Two modest observations about the jounalism biz

I was talking to a friend of mine this morning who has worked as a newspaper reporter for a long LONG time now, this after hearing a story on NPR this morning about how the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is going to make a run of it publishing only online:

  • I think the story has been, ironically enough, somewhat mis-reported. True, fewer people are reading paper/printed newspapers. But when I talk to people who actually know about newspapers, what they tell me is that the loss of revenue that is just crushing them is classifieds. So it isn’t things like Google News or online versions of the newspapers that are doing them in; it’s things like Craig’s List and This might seem like an overly nuanced take on this, but all the reported news I’ve heard has been about how the demise of newspapers has been the result of them giving away its content, when really, these other services invented a better mousetrap
  • On the one hand, newspapers are folding because they aren’t making any/enough money. “We can’t make money at this anymore.” Well, maybe newspapers need to figure out a better business plan or they need to acknowledge they are no longer relevant because of the technology. On the other hand, this is bad because the press as the “fourth estate” stuff. “But we need to protect democracy!” Well, maybe newspapers need to reorganize as not-for-profit entities more akin to public radio/TV, or as foundations like the Pew Trusts. But the only way that newspapers can stay both profitable and a force for democracy is to travel back in time.

Update: If anyone is interested in the opinions of other “experts” (actually, I am in this case), check out this post from Clay Shirky and this one from Steve Johnson. Both are also excerpted in this NYTimes op-ed piece. All good 444 stuff.

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