‘For-Profit Newspapers Lose Money Accidentally’

No, really. Someone wrote that. In all seriousness.

But before we get out the party hats and noise-makers to celebrate the
rise of nonprofit journalism, here’s the bad news. In the current
arrangement, we’re substituting one flawed business model for another.
For-profit newspapers lose money accidentally. Nonprofit news
operations lose moneydeliberately. No matter how good the
nonprofit operation is, it always ends up sustaining itself with
handouts, and handouts come with conditions.

There is so much fail in that paragraph I can’t begin to … I mean … Let’s deal with the major fail first:


A spokeswoman for Sun-Times said that as of September, the cost of defence fees for former executives had reached $117.9m.

has unsuccessfully gone to court to escape the indemnities. Costs
continue to mount as Black recently petitioned the supreme court in the
hope of overturning his six-and-a-half-year prison sentence. Black’s
lawyer, Carolyn Gurland, said legal indemnities were ­common provisions
at companies wishing to attract talented executives. “Every penny paid
under that indemnity was proper under Sun-Times’ corporate documents,”
she said. “The indemnity was upheld by a judge in Delaware.”

added that the company had spent more than $125m on expert advice and
investigation into the conduct of Black and his colleagues, who were
eventually convicted of siphoning off $6.1m.

That’s some “accident.”

Mismanagement is not an accident. Fraud is not an accident. Piss-poor planning is not an accident. Deliberate obtuseness to the true costs and true benefits of running a newspaper is not an accident. Failure to recognize the coming decline in print advertising despite dire warnings from everyone on the planet for an entire decade is not an accident. This didn’t just happen.People broke this industry on purpose. I don’t know how often I have to stand on the street corner like a crazy person with a sign and hold up pictures of the newspaper industry with a knife in its back in order to prove this was a homicide, not a suicide because the message doesn’t seem to be getting through.

And this is just fucking special:

No matter how good the
nonprofit operation is, it always ends up sustaining itself with
handouts, and handouts come with conditions.

Yes. Advertisers never want things. Readers never want things. They’re all perfectly content to let the newspaper take their money and then kick back and read whatever without a whisper of protest. That’s exactly how it works. I can’t tell if Shafer is childishly naive or criminally lazy or just really fucking stupid here. Maybe all three.

Here’s another bit of dumbassery:

Nonprofit news
operations lose moneydeliberately.

He does not cite a single balance sheet of a single nonprofit news organization to show that they are losing money. “Not rapaciously making 25 percent profits at the expense of actual operations” does not equal “losing money.” Jesus tits. It’s just a totally fact-free assertion with not even the most cursory research to back it up.

From later in the piece, and this actually made me laugh out loud:

Commercial outlets may reflect their owners’ views, but this tendency
is always tempered by the need to attract readers and viewers.

Hence the hemorrhaging of readers elsewhere when commercial outlets continue publishing choads like David Brooks and Ross Douthat without regard for their readers’ preferences.

Even later, we have Shafer conflating all non-profits with like MoveOn or something:

To borrow a tidy phrase from the business world, donors to nonprofits seek not payouts from their investment butpsychic income.
They want to feel that their money has done good, or at least caused
“evil” some pain. They want to help publish stories that will make
Congress to sit up and take notice and pass legislation. The want the
major media to chase their stories. They want to publish stories that
will convince voters to vote the way they’d have them vote.

I will have to tell the ferret shelter organization I volunteer for, a federally certified nonprofit, that we need to begin our voter registration drive pretty soon.

I’ve read a lot of bullshit about the newspaper industry but this hatchet job is probably the worst thing I’ve read in a long time.


11 thoughts on “‘For-Profit Newspapers Lose Money Accidentally’

  1. Forget it, A., it’s Slate.
    This actually isn’t the dumbest concern trolling I’ve read there recently. Check out the thing on how Etsy betrays feminism. To quote In The Loop, it’s like a Harry Potter book except if Harry Potter books made people really angry.

  2. I’ve sung the praises of the local college newspaper on many occaisions. Definitely non-Profit (they wouldn’t even let me contribute to them. They get their funds from student activity fees.)
    Having dealt with student fees (and associated committees) before – if they were to loose money or otherwise go over budget the students would slay them with pitforks and torchlight parades. Students are extremely unforgiving over their activity fees. Other groups vying for the same fees would go beserk.

  3. Oooh, the feminist olympics! My favorite! So if any woman takes advantage of something designed by a man in order to advance her ambitions, she’s no longer a feminist? Good to know. I’ll quit driving, using my computer, talking on the telephone and wearing my Adolph Schumann suit right away.
    I wonder if this cheapo T-shirt I’m wearing today was designed by a man? Shit, looks like I’ll have to go to work in my bra! Wait. That doesn’t work either. DAMN IT. Guess it’s topless or nothing!

  4. Shafer wrote this fresh off giving Andrew Breitbart atongue bath for doinga prank, so I think that says a lot about where his head is at. I think he’s decided being provocative is more appealing than being coherent.

  5. Can’t the Sun-Times tell Conrad Black to go piss up a rope? Goodness knows it wastres satisfiant when the Canadian government said that to him when he asked for his citizenship back…

  6. getting back to the crazy lady with a sign- yes, of course it was on purpose. i have this list of things that imho historians will look back upon and say, “these deliberate steps brought down the hegemony and primacy of the near democracy called the united states c. 1945-2000.” the consolidation of media ownership is only one of them, right next to an increasingly independent and expensive MIC and the deliberate formation of our economy in the paper money/oil/credit bubble. these things didn’t have to happen, but people who wanted to, were allowed to do them, and our democracy and stability and security have all suffered as a result. except for a handful, of course, who’ve made out like bandits via ‘disaster capitalism’ and other extreme misinterpretations of our political and economic traditions.
    but yeah, knife in the back for the watch guard is always a good first step, when you’re a thief.

  7. Well, I suppose you could give it some credit for beingcreative bullshit. Then again, Slate specializes in unconvincing contrarian bullshit, and it grows very tiresome. Dahlia Lithwick and a few others over there are worthwhile, but sadly, most of the rest is crap.

Comments are closed.