superseded by other cleaner, faster, cheaper technologies. London’s print unions were some of the last in the world to hold out, in the Wapping Dispute with Rupert Murdoch’s News International. When they caved in February 1987, it was the end.

Imagine though, a composing room, in 1983 or even 1883. Lead type melts, is moulded, banged into place on the composing stones with wooden mallets by the compositor. On one side of the stone, the compositor; on the other, the editor: jobs strictly delineated. Editors make last minute changes to make text fit— getting rid of the “widows” and “orphans”, changing a word in a headline — but they are never allowed to touch the composing stone. The room is hot, loud, dirty — a printing factory. And every day a newspaper is born out of the heat and sweat and argument and teamwork.

Thousands of print workers lost their jobs in the 1980s, as desktop publishing took over. Fleet Street — the home of print journalism in Britain for a couple of centuries — was finished as newspapers moved to shiny new offices in other parts of London.

The death of hot-metal took place when Saturn, the Grim Reaper himself, was in Sagittarius, the sign of publishing. Uranus, the planet of revolution, was also in Sagittarius, and indeed a 200-year-old method of production (with a few improvements in between) was overturned almost overnight. Also significantly, Jupiter was in Pisces in 1986-87. Pisces is not often associated with publishing, but the sign of the fishes does seem to have something to do with dissemination, and, of course, traditionally with gossip, slander and untruth. It’s no coincidence that the master of modern media Rupert Murdoch has his Sun in Pisces.

It’s from this point though that we start to get the decline of journalism — as in news stories — and the rise of life-style sections, entertainment news and opinion columns.

Since the 1980s, of course, we have had the birth of the internet, which revolutionised publishing again. This was a Uranus (revolution) in Aquarius (technology). When Uranus went into Pisces during the noughties, and Neptune into Aquarius, we saw the rapid dissemination of information through the net. How we got our information changed — forever. But during that time, newspapers and magazines soldiered on. Most are online now, of course, but most are also still failing to make money or break even.

The other phenomenon of the internet age is, of course, the citizen journalist. Since Uranus moved into Aries this has become a phenomenon.

In 1985, a printer was one job, an production editor was another, a sub-editor was another, so was a writer. These four jobs have been rolled into one. But journalism is about going out and finding a story, not about sitting at a desk and rewriting something you’ve read on HuffPo, or collating a bunch of tweets. That’s a sub’s job, or a columnist’s. It’s also a lot cheaper than having a correspondent in Afghanistan or Mali.

All news outlets are trying to survive in the internet economy. And old-fashioned news has suffered. Mix that with widespread suspicion of the MSM (mainstream media) and you’ve got a poisononous cocktail which may see off the big news providers in surprisingly short order. They need to evolve faster to survive. Even The New York Times looks shaky.

Demonstrators in Turkey this summer.

Demonstrators in Turkey this summer.

Which brings us to the point really. We are back with Saturn in Sagittarius, and this time Neptune, dissolver of boundaries, is in Pisces. These two planets are, of course, squaring each other this year. Mainstream news seems to be dissolving. It’s noticeable, for example, how patchy the reporting of the crisis in Turkey has been by broadsheet papers. This is a hugely important story, with a NATO ally carrying out Stalinist style purges. Thousands of people have been arrested and disappeared in the past few weeks. And in the summer dozens of newspapers, magazines, publishers, radio stations and TV channels were shut down. 

I wrote this piece a while ago. Today, Turkey’s leading secular newspaper offices and 14 other media outlets were shut down. The editor of Cumhuriyet has been arrested.

Good journalism is important.



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  1. mike says:

    There’s much to be added to your topic! Here in the USA, we currently have a journalist arrested for simply covering the N Dakota pipeline stand-off. Thiel-Hogan-Gawker lawsuit smacked our First Amendment []. Ditto for Melania Trump’s lawsuits against Univision, Daily Mail, People Magazine, et al for reporting on her personal life. Whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s involvement with the media nearly sent those journalists to prison for risking national security. Our National Security Agency is secretly spying on journalists []. Donald Trump, should he be elected, claims he will censor the media. Our FBI Director, Comey, is under scrutiny for releasing (non-)information for the purpose of influencing politics via the media coverage.

    You mention Sagittarius. The sign is ruled by Jupiter, currently in Libra, soon to square Pluto, then oppose Uranus. Sag also rules courts and judges, and of course ideology, with Libra ruling the judicial system.

    The USA’s population is suffering an epidemic of “post truth”, with few individuals wanting news, but preferring instead their information in alliance with their beliefs. Facebook, Twitter, et al provide such.

    • Christina says:

      Dear Mike — I have so much to say about post-truth (believe me, Brexit is post-truth) that I am only gradually getting to grips with it. Neptune in Pisces is a big factor.

      Are you able to watch HyperNormalisation on BBC iPlayer?

  2. 44 and counting says:

    Just starting to watch Hypernormalisation.

    The 1975 events in NYC that led to the banks taking control would have occurred around the time of Uranus’ ingress into Scorpio – the sign of banks, money, power and control.

    There’s been a lot of astrological talk about when Uranus moves into Taurus there will be changes to currency and financial markets, and of course it’ll be the Uranus half-return for 1975’s events.

    • Christina says:

      Curtis thinks like an astrologer.

      • 44 and counting says:

        Thanks for the push – Hypernormalisation was interesting to watch and learn more about the history and politics that I didn’t really take any interest in while growing up.

        As an astrologer, I don’t think where we’re at should come as a surprise. Astrology is the study of cycles and this site itself quotes the Ecclesiastes “For everything there is a season”.

        We’re in an era where the outers (uranus, neptune, pluto) have been passing through the universal signs of Sag, Cappy, Aqua, Pisces. We’re in a time where the world and collective are trying to come together through globalisation. The “perception management” that this talks about beginning with Reagan in the 80s coincided with Neptune in Capricorn. The focus groups approach of Clinton and Blair were the Aqua idea of democracy – listening to the people and what they wanted (so that those leaders could get elected).

        Should it be a surprise that we no longer have ideological leaders? I don’t think so. Ideologies are developed and strong in the signs around the IC. We’re up the top of the zodiac near the MC where, people who don’t have that strong centre or understanding of what they stand for, lead by reacting to what’s going on around them and trying to control/minimise risk. And that seems to be exactly what Hypernormalisation said is happening.

        How do we get out of it? Most likely the same way it’s always gone. Everything breaks down (Pisces), everybody fights each other (Aries) and then we start to value the things that matter (Taurus). Just a case of how long we have to wait for the planets to get in position to enable that.

  3. linda says:

    When all the gatekeepers disappeared, meaning editorial focus, standards and fact checking it seems like news became a tabloid frenzy. Facebook political trash looks like the National Inquirer – Hillary’s secret two headed baby exposed – now 21 years old- will vote.” I think this is all Neptune working, but is it really a disaster? How much news do we really need, how much of it is for entertainment, shock value, and how would terrorists ever survived without it? How many stars depend on publicity for survival, how many wars depend on news to carry on their blood lust? How many murderers seek the press? Was news ever true in the pure sense of the word? I am not preaching illiteracy or the dark ages, but with what we have now, it’s fairly pathetic, and dangerous with he news monopolies. Neptune dissolves, confuses, muddies the water, except when it’s inspiring the arts or Chopin, or transcendence of saints. The rays of Neptune drive the chattering press into alphabet soup. I think Pluto in Sagittarius destroyed the independent press and created all the buy outs and monopolies. Good local news is drowned by the global agenda. Wasn’t it the Anglo Saxon chronicles that started it all? I wonder what we will discover next to overcome our present dark age?

    • Christina says:

      Very good points. We have not discussed the pernicious effect of a 24-hour news cycle. There is simply too much “news” and at the same time not enough!

      I think the Neptunian problem is evident in the blurring of news and entertainment. Indeed Neptune in Pisces seems to be showing us this more clearly in a way, even though it is always the case.

      • 44 and counting says:

        Isn’t this just what you were talking about with Neptune in Pisces blurring the news? The rise of fake ‘news’ sites.

        The American ones sound worse than the British ones which are more easily identified as satire/humour.

        The American guy is actually quoted as saying it’s like a drug. It’s about confirmation bias (tapping into people’s existing inner beliefs) and goes on to detail how Facebook is now censoring them out of people’s feeds. All very in line with the Saturn-in-Sag/Neptune-in-Pisces square.

      • Isy says:

        Speaking as a longtime sailor… the oceans carry signals with great power over great distances. They carry water, temperature, electricity, and the matrix of life; the Great Conveyors in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are the reason why we’ve had temperate climates up past the 66th parallel — they bring the equatorial warmth to the poles, and carry the ant/arctic chill to the equator, and smooth out the feisty extremes of the sun’s influence.

        Boaters know that salt water conducts electricity, because the wires (in their waterproof coatings, even!) shed loose electrons into the water around the boats at dock, and that creates electrical corrosion around the propeller and any metal hardware on the hull. (Sacrificial zinc plates are attached nearby, as zinc draws the electrical activity to itself; the trick is remembering to replace them often enough to save the bronze or steel you can’t afford to lose.)

        This all seems very relevant to me, to these huge, sweeping, deceptive/glamourous/boundary-dissolving shifts in the very underpinnings of communication and information transfer.

        The oceans are changing. The Great Conveyors are slowing and losing power. This is part of the climate uncertainty and the great shift that’s happening at a much larger level than we usually look at.

        The outers are definitely making themselves felt around here.

        • Isy says:

          The melting zinc, without which the propellers crust up and break off and all you can do is pray you’re in a sailboat because otherwise you’ve no power or propulsion at all, is an incredible metaphor, but my brain is too rusty to put it together right now 🙂

  4. anna says:

    Since you posted about Greece during the last election there, let us note that the current Greek government is also trying to silence the press, and the tv channels. The good thing is that, as in everything they do, they try to do this too incompetently.