Monday, March 28, 2005

Piling on: Another prediction of the death of newspapers

The latest prepared obit comes from Michael S. Malone via the Silicon Insider column on

Malone looks at it from his perspective -- a journalist and person deeply infused with the newspaper reading habit who has chucked it.

Some excerpts:

For a long time I rationalized that somehow newspapers would survive, that they still retained some inherent advantage over other media formats — especially the Internet — that would enable them to survive. I used to think it was portability and ease of use — until lightweight laptops and Blackberries came along. Then I thought it was the quality of the images — until I started regularly downloading MPEGs … who needs blurry out-of-register still images bleeding on cheap newsprint when you can watch a Quick-time movie on a 20-inch display?

The last redoubt for the survival of newspaper was, in my mind, accessibility. Hopping from section to section, story lead to story jump, just seemed so much easier than crawling through a long story on a computer screen. Then I saw the first links embedded in blogs. There was simply nothing in the physical world that could ever hope to match the ability to leap through cyberspace from story to story, file to file, with almost infinite extension.

Looking back, it was then that I stopped reading print newspapers.

... [M]y sense is that few newspapers will be able to make the crossing. If they kill their print editions now, they won't have the revenues to make a smooth transition to cyberspace; but if they keep wearing their paper albatrosses, they'll have less of a chance of succeeding in the new world. Thus, if all of the old-fashioned newspapers are going to die, nearly all of the forward-looking ones will too. Before it is all over, the number of "newspapers" left in America will probably be less than 10 — and they might not be individual papers but rather new entities created out of the current large chains. They will become the primary sources of national and international news, delivered into multimedia form.

As for the local papers: they will be shut down, their presses depreciated and scrapped, their offices leased out and the newsroom reporters scattered to the four winds of blogdom and specialty Web sites … where they will provide local news, commentary, movie times and maybe even those long lost Little League box scores.
I'm not as ready to write the obit yet. But I do think it's interesting how, in less than a year, this possiblity has now burst upon the public consciousness. Certainly, we had all debated it for quite a while (it was January 2000, of course, when Daniel Okrent delivered his famous "The Death of Print?" lecture). I just find it fascinating how these things lurk and lurk and suddenly become the cause of the moment. Meanwhile, the industry keeps chugging along.

My question: If print is dead, why are people starting newspapers? Surely they're not all that stupid. I think critics like Malone have confused "the newspaper" with the tradition-bound "newsroom." The ways in which we have always done things are what is dying. The shortcuts newsrooms have relied on -- too few reporters still on the street, over-reliance on press releases, favoring the quick and dirty -- to pump it out and pump up profits are being smoked out. I'm not so sure newspapers are dying as much as are the routines that have infected so many newsrooms, print and broadcast, in the past two decades as a result of presssure from the boardrooms. If by "dying," we mean getting back to the root of what it means to be a journalist -- covering our communities, however defined, as fully and honestly as we can and through whatever medium is appropriate -- that's a good thing.


At 8/22/11, 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog as I was studying for an up and coming online sales seminar I would be giving. I work as a sales manager for a Media News Group newspaper. I tend to agree that printed news is on that long walk down a short pier. The Newspaper I work for is twice a week in print and daily online. The only disagreement I may have is no one is reporting on my home town except my local paper. Who has the time to hit every council meeting, little league game, high school event, chamber infighting, new business, and so on? A one man blog can’t handle all the information. What would happen is that guy with the biggest blog would hire one, two, three, and so on to cover his community. Oh, we got a paper; online paper that is!


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