Sunday, January 11, 2009

Newspaper industry on verge of collapse

At least twelve major big-city dailies expected to collapse within the next year.

The problem with the newspaper biz is that they're not selling a product the public wants. Newspapers view their biz as selling advertisements. The rest of the newspaper exists only to sell ads. As a result, what passes for journalism in a typical daily newspaper is "he said she said" stenography that is calculated to not offend advertisers (not that this is handed down from the management, this is what's taught as "reporting" by schools of journalism). But the product that the general public wants is truth. If politician A says that a new Medicare drug benefit will cost $1 trillion per year, and politician B says no the new drug benefit will only cost $200 billion per year, the public wants to know who is telling the truth. But newspapers don't tell people that. Newspapers only regurgitate politician A and politician B's words, and refuse to tell people which of these two politicians is telling the truth because that would be "analysis" rather than "reporting". So people turn to alternate sources to try to find truth, whether it's talk radio, the Internet, Faux News, or whatever, eventually cancel their newspaper subscription because if they're getting their truth elsewhere why bother with the newspaper, and newspaper circulation is down 20% since 1990, to the point where fewer Americans read the newspaper today than did when JFK was elected. Which is a shame, because none of these alternative sources have the track record of journalistic integrity that newspapers traditionally had, but if newspapers refuse to give people what they're looking for...

So I'm not seeing much good ahead for the newspaper industry. But this isn't really a problem caused by the economy (except that the economy is causing a reduction in ad spending and thus newspapers don't need as much content to sell the fewer ads that they're getting), and more a problem with an industry losing its way, much like the U.S. auto industry lost its way. My advice to new journalism school grads today: Learn how to blog, and figure that your job is going to be much like a musician's in the future, where there's a few superstars who make a living at it and everybody else has to work a "day job" to make ends meet.

-- Badtux the Pessimistic Penguin


  1. "But the product that the general public wants is truth" I once thought that, but it has become increasingly evident that truth is irrelevant in the greater reality of the Spectacle.

  2. So why are so many people turning to the Internet for their news? There isn't much spectacle involved in reading stuff off the Internet...

    - Badtux the Truth-seeking Penguin

  3. Because people are gulible and will believe anything as long as they found it themselves.

  4. u should read my recent post but more importantly, have a blessed 2009 folk

  5. The 'Spectacle' is not strictly information, but cultural context created by commercial reality. Check out, "The Society of the Spectacle,' by Guy deBord. Truth has been out on the ethers, but, considering the enormous amount of truth it has revealed the impact on American reality has been marginal.

  6. There is a cartoon on a blog "Bartcop" showing the press as lapdogs. Why should we listen to the MSM that creas more for a cocktail party invite than disseminiating Truth?


  7. Homerun! Damn straight-it is all about the truth and the loss of respect in the drum beat of war in Iraq.

    Papers owe us and to this day they have taken no responsibility.

    here is OTC's take too.

    Good post

  8. "But the product that the general public wants is truth."

    That is not what journalists should provide -- they shouldprovide the facts. YOU divine The Truth. Anything else IS analysis and Op-Ed.

    You can't pay someone to shovel you the truth. Newspapers are dying due to two things: [1] the internet, [2] general human dumbing-down and lack of commitment to reading.

    Papers have always made a living via ads -- that's nothing new.

  9. "President Bush said the upcoming invasion of Iraq was an important step in the war on terror. 'We must disarm Saddam before he arms terrorists,' the President said. Meanwhile, former weapons inspector Scott Ritter insisted that inspections had shown that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Ritter had previously lobbied President Bill Clinton for a resumption of inspections, saying that the job of eliminating Saddam's WMD program had not yet been finished."

    All of those are facts reported by newspapers in February 2003. President Bush actually said that. That's a fact. Mr. Ritter actually said that. That's a fact. Mr. Ritter also said that to President Clinton. That's a fact.

    But none of that is the truth, which is that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. The newspaper industry saw their job as reporting facts. But reporting facts is not what the American people wanted or needed. What the American people wanted and needed was the truth -- the truth that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. And newspapers, not seeing their job as being to discover and report the truth, did not give the American people the truth.

    Let's face it, government agencies today are experts at crapflooding. They get dozens of experts from dozens of think tanks to flood the news media with facts that edge around or disguise the truth behind a veil of irrelevant facts. What people need is someone to sort through all those facts and find out the truth behind them. I am not a biologist. I am not qualified to analyze whether mobile biological weapons labs are feasible. When the newspaper reports the fact that Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that Saddam had mobile biological weapons labs, what is a non-biologist to think about this? It's a fact that Colin Powell stated this. But what is the truth? Did Saddam have mobile biological weapons labs? The American public needed the truth, and all newspapers gave them was the fact that Secretary of State Powell said this thing. Which was -- and is -- a fact, but utterly irrelevant to truth.

    More later. Especially on crapflooding, which you don't seem familiar with.

    - Badtux the Truth Penguin

  10. "But what is the truth? Did Saddam have mobile biological weapons labs?"
    Yes he did.... I know 'cause I watch a lot of TV (television) and I SAW Powell with my very eyes hold up a very well drawn artists depiction of what they thought the ...oh.. nevermind. :>

  11. "What the American people wanted and needed was the truth". . .

    The truth? The TRUTH! The truth is to be had in a 5 lb. bag of blue corn chips had at bargain price at yer local Costco. Then some mini Dove bars of asst. flavors, and you're set for an evening on the couch.

    Badtux -- journalists are not biologists, nor are most of us. They can and must report facts. You as a concerned citizen, should read a paper and a magazine of some insight to pull it together.

    When you see Colin Powell shilling on the stand with cartoon figures of roving vehicles in the desert, and you read on pg.2 that UN weapons inspector Hans Blix says there are no WMDs, you make a synthesis. You decide: someone is drumming up a case for war.

    You don't need Science magazine, though the Science reporter at the Times may do a piece on the feasibility of mobile labs.

    But one doesn't need that minutiae, unless one needs absolute verification. One can stay at the statesman level and figure these things out, with factual reportage.


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