What looks like decline is also in some sense a return to normalcy for the United States. What we think of as the “old media” era — the years from the 1950s through the 1980s, when [James Q.] Wilson came of age and made his most important mark — was really an unusual and inevitably fleeting period in American culture. For a few decades, the consolidation of the newspaper business and the outsize power of the big television networks combined to create a genuine media establishment, capable of setting standards, policing debates and keeping troublemakers and provocateurs on the outside looking in.

Prior to that period of consolidation, though, the nation’s media were much more, well, Breitbart-ian: more partisan, more sensationalistic, more attuned to scandal and celebrity and less concerned about accuracy and rigor.

In this sense, American journalism in the age of the Internet represents a return to the way that American journalism was practiced in the 19th and early 20th centuries. And a republic that survived the excesses of William Randolph Hearst can presumably survive the excesses of HuffPo and BigGovernment.com.