The World is Ever Ending: Journalism in Decline

Print is dead, first edition: 

That’s 1978.

But hey, don’t let that get in the way of your dire predictions: 

Maybe 25 year olds will start demanding news from yesterday, delivered in an unshareable format once a day.

Sigh. Kids today, who hate newspapers so much [pdf link].

Yet another piece that conflates “less money than we had before” with “not enough money for print journalism.” This is pretty par for the course, and at least touches on the fact that the death of your local main street has some impact (ya think?) on your local newspaper:

CVS and Best Buy have so little connection to the papers they ride along with that they don’t even bother printing the addresses of their local outlets anymore.

Why should they? They’re on every goddamn corner. Your family pharmacy, on the other hand, just can’t keep up with their rapacious practices, and seriously, if there’s a less appealing retail environment than an electronics store I don’t know what it is. The inescapable nature of chains, however, isn’t the fault of “25-year-olds” who want to share their news. It’s the fault of a corporatized society allowed to grow unchecked because any type of government regulation other than tax breaks for big box stores is socialism.

But then there’s this whopper in the middle, which made me laugh so loud I scared Kick:

It’s tempting to try to find a moral dimension to newspapers’ collapse, but there isn’t one. All that’s happened is advertisers are leaving, classifieds first, inserts last. Business is business; the advertisers never had a stake in keeping the newsroom open in the first place.

Oh my FUCKING GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS?

A brief history lesson here:

Sam Zell: 

Mr. Zell, a hard-charging real estate mogul with virtually no experience in the newspaper business, decided that a deal financed with heavy borrowing and followed with aggressive cost-cutting could succeed where the longtime Tribune executives he derided as bureaucrats had failed.

And while many media companies tried cost-cutting and new tactics in the last few years, Tribune was particularly aggressive in planning publicity stunts and in mixing advertising with editorial material. Those efforts alienated longtime employees and audiences in the communities its newspapers served.

Conrad FUCKING Black: 

It was in 2007 that Black was convicted of obstruction of justice and fraudulently diverting $6.1 million of shareholders’ money with former executives at his company Hollinger International, and sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison.

PRETTY MUCH EVERYBODY: 

 A few high-fliers, as the expression goes, made out like bandits. For instance David Hiller, CEO of the Los Angeles Times before he left the company in July of 2008, got $3,972,558 in a deferred bonus, $2,328,067 for his stock, $2,083,333 in phantom equity, a total of $3,050,523 in excise tax gross ups, and $3,960,000 in executive transition. That comes to nearly $15.4 million. Then again, it’s a trifle compared to what Dennis FitzSimons, CEO of the entire company, walked away with — $28.7 million.

Mary Junck:

November 12, 2012: Lee Enterprises lost $7.7 million in the July through September period.

But that didn’t stop Lee executives from getting huge raises in 2012

January 14, 2013: Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck’s total compensation for fiscal 2012increased 82%.

No moral dimension?

It’s all just happening?

It’s nobody’s fault?

I hate to interfere with that comforting perception but I think it’s pretty clear there are more forces at work than just declining advertising revenue.

Imagine, for example, that instead of spending all the money they were making in the 80s and 90s on hookers, blow, and acquisitions of stupid shit like baseball teams, newspaper companies socked that cash away. Imagine if they’d treated journalism like the public trust it always should have been, and safeguarded that trust, instead of partying like it was 1929.

Imagine if they’d greeted TV and the Internet not with defensive crabbing in public but with the confidence to use those media to enhance what they already did well, instead of flailing around in a goddamn panic pissing off every customer they had.

Imagine if they didn’t sign over their circulation and distribution departments to minimum-wagers who had no sales or logistics backgrounds and couldn’t sell the paper or deliver it properly.

Imagine if they courted “25-year-olds” with actual information, instead of insulting them with section after section that disparaged everything they found interesting or culturally relevant? Imagine if they looked at the places print was the best option — like college campuses or small towns or commuter suburbs — and invested there.

Imagine if they just RAN THEIR BUSINESSES WELL. What would print look like then?

We won’t know, because it’s much easier to just steal all the money, spend it on a yacht, and sit back while supposedly intelligent media commentators blame the Internet for everything.

A.

4 thoughts on “The World is Ever Ending: Journalism in Decline

  1. spork_incident says:

    “Print is dead” – Dr Egon Spengler, 1984

    .

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  2. artkoff says:

    I do not understand why newspapers don’t provide more content for the “older” readers that are their base. The younger reader are going to their online products and are unlikely to ever read the print edition with significant numbers, yet most newspapers continue to provide less and less content targeting boomers, seniors, retires and Americans planning their retirement.

    As the founder of RetiredBrains.com which provides this kind of content to this demographic I can tell newspapers the information is in great demand.

    Like

  3. idiosynchronic says:

    “Imagine if they didn’t sign over their circulation and distribution departments to minimum-wagers who had no sales or logistics backgrounds and couldn’t sell the paper or deliver it properly”

    I would like to point out delivery hasn’t made minimum since 19effing85, AT LEAST.

    Like

  4. gratuitous says:

    Curious. I just received a letter from the local newspaper, telling me that they were going to start home delivery for me for free for 26 weeks. I will be calling them today to decline their offer to give away their product (for the record, it’s the Oregonian, which is duplicating each and every mistake listed in this post, as well as inventing a few new ones).

    The reason that I will proffer will be the delivery person’s historic inability to get the paper to my door timely, as well as hit my porch. If pressed, I will go to the paper’s recent turn toward Fox News-style nonsense. The Oregonian has never been a hotbed of liberal thought, but their dabbling in the stuff of conspiracy theory and abbreviated publication schedule make it so unattractive that even getting it for free is too much.

    Like

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