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Politics and journalism are undergoing concurrent convulsions. The changes are interrelated — and intensifying the ever-sharp partisanship shaping the very character of the country.

Recent weeks' headlines attest to the descent. "GUILTY: JURY CONVICTS TRUMP ON ALL 34 COUNTS," read the ALL-CAPS banner across the May 31 New York Times, followed six days later by "G.O.P. Pushes for Avenging Trump Verdict: Calling for Prosecutors to Pursue Democrats." Beyond the Beltway, below-the-belt politics is infecting more local governance, as reflected in this front-page story in Thursday's Star Tribune: "Local politics more testy as rancor grows: Incidents on city councils, county boards creating obstacles to governance."

But the very media needed to serve as a watchdog to Washington's metastasizing meltdown is itself facing great change and challenge as many news organizations reel from readership/viewership/listenership declines that may accelerate as artificial intelligence imperils business models. Meanwhile, there's a growing global phenomenon of news avoidance.

Regarding the wrenching upheavals, "I think there's clearly a lot of reasons to be concerned," said Benjamin Toff, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota's Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication. "I don't think it's coincidence or accident that these things are happening at the same time."

But the changes are often obscured by the velocity and ferocity of the news narrative, said James Hohmann, a Washington Post editorial writer and columnist. Hohmann, a native Minnesotan, was back in his home state on Wednesday, speaking about the election at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. In an interview, Hohmann, who's also a lecturer teaching courses on campaigns and Congress at his alma mater, Stanford University, said that "it's easy to lose the forest for the trees and not look at the big picture, to be so caught up in the ephemeral thing, the daily outrage, to miss the tectonic shifts that are happening in our politics and media."

In media this includes the threat that "the AI revolution is going to have dramatic effects on journalism" — especially as it changes online search, which has been a key driver of traffic to news sites. Regarding politics and media, Hohmann said that "the incentive structures have changed so that there are very strong incentives to be provocative and outrageous" which "emphasizes stuff that makes people angrier, and I think that's been very deleterious."

Former President Donald Trump is among those who innately understood and exploited the changed incentive structure, and people really reacted.

At least initially.

"Everyone tuned in when Trump was president; whether you loved him or hated him, you wanted to know what was going on," Hohmann said. "On a scale of 1-10, every day felt like a 10 — and the result of that was fatigue."

Hohmann referred to a viral video, unrelated but concurrent with the Trump era, for emphasis. The clip shows a dog excited by a tennis ball, but when a woman dumps a bucket of balls in front of it, "the dog is paralyzed because he doesn't know what ball to chase after — and that was always the challenge."

Increasingly, instead of chasing the bucket, or even the one ball, news consumers aren't chasing any, both Hohmann and Toff indicated.

Toff, whose scholarship focuses on media audiences and political engagement, public opinion, and changing journalistic practices, said that "the U.S. is somewhat unique in the sense that we see a lot more rejection of news on the right than on the left."

There's still a "pretty sizable conservative media system and a place that's circulating an alternative view of the world," Toff said. But he worries that there is a "real danger" for the news media "of being siloed in this way," as well as for democracy, "in terms of our ability to have a shared understanding of the world, to address the systemic challenges that I think people want to see progress made on. So I do think that's a real concern."

That concern, shared by many, will likely heighten because of these social and technological forces, as well as unforced errors by media organizations themselves. Just this week, for instance, the Post, legendary for exposing scandals, found itself embroiled in one when William Lewis, its new publisher and CEO (one of several Brits brought across the pond to try to revitalize U.S. newsrooms), denied allegations that he tried to spike an unfavorable story about his link to a lawsuit in Britain about a phone-hacking scandal. Meanwhile, the ultraconservative Epoch Times faces an epic $67 million money-laundering scandal and the arrest of its CFO.

These and other events may solidify the silos — in media and in America — Toff referenced. Which is bad because "if there's this large segment of the public that is so distrusting and/or indifferent to what the journalists are doing, the impact of any kind of watchdog journalism is really blunted." Journalism itself "really doesn't change things; it's demand for accountability that comes from that journalism, whether that's through our institutions or whether that's the public forcing our institutions to take action," said Toff. "But if the public is willing to write it all off as 'fake news' or worse, just not even aware of it, it doesn't have the ability to actually keep people in line in the ways that I think our system of self-governance really requires."

The rapid transformations of media and politics makes the 20th-century systems, particularly the postwar period, look more like a historical variance than an enduring verity of civic life.

"I fear it will be an anomaly," said Hohmann. "There are facts, there is truth, and I do really worry that we're in this weird moment where people have their truth, my truth, your truth. But that's not how truth works. There is a truth. And so I do think we'll look back on the 20th century as this distinct period.

"But I'm an optimist. And I'm hopeful that we can figure out a way. We have so much going for us if we can adapt and adjust and evolve — then we can figure this out."

Hohmann was referencing journalists. But he could just as much have been speaking about citizens.