Analyst Ed Atorino of Benchmark Capital called high-quality journalism “almost irrelevant” to a newspaper’s overall financial health. He said a paper should provide timely, interesting information without errors. “But does it have to be Pulitzer Prize-winning?” he asked. “No.”
Atorino cited his former hometown’s weekly newspaper, the Chatham (N.J.) Courier (circulation 3,000), which “covers local stuff: the Kiwanis, the football game, pictures of the 80-year-old lady that retired. You don’t need ‘quality’ journalism. It’s information. It’s value.
“I think the whole idea of quality journalism is overrated,” he said. “Pulitzer prizes haven’t saved Knight Ridder, case in point. I’m sure from some perspective quality journalism is better than lousy journalism, but perfectly average journalism is fine.”
Every once in a while you run across people so passionately devoted to the creamiest part of the vanilla custard center that it makes you long for Charles Dickens to rise from the dead so he could caricature them as Pernicious McWeaselton or Avaricious Q. Stumpthumper, the news “analyst” who tells the noble ink-stained wretches, through a mouthful of prime rib, to just quit trying so hard.
Now look. It may in fact be true that journalism has little to do with a paper’s financial success. Journalists don’t have much of an impact on circulation, that’s completely true. There’s a whole separate department at most papers, however small, for that, and maybe Atorino should be advising new executives to put more pressure on those people to do their jobs, instead of telling them to tell their reporters to slack off.
Then again, I’m a blogger with no ethics, so what the fuck do I know?