Well, spank my ass and call me Charlie, the L.A. Times reports today that AOL Time Warner has been in talks with Disney about possibly spinning off the ABC News division and merging it with CNN as a stand-alone company. Apparently this has been a morsel of discourse between the two for about 18 months now.

This isn’t the first time Time Warner has tried to spin off CNN; it apparently danced with CBS for a while before that deal fell through.

Witness the terminal decline of American broadcast journalism in real-time. This potential deal may sound disturbing – and it is – but it’s the end result of years of media consolidation.

No matter how media companies like to slice it, journalism requires actual human beings with some rudimentary form of training or experience to actually report on and explain stories. Fortunately for them, the pabulum that’s replaced actual news on most broadcast outlets doesn’t require these skills or manpower anymore. While ad rates may still be good, that terrible drain of wages looks bad to the investor.

The big TV networks have been continually paring away at the budgets of their news divisions for years, and they’ve cut all the way to the bone. But the magic “degree of profitability” they seek still isn’t materializing, and that makes a merger the next best thing to making a killing.

Now all we need is MSNBCBS, and symmetry will be restored.