A thousand million printing presses

Via a friend’s googlefeed, really good analysis of the death of newspapers:

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work.

Read the whole thing. Seriously, read it.

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3 Responses to “A thousand million printing presses”

  1. York Roberts Says:

    Isn’t it already much too late to save newspapers?

    I’m pretty sure that study from 2004 that said that the average age of a newspaper subscriber was something like 59.5 proved that newspapers were already on the way out.

    What surprises and shocks me is how far behind the times some papers and magazines have remained since then. That was 5 years ago. I remember having discussions about it with Mark Baard. He seemed to think the only logical thing to do and the thing that almost every news/media outlet would do is cut back on printing costs, build websites/blogs with talkbacks..etc. and stay afloat via advertising. One of the benefits of internet advertising is also that unlike a printed paper, you can swap out ads continually and thus carry EVEN MORE advertising.

    Essentially the system of how newspapers and magazines work would remaint he same, they would just switch to a better medium where they could surrvive.

    Except a lot of them didn’t.

    Regardless, I don’t think all the good journalism in the world is going to sell papers. I know for a fact (because i read it online) that the New York Times typically has a much higher quality of journalism than the Globe or Providence Journal. But I don’t pay to view the Times online and even though I enjoy some of their articles (which again, are usually fairly consistently high quality) I don’t have the money to throw away to subscribe to the paper.

    Also, it isn’t easy for me to recycle in Providence and I hate having a shitload of paper just floating around…

    I agree that there is horrible putrid writing being passed off as journalism. I’ve read the Herald. I’ve read the Post. Neither of them deserve to surrvive the collapse of the newspaper industry.

    But you know what shit still moves units? US Weekly. People. STAR magazine…etc. And that might be a product of a lot of things in society, but none of that is journalism and people eat it up.

    I honestly think that in addition to being ‘over’ newspapers, this America is by and large ‘over’ news, ‘over’ journalism, ‘over’ current events and ‘over’ reading to some degree.

  2. indeedindeed Says:

    First, I love tabloid newspapers, a lot of times they can break through PC nonsense and tirelessly cover politics and crime and whatnot. The Herald is much more fun to read than the Globe, not that that’s saying a whole lot. They both are good for the city and I hope they both survive in some form.

    I think that’s totally wrong about people not wanting news. They want constant news. Of course we like crap too, but more people read newspapers now than ever, they just don’t pay for it. And it’s not as easy to just say that they should move entirely to digital advertising, because companies just aren’t willing to pay what they used to, and craigslist lets people sell shit for free without using the classifieds.

  3. York Roberts Says:

    I guess we might have different definitions of ‘news’.

    I agree that cable news networks exist to feed the undying need for ‘news’. But I don’t think that what comes from them is actually ‘news’. It’s all entertainment shows with ‘news’ as fodder.

    I gaurantee you that if we made up an informal survey and sent it out to 100 random Americans that had questions like “how many US soliders have died in Iraq?”, “Who is the United States Secretary of State?”, “What were the intended effects of the Obama Stimulus package?” etc. that the answers that we would get back would be astoundingly uninformed.

    I would argue that the majority of Americans get their news from cable and not from reading and also that the vast majority get their news from sources that create opinions for them (Bill O’Reilly, Hannity, Maddow…whatever).

    Cable ‘news’ really can’t be considered journalism by virtue of the fact that most of it is really all editorial.

    I’m not sure I believe that more Americans are reading newspapers than ever. More Americans probably have acess to internet news sources than ever…but I honestly don’t know how people take advantage of them.

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