April 22, 2009

The Fall of the Newspapers

To paraphrase Dick Nixon, it's not going to be fun when we won't have newspapers to kick around anymore. It's looking like in a few years the paper copy may be as rare as the dodo bird, due to a perfect storm of (self-inflicted) bias, reduced advertising revenue, and, of course the "free" news on the Internet.

Bias is the climate condition that the newspapers themselves would deny, but it certainly played the main role in my decreased consumption of the product. (Obviously my case is anecdotal and subscription money is likely only a fraction of the advertising money for papers.) They say that 2008 was the year newspapers lost all pretence of objectivity but I noticed it in 2003 & 2004, causing me to cancel the Columbus Dispatch. Not quite a year later, I restarted but on weekends only.

The Dispatch's foray into bias in '03 may have been a calculated move, like MSNBC's. The rap against the paper was that it was too boring, too Republican, it needed a edge like the blogs and cable tv shows, and that edge is opinion. Liberal in this case. Unfortunately, the result was even the front page became a receptacle of opinion.

It may or may not be coincidental, but liberal newspapers have been in more trouble than more mainstream ones (one example: the Wall Street Journal is doing better than the New York Times).

Perhaps there's an analogy to the banks and Wall Street investment firms. Banks saw the hedge funds doing big business and wanted a piece of it. The newspapers saw the blogs and talking heads and wanted the joy of venting outside the confining confines of the editorial page. One possible difference is that the big banks were greedy while with newspapers there was an element of just trying to survive.

It's sad because I love the feel of newspaper in the morning. Especially weekend or vacation mornings when I can take my time with it.

1 comment:

Terrence Berres said...

"I love the feel of newspaper in the morning." --Robert Duvall, tagline in PSA series from the American Newspaper Publishers Association