Saturday, March 29, 2008

The death and life of the American newspaper

That’s the title of Eric Alterman’s Mar. 29 New Yorker article.

Here’s part of it, followed below the star line by brief comments.

[...]Few believe that newspapers in their current printed form will survive. Newspaper companies are losing advertisers, readers, market value, and, in some cases, their sense of mission at a pace that would have been barely imaginable just four years ago.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, said recently in a speech in London, “At places where editors and publishers gather, the mood these days is funereal. Editors ask one another, ‘How are you?,’ in that sober tone one employs with friends who have just emerged from rehab or a messy divorce.” Keller’s speech appeared on the Web site of its sponsor, the Guardian, under the headline “NOT DEAD YET.”

Perhaps not, but trends in circulation and advertising––the rise of the Internet, which has made the daily newspaper look slow and unresponsive; the advent of Craigslist, which is wiping out classified advertising––have created a palpable sense of doom.

Independent, publicly traded American newspapers have lost forty-two per cent of their market value in the past three years, according to the media entrepreneur Alan Mutter. Few corporations have been punished on Wall Street the way those who dare to invest in the newspaper business have.

The McClatchy Company [it owns The Raleigh News & Observer], which was the only company to bid on the Knight Ridder chain when, in 2005, it was put on the auction block, has surrendered more than eighty per cent of its stock value since making the $6.5-billion purchase. Lee Enterprises’ stock is down by three-quarters since it bought out the Pulitzer chain, the same year.

America’s most prized journalistic possessions are suddenly looking like corporate millstones. Rather than compete in an era of merciless transformation, the families that owned the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal sold off the majority of their holdings.

The New York Times Company has seen its stock decline by fifty-four per cent since the end of 2004, with much of the loss coming in the past year; in late February, an analyst at Deutsche Bank recommended that clients sell off their Times stock.

The Washington Post Company has avoided a similar fate only by rebranding itself an “education and media company”; its testing and prep company, Kaplan, now brings in at least half the company’s revenue. [...]

Alterman's article is here



Alterman provides a lot of useful, well-organized information.

But I don't think he's saying much that will be new to those of you who've been following the decline of major news organizations and the growth in number and quality of blogs as news, commentary and, yes, entertainment sources.

The major reason cited for MSM news organizations' declines in readers, viewers and revenue is competition from the "non-traditional" news sources. Alterman gives full weight to that.

But he doesn't, IMO, give proper weight to why the "non-traditional" competition has been so successful in attracting readers and now, with YouTube and the like, viewers.

Much of the "non-traditionals" success can be traced to this: their reporting, commentary and entertainment is often more truthful than what major news organizations frequently porvide.

Dan Rather, 60 Minutes and CBS gave us the Texas Air National Guard story and the assurance their anonymous document source was "unimpeachable." Bloggers exposed the documents as fraudulent and CBS' "unimpeachable" source as Bill Burket, Democratic Party activist and long-time Bush-hater.

The Raleigh News & Observer and much of MSM pumped the "Duke lacrossse rape scandal" media witch hunt and helped enable the frame-up attempt.

But from the first, citizen journalists, bloggers and a few outstanding individuals from traditional news organizations began exposing a very obviously false report of gang-rape and the injustices of those who sought to use the Duke Hoax for their own purposes.

And who has forgotten MSM's reporting on "the Jena 6?"

If it was left to traditional news organizations, what would we know today about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his close twenty year friendship and pastoring of Sen. Barack Obama?

It was mostly pressure from non-traditional news sources - I count Fox News among the "non-traditional" - which pushed the Wright-Obama relationship to the point MSM was forced to begin covering it.

Hat tip: To a journalist friend who put me on to Alterman's article


Danvers said...


Perhaps you should post this article, thelink and your comments on the N&O editors' blog, more specifically under the entry by Drescher entitled:

"What's the future of The N&O?"

Anonymous said...

It is simple arithmetic. Newspapers simply cannot continue to alienate half their readers and expect to reap the same profits as they did prior to their industry wide decision to be flacks for the left wing. Arrogance and hubris have destroyed American journalism and they don't even know it. The Associated Press for example continues to write news stories that are nothing more than opinion pieces. Local newspapers purchase these stories and discredit themselves. Circulation falls off. The real story here though is that newspaper editors remain clueless as to why all this is happening. Their professional lives continue to take place in a bubble while the bubble chorus continues pumping them up with lies. So sad.

Anonymous said...

Thanks John

I'm fairly certain you knew most of us would agree with you, so I won't go into that!

Alterman mentions how all has been slipping "at a pace that would have been barely imaginable just four years ago." He is correct, but it sure seems like the trend that is creating the problem started much sooner than "four years ago". I feel the blogs and other sources online were forced upon us by what the msm was doing. It's like they challenged all to find a better product, while they laughed at us for all those years.

"The McClatchy Company... bid on the Knight Ridder... in 2005,... making the $6.5-billion purchase."

;)> IDIOTS! ;)>
;)> IDIOTS! ;)>
;)> IDIOTS! ;)>
;)> IDIOTS! ;)>

Thats my ROFLMAO, or more a 'you got what you deserved', smile!

I also agree with Anon 6:15. Some may have seen my comment I put up on Drescher's blog, praising one of the local reporters in my area. He prints the truth, lets his readers decide what they want. The only thing I'd wish for different is that he'd print more. I hope he is part of a new trend.


mac said...
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