Monday, December 22, 2008

A plaintive cry from the blogosphere

If you have read David Sullivan's post from last week, Sic Semper, and you blog (or write or think, for that matter) about the future of this business, you can't help feel a little twinge in what reads like a "finis."

It isn't of course and as David, one of the true gems in the newspaper and copy-editing world, says, he will continue writing about copy-editing and department stores and such. But there is a plaintive cry here, a resignation of sorts:

But I have become a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. It is time to be quieter, to write about department store history -- which I actually have original research on. To write about copy editing, probably. But to raise a voice to say that the print newspaper is not simply paper on which to publish stories, but is a product that carries its own meaning, that creates and binds a community, that gives it a history and a direction, that says that the real world is bigger than the worlds we build for ourselves? Given time and money, we could find a future for it. But time is not on its side when there is no revenue.

I have been looking at a copy of the 1976 Editor & Publisher Market Guide. It is the newspaper world that I entered nearly 35 years ago. "An Offset Newspaper With Over 25,000 Circulation!" That was in Olean, N.Y. "The Money Tree: Looking for choice pickings? Look no further than Bristol. ... Make your sale in Bristol with The Bristol Press." That in Connecticut, at a paper that will probably close next month. "Hawaii Has Many Faces... And One Advertising Buy Reaches Them All." The former Honolulu JOA. It was a great world that I was fortunate to be part of, and it is ending too soon for me. But I expect people said the same thing about vaudeville.

Far from it, of course.

Sullivan, despite being the apparent object of Jay Rosen's snark at some point (I didn't see it, and I wish David had linked to it), remains one of the must-read voices in all this. Rarely is there a posting that does not make you think. Agree or disagree, that is the definition of good writing.

Fortunately, after writing those discouraging words, David provides us with some fine thoughts on Lauren Rich Fine's latest report suggesting it may take a billion or more page views a month for a site like the New York Times to become profitable without the print component.

Carry on, Davide, carry on.

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