Diary

Who Mourns for Newspapers?

The oh-so-nuanced, sophisticated, intelligent newspaper industry whines about its plunging profits, its layoffs, and changing landscape. John Gapper details the coming carnage here.

A telling quote by Bill Keller, executive editor of the NYT, talking to NPR (that rabid right-wing radio outlet) . . .

 “Good journalism does not come cheap. And, therefore, you’re not going to find a lot of blogs or non-profit websites that are going to build a Baghdad bureau.”

Really? How do we know that an aggregate of bloggers from Baghdad wouldn’t be able to give us a sense of events happening there? The more you maintain your tight-fisted grip on the narrative, Mr. Keller, the more truth will slip through your fingers, methinks.

Gapper continues:

Up to a point, Lord Keller. The failure of papers will deprive US readers – and those in countries where similar forces are at work – of plenty of useful information. But, let us face it, the industry also plays host to an immense amount of duplication and self-indulgence.

The internet brought trouble for regional and city papers not only because it gave an outlet to bloggers, and broke the monopoly they had on classified and display advertising, but because it let Philadelphians, for example, peruse publications other than the Inquirer.

There are things you can only learn about Philadelphia from the Inquirer, or Chicago from the Tribune, or Miami from the Herald. If they went away, they would also take with them a check on local abuses of political power, as the phone-tapped desire of Rod Blagojevich, the governor of Illinois, to get his critics on the Tribune fired shows.

Nor is it obvious that such coverage could be produced by internet sites instead. In theory, information about local events can be just as efficiently distributed online as in print – in some ways, better. In practice, papers’ dominance of local print advertising brought them a revenue base that is unlikely to be replicated.

Although Gapper has a compelling argument, I believe he is missing the 800 lb. elephant in the room: Yellow journalism. Have they ever, ever considered presenting a subject thoughtfully and balanced on both sides?

There is a another reason people drop newspapers. It has to do with the growing sophistication of readers who hate commentary mixed in with straight reporting. As a recovering journalist, I saw the subtlety of this technique first-hand. And I know many of us recognize the techniques, too. The slight shading of events by adding unnecessary adverbs or adjectives. “Controversial,” “polarizing,” “embattled,” and, yes, even “Conservative!” Oh my!

Now that talk radio has flourished, I believe it has awakened in us an awareness of all the lamestream media’s tricks to tell us how we should think about a subject. This BS meter has always been there inside us, but never really utilized until Rush, Sean, Michael, Glenn, Boortz pointed it out to us. Gapper again:

Many American journalists, facing job losses and the death of an industry they loved, regard it as a tragedy not just for them but for society. They fear that television, radio and blogs can never replace what newspapers provided for readers.

Personally, I say good riddance to what modern-day lib. papers provide for us. Long live straight talkers, in whatever medium they decide to reside!