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January 31, 2008

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Thank God this was written.

You've hit the nail on the head in so many places. The management pool has declined badly into a bunch of cowardly yes-people, whose conflicting goals are to protect the status quo while continually introducing dumber and dumber "innovations" and using no intellect to defend their decisions. They merely bully and intimidate people while their schemes fail.

These managers are a big reason why newspapers just keep stumbling. They won't change their approaches, and they won't change who they hire. As a result, newsrooms are filled with dinosaurs and design dolts who won't ever be part of a solution. Until they're finally shown the door, and their chronic failings are documented and posted as patterns to avoid, the problems will continue.

This is so dead on it's scary. I spent eight years in Lee watching exactly what you describe happen.

I realized back in 1994 -- 10 years into the business out of college -- that there was something wrong in the overall newspaper system. I went to grad school to shift careers, but still freelanced for a big paper to keep a hand in and see if my instincts were wrong. When I personally witnessed the LA Times shut down a bunch of suburban sections and force expert, middle-aged reporters compete for a single job a 2-hour commute away, I realized there was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Time to get out. If that's how the business treats its veterans, there's no reason to stick around. As I see my friends take buyouts and quit management jobs so they can salvage a few remaining reporter job, it's very sad. And people like me have long since picked up law degrees and Ph.D.s. I use my writing skills to bring down million-dollar government grants now. Even if newspapers no longer care about good thinking, sharp questioning, and excellent writing, there are plenty of places for people with those skills to go and make a better living and have a much better quality of life. But, it's true, no job is quite as fun as the newspaper game used to be. Even the newspaper game isn't any more. Thanks for this.

OMG, you've written the obituary of my hometown newspaper. The only thing I would change is to change "tailspin" to "death spiral" -- an inside joke to Dayton Daily News staffers.

Well said...if only someone will listen. In my time with a small, community daily 15 years ago, we pursued journalism with impact. Enterprise reporting was encouraged. We addressed real issues, talked to real people. I don't know how much money we made back then, but the paper was robust. Now it is owned by a non-local corporation. The staff has been gutted. A sad tale. No more sad, though, than what is described here. Newspapers need to innovate--not just add a print product targeted to some demographic group in the hopes that readership and revenue will come flooding in...but truly serve information needs for people that are not currently met by any media. Newspapers still maintain the most effective and powerful newsgathering force in any market. They can use this to their advantage. But they need to think beyond print. Seriously, newspapers employ bright, intelligent people--how can they not think their way out of this? Someone has a solution.

"Yep." "Absolutely." "Precisely."
These are the words I was muttering while reading your excellent column. As someone with 25 years in print journalism, I have run up against every one of the problems you listed.

Most frustrating to me is the bottom-line, please-Wall-Street mentality that permeates the industry. Journalism is about getting reporters on the street to dig out the news. You can't run it like a steel mill or retail store. Beancounters, though, drag out their stats and other numbers to justify cutbacks and other moves.

This hits on a personal level, too, because I've been searching for a new job over the past year and have found that 25 years experience is a detriment. Papers (especially those with -- gag -- human resource departments) automatically kick out applicants they believe will want too much money, regardless of their track record and accomplishments. So they get someone with less experience for less money and, as is often the case, you get what you pay for.

I know John Talton. I've always liked John Talton.
Yes, here comes a "but."
There is still room for good stories at my paper -- The Republic. That's why papers are still great.
Are there some stories that are lighter then air? Yes. I have written many of them. I confess.
However, I also get a lot of space to write a good long story every once in a while.
A story that means something.
Admittedly, these are tough times. It is not easy to do great work. But you can still try. And sometimes you succeed.
There are are many people (Talton NOT included) who say it is the system that won't allow them to write great stuff.
In truth, they can't do it because they don't have the talent or the energy.
Keep working, keep reporting, keep writing.

Jon, you were always one of the most intelligent journalism colleagues in business when I was in the business. So gald to see you're keeping the great commentary and ideas flowing...

Jon: I see you've finally made your exit from the corporate newspaper world. I can't say I'm surprised. The view's nice from here, isn't?

I believe the era of the publicly-owned news company has run its course. The business remains profitable, though with most local newspapers now consolidated, profits probably will never grow fast enough again to satisfy Wall Street. And of course what did all those mergers buy us?

Contrary to what the investment bankers and bigger-is-better consolidation advocates have said, this process hasn't hastened innovation. Probably killed it, is more like it. Why are so many experienced journalists now out of the industry? These are people who've attracted readership, invented new ways of presenting the news, or most importantly, simply stuck to the standards of good old-fashioned news gathering.

What newspapers need right now is forward thinking, risk-taking ownership that aims to serve the community - and make a healthy, if not fast-growing profit along the way. There's nothing wrong with the business model of a for-profit newspaper. There is something wrong about promising double-digit annual growth.

Many of us are looking at new models for local news. Alas, there's still no proven replacement yet. I think there could be a profitable model for delivering local news via the Web, though it's still in its infancy. There are an interesting variety of experiments going on around the country, some entrepreneurial and some non-profit.

In suburban Charlotte, a few of us are covering local government and schools, growth and development, people, churches, and the arts on DavidsonNews.net (http://www.davidsonnews.net), a local news website that competes with the big daily (Charlotte Observer) and local weeklies. We're just a handful of volunteers, but we're becoming a must-read news source. We're looking at a combination of reader contributions, advertising and corporate sponsorships to support the site. But it's still a work-in-progress.

You'll find other experiments as well, some hoping for success in a non-profit approach. Take a look at MinnPost.com or Voice of San Diego, as just a couple of examples. Some media experts are tracking the trend. Journalist and media critic Mark Glaser recently supplied an interesting list looking at some of these efforts. (http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2007/12/digging_deeperyour_guide_to_hy.html)

The point here is not the model - someone will figure this out - but that there are and can be new ways to deliver local news. ... In my opinion, those with the best chance of winning reader loyalty and financial support are those that hold on to their independence. We'll see ...

Sorry, I disagree with most of what you said. I too have been in this business for 25 plus years and I still believe in the future of our profession. Granted, profits too often in the past were the only driving force for many companies, but economics can also force change that can be very good for our industry. Today newspapers as a whole are a lot more savy and lean. There was a lot of fat in too many metro newsrooms that relished over-written un-edited stories that played to the writer's ego more than serving the average reader. We can state that somehow we were serving the greater good through writing them, but too often the only one reading many of these self-serving articles were those in our own industry. Our forefathers in print journalism cut their teeth on stories that were interesting and well told. They understood what the reader wanted and they filled that need. Today, we are seeing a rebirth of this entreprenuerial spirit as "multimedia" becomes our business model. We are entering a future that looks brighter than ever to those who look forward. Print is not dead. Stories can now be told on multi-platforms in ways we never thought of just 10 years ago. Non-profit has never been and will never be the answer. Creating products that people want to actually read or view will drive traffic and with it advertisers.

Nothing I wrote above defended, or had anything to do with, "over-written un-edited stories that played to the writer's ego more than serving the average reader..."
But that was the company line used to defend the thousand cuts that have helped destroy a grand profession. "Average readers," whoever the heck they are, will suffer, too.

I used to buy the LA Times for its food section, which used to be 16 to 24 pages every week, including the supermarket ads. They've cut back on the food articles, increased the number of restaurant reviews (which rarely get away from the downtown-to-Santa-Monica line), and turned it into 8-pages-a-week of not-worth-the-fifty-cents.

Losing the regional editions (which were already iffy: twice a week for the San Gabriel Valley, and they used that edition to cover everything from Burbank to Riverside) and most of the good reporting and good op-ed writers is not the whole story, just most of it.

Ahem. If I may put an alternative view? I have been in an around newspapers for a long time and they are dying. Mostly they deserve to die. And, yes, the loss of editorial talent and the replacement of serious journalism with puff pieces has something to do with it.
But far more relevant is that the readership has more options. When I was young -- I am 73 so that we can keep this accurate -- my family took five Sunday newspapers and two daily newspapers. (This was in Wales but the situation was the same through much of Britain and, as I have researched, Australia.) Much of what we took was rubbish but there were no alternatives except for radio -- one station, chapel and books from the library which were clean both inside and out.
Now we have television, much of it dross but some gems.
And we have blogs. This one was referred to me by my nephew in Canada.
We have affordable paperbacks, pretty much every movie made on DVD. These are distractions and they eat into the advertising money which was, once, pretty much wholly taken up by newspapers.
Newspapers are dying. True. So are many magazines. And although more books in numbers of titles are sold every year the number of copies of a given run-of-the-mill title drops every year.
Yes, newspaper management (perhaps with the exception of Rupert Murdoch) is generally totally incompetent and most of the good journalists have been fired our found fresh fields and pastures new.
But the death of newspapers -- they will never totally die -- comes about simply because there are too many animals fighting for readership and the advertising dollar.

The most important reason newspapere are failing is missing above, enviornmental concerns as trees are being cut by the millions to deliver to the door and then they end up in full landfills. People have had enough of this waste!

I see someone from Lee chimed in; I work for a competing company. I can speak only for the newspaper I work for now.

We have one Lee paper in the area and you'd think that was the only competition for any of the newspapers. Rarely does TV, radio, and Internet seem to be considered.

Promoting the newspaper? Done in the newspaper. House ads. C'mon.

Most important function of the newspaper? Selling ads. Not covering news; selling ads. At times the newsroom ends up answering to the advertising department. Fortunately right now we have a publisher at the helm with editorial experience; before him, since I've been around, it was all sales guys. Concentrating on sales is fine, but you're selling people on the idea of a newspaper, not a weekly shopper.

International news is "filler." Most stories seem to be feel-good pieces loaded with editorializing. Inside pages material running on the front, in other words.

Boneheaded decisions such as running the sports section (the most popular section of the paper) ad-free, and putting out more special sections (hello, extra print cost) and more emphasis on them, than the main product.

Handing over web hosting to your largest competitor (though this is changing) and treating it as if it's a parasite.

Seeming to have as a #1 company-wide goal to be the largest publishing company be means of acquisition.

Company in-fighting between properties.

I could go on for days.

The piece is largely spot on but my one question is how come everything you blame on corporate controlled media monopolists is happening in the Tampa Bay area where there is 2 newspapers one of which is independently owned?

The decline has way more to do with a few of the things you briefly touched on which is a grand failure to innovate and the underestimation of the audience.

Produce an innovative and exciting product and readers/ users will knock each other over to buy it. Same goes for Wallstreet.

There's no secret to running a profitable local weekly. I worked on a number of them more than thirty years ago. You won't get rich, but you'll do better than just OK.

1. We're talking a community weekly here. Don't pollute it with international, national, state or regional news.

2. Cover every local organization in your community. Scouts, bowling leagues, little league, soccer, hockey, Kiwanis, Moose, Elks, etc. Each of these groups will have a rep happy to write their news for you.

3. Get to know the vice principals at all local schools. They'll always have news for you.

4. Publicity releases are often newsworthy. Print them, but identify them as such.

5. Know your city government inside out and cover mundane subjects such as scheduled road repairs, closings, traffic light installations, etc. Every city department has newsworthy info.

6. Government meetings are important. Cover them, boring as they usually are.

7. Weekly police logs are addictive reading. They're also great for expanding and doing crime watch stories.

8. Don't take sides in local elections unless there's an important reason for doing so.

9. Pictures. Lots of pictures. Names, lots of names.

10. Stay away from book and movie reviews, especially by local amateurs.

11. Try for a good local human interest columnist with a sense of humor.

12. Never use subscription service columnists or content.

13. In a town of 60,000 or so, you only need one ad person. Pay a meager stipend but offer generous commissions. Always accompany your sales rep during the first few weeks on the job.

The list is longer, but I'll stop with the next one, since it's the most important one.

14. Stay in business long enough to qualify to print your towns legal notices. That's your bread and butter. The rest is gravy.

An enterprise like this can be run with three full-time employees and stringers.

1. Editor/owner.
2. Editor/owner's spouse (the business manager and ad placer).
3. Aunt Tillie, who knows graphics design and software and can lay out a twelve page paper with a cigarette in each hand.

A couple of points:
1. When I say "newspaper," I don't necessarily mean the dead-tree edition. So environmentally speaking, let paper wither away. But if journalism withers away, so does democracy.
2. I have yet to see all the things competing to distract us fill the void of serious, excellent journalism. A self-governing people need it, or self-government goes away. Britney's lack of panties is not watchdog journalism. Yes, we can distract ourselves into societal and governmental decline. As for blogs, many contain false information. Few can make the money to support serious journalism, which can't br practiced by 22-year-old Mo-Jos who don't know anything. The real craft takes talent and years of practice and seasoning.
3. Community papers have their place. But a self-governing people, who must make decisions more and more in a world marketplace ruled by huge players and forces, need national and international news more than ever.
4. As for Tampa Bay, the excellence of the St. Pete paper continues, despite the collapse of the business model. But a metro area of that size would have been better served with, say, four papers, not two. The problem is national in scope.

Here goes: The LA Times is still in crisis, even with Chairman Sam promising changes and responsible governance. Why? The same old-school managers are still there and still standing in the way of progress. They are the folks who went along with the Tribune mismanagement and did not fight it. The local publisher and CEO, David Hiller, has continued to maintain his Tribune-taught management style: bottom-line cost-cutting management. Just look at the number of editors we have been through since Tribune took over. The individual departments are still using old, ineffective methods, pre-Tribune though they are. We still see the adversarial management vs. worker style of organization, as well as an overabundance of managers/supervisors. Too many chiefs, too few indians. We are happy to have a no-nonsense new owner, but we have yet to see any substantive changes. The ones that trickle down are merely old wine in new bottles. We all want a prosperous and growing paper, and are working to that end. We need to see real progress, instead of shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic, which is what we have right now. Loss of the local editions was a big loss for the paper. Loss of circulation followed loss of interest by our customer base. The new owner knows all this. We hope he is listening.

Newspapers were once representative of an engaged readership which shared the newspaper's views, and which had often contributed to its creation.
This was also when people worked six days a week, and twelve hours minimum per day -- which takes care of the "don't have time" argument.

Today's newspapers are focused on having the highest possible circulation, the most advertising revenue and appealing to as many as possible.
Which means that engaged people will go elsewhere to become engaged, and that newspapers are reduced to pandering and second guessing what people want to hear, and what their advertisers will let them write.

Add to this the fact that journalists now esteem access higher than reportage, and you have all the ingredients required to save a lot of pulp.

The Star Tribune has followed this template almost to a T. It admiringly stole the publisher of the crosstown paper, who had reduced staff and news content. Before a court removed him from his new job, he had eliminated suburban editions of the Strib, forced out numerous name-brand journalists and strengthened the hand of right-wing columnists and reporters (which is always a priority among the cost-cutters).

That's a major part of the picture you do not mention: the bean-counting manager mindset that print readers are political reactionaries. They believe--with no data to support them--that the way to hold or recapture older readers and attract young ones is to skew hard right. The preponderance of literate folks, however, live in the reality-based world.

The appeal of print media will continue to decline because its predominant editorial slant is simply wrong--its on-the-one-hand approach and its focus on the trivial are irritating to rational people who want facts and truth. The Post and The Times are glaring examples of corporations run by owners, publishers and editors who appear clueless or uncaring about what their readers want from them.

One more thing: the destruction of the comics page. They made the section smaller, and the individual comics smaller, and kept old comics which haven't been interesting for a long time without adding good new comics--and the pleasure of reading 20 or 30 comics without waiting for pages to load was gone.

What's wrong with newspapers?
It's not that complicated!
Their distribution system is now obsolete!
Their concept of what constitutes value is even more out of date!

Absolutely! My husband and I are real newspaper junkies -- the kind of people who bicycle to get the paper when at the beach. We are people you have to work to drive away from the paper.

Yet about 15 years ago we dropped our local paper The Tennessean once an excellent home town paper. For me the final straw came when they charged an extra 50 cents a week for a weekend section on 'international news'. When my 'newspaper' charges me extra for news, I am done.

The railroads died because they saw themselves as metal boxes on rails instead of as transportation -- if they had had imagination we would be flying 'Great Northern' today. The newspapers have similarly muffed their future by forgetting who their readers are.

"And it left them at the mercy of Wall Street."

I don't think that this factor can be overestimated. Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Donald Graham simultaneously lead both the editorial boards and the business boards of their respective newspapers, and I think that fiscal concerns are bleeding over into editorial decisions.

A specific point: the elimination of the inheritance tax is very popular with the publishers of newspapers which are still partly family-owned. These include the Times and the Post, and the publisher of the Seattle Times recently wrote about this. ("Death, taxes, and The Seattle Times", by Mark D. Fefer, Seattle Weekly,
September 15, 1999.)

I wonder whether the estate tax hooplah isn't as much about getting favorable newspaper coverage as it is about fund-raising among the big heirs.

The problems you cite with the newspaper industry are true of virtually every other industry in this country as well. Very few companies are run with the needs of the customer in mind. "Increasing shareholder value" is the prime directive at most publicly-traded companies, and that goal rarely coincides with providing a good product for the consumer or a decent working environment for the employees. Or economy is collapsing into a kleptocracy where lining the pockets of speculators takes precedence over every other consideration. It's noting new, but it still is terribly depressing.

Might it be a reasonable partial summary of your article to say that "newspapers are being killed by capitalism"? Perhaps "... by the excesses of capitalism" but the former is punchier. It seems to me that the references to "Wall Street" are using it as a euphemism for dominate capitalism.

As a daily reader (for many years) of both the L.A. and New York times, I'd like to get my two cents in here.

Put as simply as possible, newspapers are declining because readers can no longer believe what they read in them. It requires a Key to All Mysteries and a continuous reliance on Atrios, Markos, et. al. to decipher the propaganda laden tripe that has replaced honest journalism, and it is so much easier to access the truth elsewhere. When newspapers return to reporting, instead of serving up heapings of pro-business spin, they will have a chance to recover their place in our society.

"damage to our democracy"?

We stumbled into Vietnam in an era when the press in general, and the newspapers in particular, were doing much better. That might even be considered a golden era of newspaper journalism. But still, this vigorous, thriving journalistic community cheerled this country over that cliff with even less dissent than attended our involvement in Iraq.

It's unrealistic to look to the "Fourth Estate" for the objective public discussion of the people's business that simply has to occur in the actual national legislature if we are to have a functioning republic. If even our legislators are too intimidated by or caught up in the internal politics of the Village, or too swept up in the heat of the moment, to do their jobs, how are journalists, subject to the same forces, supposed to do any better? Journalists are just supposed to report on our democracy in action. If there is no democracy in action, there's nothing for them to report, and they end up twiddling their fingers reporting the horse race, and sucking their thumbs over personalities.

Here's what happened in the construction industry. Like newspapers, an industry not easily off-shored. No real wage increases for 20 years. Maybe you haven't noticed it yet, but the quality of our buildings continues to slide because we no longer validate the value of craft with a living wage. Have you looked at our nation's education statistics? Did we ever pay teachers a wage that indicated that we value their craft? Journalism is dying because we as a society value hedge fund managers more than journalists. The people who read blogs like this one are outraged at the loss of good journalism. I am sorry but you (we) are a small minority. I can't help but think that it's as simple as that. If enough people wanted good journalism, and were willing to pay for it, we would have it. Ditto - schools, roads, houses, manufacturing...

A lot of truth in this post, but maybe not a full realization of the scale of the tsunami that is currently ripping through the media business.

Even if newspapers had remained well-managed, scrappy, independent and community minded, etc., the business model STILL would have failed, because it can't be protected from the web and can't be transfered to the web, either.

Without classified, print newspapers probably are doomed. But without classified AND large retail display (which isn't, and maybe never be, practical on the web) the ad-supported "sponsored" news organization simply can't survive -- especially in an environment as inherently hostile to bundling as the web.

This means the news gathering process either has to be atomized (the blog model), sold to subscribers at full cost (the industry newsletter model) or completely merged with the advertising content (the infomercial model).

Those last two models are both poison to what we like to think of as a "democratic" society, while the first one (the blogs) is geared to reach only niche audiences.

In other words, this isn't just about the death of the newspapers, it's about the death of "journalism" as a centralized, mass-production industry -- the form it has taken for roughly the past 100 years. The mass media are, or soon will be, purely about entertaining and selling, typically to the lowest common denominator. News is, or soon will be, a luxury good, reserved for those willing and able to pay for it, or those with the leisure time and the intellect to gather it themselves and pass it along on their blogs.

Not exactly a friendly future for the ideal of an elightened, democratic society, but then there's never been any any guarantee that free market capitalism will always produce enlightened, democratic outcomes.

I just sent this article to the Chicago Tribune's editors and suggested they read it.

I loved the insights. I also would add a comment, and that is that I think companies tend to forget the *real* business that they're in. (The classic B-School example is always that railroad companies thought they were in the train business and not the transportation business, so they got steamrolled by more modern forms of transportation.)

One thing I've found is that newspapers forget that they really aren't in the news business (which I know is hard for editors and newsroom staffs to take) but in the delivery business. News is plentiful and free (except for advertising) on the Internet, and thanks to cell phone cameras, blogging and other tools, just about anyone can be a "journalist." (I know that raises the hackles of real "journalists," but just look at what news has become--something big happens, and the first thing the news folks do is stick mics in the faces of witnesses and show the grainy cell phone footage captured by people like you and me.)

If newspapers think they're in the printing paper business, they'll be roadkill. But if they concentrate on delivery--getting people the sorts of commentary and local news they can't get anywhere else (without time and effort) in the medium used by consumers and with the speed consumers now expect, then they may survive.

If newspapers continue to think their business is getting yesterday's news in print form, they may as well close up shop now.

I don't read newspapers anymore but used to read them daily, sometimes two of them, as a kid in the UK. Our local paper here in the US is a flimsy thing you can read in five minutes flat (and that's assuming you avoid the right-skewing editorials that take up two pages). I read what I'm interested in from the big nationals online (the New York Times I've always found unreadable as a newspaper simply because of its unfriendly layout), but not so much these days. I prefer to read blogs for news, insight, and analysis. I also read blogs for their superior prose. All too often the ability to tell a story clearly and simply seems to be beyond the employees of big (and small papers)... and TV journalists as well. I would say that the quality of reporting on some blogs far outstrips the equivalent in many, many newspapers; by this I mean that ability to tell the story coherently, follow up the appropriate leads, weigh the evidence, and give the reader a good understanding of the situation or event at issue (not, by contrast, parroting a press release or presenting "both sides of the issue" to preserve "balance.") Delivering opinions in the absence of evidence is -- in contrast to all the complaints made against blogs by writers and journalists who don't like them -- not a crime that the best blogs are guilty of. It is newspapers that are far more likely to peddle opinion instead of, or in the absence of, facts. How much of this is having too many armchair journalists and too few footsoldiers I don't know; someone did tell me that this explained the deterioration of some British broadsheets (e.g. The Guardian) into vehicles for the expression of personal thoughts and feelings, more than reporting. It's all pretty depressing though...

I guess this is a good time for a poem - an elegy?

I met a man beside the firewall
Who said: two vast and empty halls of stone
Stand in the city. Near them, on the mall,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
Truthiness of mouth, which to pow’r gave head,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is WaPo, King of Mainstream Media:
Look upon my works, ye Bloggers, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of those colossal wrecks, in troubled air
The newsprint crumbles, rips, and blows away.

The only bullet I would add is something to the effect of noting the current trend of reverse-meritocracy. Exhibit A: Mr. William Kristol's new gig at the NYT.

I agree with your business-side perspective of newspaper issues, but I can't help but think the liberal politics of most papers has had something to do with their decline. The politics of this country may swing one way or the other, but the paper-buying, white, suburbanite is still and, dare I say, always will be right-of-center. The admitted liberal slant (and in the case of my paper, the Baltimore Sun, liberal to the point of silliness) has surely chased many readers away. I, for one, choose to not contribute to the distribution of liberal propaganda, and that includes my local paper if need be.

This is very dead on. Working at an Advance/NewHouse publication (Huntsville Times), the tail spin is very obvious. The profit margins are being held by consuming anything that ever resembled excess. OT a thing of the past, trying to find ways to reduce the amount of copy paper used, running out payments to vendors to 120+ days, it's just a matter of time. The owners mandate all the company papers use 'internal' vendors for support (said vendors are a creation of the owners) which often cost more or provide marginal services. I see the signs on the wall - exit in 12 months or less.

Newspaper are the 'slow learners' in an ADHD world.

Just a quick comment as I am in Singapore and from Australia n New Zealand - u talk about the US - America - Well it is a world wide epidemic that newspapers are facing - their collapse is imminent

Much of what is here is worth discussion, although I could have done without the sexist condescensions like “even the soccer mom's” and “sending miniskirted saleswomen out to sell ads at confiscatory rates to lecherous old car dealers and appliance-store owners.”

This is one of the very best - and brief - descriptions of what is wrong with my former career that I have read.
On my own blog - freefromeditors.blogspot.com - I have tried to lay out in similar fashiion what has happened at one newspaper - The Flint Journal.
It fits in almost every slot. Chain owned and no competition. The current editorial management team is lock step in line with the "thousand cuts."
A veteran reporting staff (most with 20 or more years of experience) has been decimated through buyouts.
New reporters have been hired right out of college at a new lower pay and benefit scale.
The publisher said the newspaper has two years to turn around and make a profit or it will be history. That's what he told the staff.
To accomplish this they have lost the most experienced editorial and advertising people and at the same time inflicted a large circulation price increase.
You did in one article what I have been trying to explain in my blog since November.
I have linked the article from my blog and hope more people will read it.

There is an elephant in the room as well: we have alternate sources of news that can tell *more* of the story, including the pieces the author or editor(s) removed. Every time I read a news report about my industry (computers) or one I have technical knowledge about I see countless errors of content and context.

One flagrant example was a piece about the System Integrator that 'cobbled' their composing system together... They had *no* clue that the term was derogatory... And don't start on radioactivity coming from high voltage power lines...

Journalism majors don't seem to care about getting the facts correct, so we readers quit buying their papers... And the progressive group-think that is well documented in the J-schools and news rooms only makes matters worse.

A (late) comment from an "end user":

Any time I get the Sunday paper and spend more time hunting for the comics than it takes me to pull them up on line, it makes me wonder why I bother with the print edition. Any time I find that the comics are wrapped in ads, with more ads added in that extra down-the-side strip that I have to tear off to get out of my way, I begin to believe that the newspaper really doesn't give a flying fig for my comfort, but only for the bottom line. And I generalize that to the rest of the paper.

In the case of the AZ Republic, as a Liberal, I find it rather hard to wade through all the slanted phrasing to get to any actual stories. As a child of the 50's and 60's, I grew up with the mythos, if not the reality, of a reporter reporting.

Any time I find that the comics are wrapped in ads, with more ads added in that extra down-the-side strip that I have to tear off to get out of my way, I begin to believe that the newspaper really doesn't give a flying fig for my comfort, but only for the bottom line.

The biggest problem with the newspaper world is the paper! It's not eco-friendly, not read as Web news and sure not good for the early wakers turckers :)

It is a shame that newspapers are feeling that they just can't survive anymore. I think the main thing that they need to do is just learn how to adapt. Then they can still make money and give people the news that they need and want.

Excellent my friend! This is so relevent in my community, Windsor Ontario. We have a big election coming up and only one newspaper. There have been several allegations of conflict of interest with respect to the Mayor of Windsor and the Windsor Star, our local monopoly rag. This has created an environment with no debate and no challenging the current officials on any issue, period. The current Mayor and City Council are protected and insultated by the press.
I believe in integrity and transparency and if I may pass on a boycott against the Windsor Star where I will be adding links about what needs to be addressed and how to achieve fair and balanced news. If anyone feels they can contribute to our fight please do so at: Boycott the Windsor Star: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-the-Windsor-Star/153401784696041

Beautiful read, i was talking to a friend the other night about the same topic and gave her this site to visit.

damn straight y'all

Your Sunday, Feb. 11 column, Jon, provides more evidence that you are willing to say what most needs saying despite collective desire/need to ignore it. I can even imagine there may come a time when you write that pursuit of unlimited growth makes a mockery of any possibility of sustainability. And that costs of this ignorance will likely be very high.
Will we ever allow full recognition of impacts of fracking....industrial dependence on cheap energy?...of continued legislative rewarding of population growth?
Keep on provoking thought.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's a link to the column:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/jontalton/2017469989_biztaltoncol12.html

One in a while you read a story in a newspaper that you are aware of what actually happened and see how changed the story is from the actual events.

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