Nimble. Agile. Digital First.

These justifications are always such fucking crap:

They have no idea what they’re doing, journalistically, and they have no idea in any other sense besides making the quarterly earnings report look slightly less shitty. That’s as far ahead as TRONC! (see previous examples of fuckery here, here, here, here and here) can manage to think.

Let’s review how we got where we are, shall we? 

In the late 1990s/early 2000s, media companies bought up newspapers. They then took those newspapers, profitable operations mostly and profitable by double digits, and tried to make them profitable by triple digits.

They did this by cutting the stuff that made them profitable in the first place because that stuff was expensive.

Journalists are not expensive. Journalists are cheap.

First they cut the distribution, or pared it down. They cut out printing popular sections. They cut out delivering on people’s porches, and eventually, to people’s homes. They cut in-house distribution and farmed it out to non-union mouthbreathers who were as likely to throw the paper in the bushes as get it to the customer.

They cut marketing, too, at a time when the housing market was booming and people were moving place to place at accelerated rates, so that you had no idea when you moved into a community what papers was yours.

What else could they combine or cut? Editorial design. Centralize it and put it in the hands of people who wouldn’t notice if a place was misidentified or spelled wrong. Copy editing! Who cares about spelling, anyway? Local opinion coverage, because syndicated columns about how young men need to pull up their pants are obviously more relevant to readers!

Shockingly, these things didn’t magically make the papers more money. In fact, they started bleeding readers, and the advertisers followed. You’ll notice I haven’t talked about THE DASTARDLY INTERNET yet. That’s because while all this was going on the Internet barely existed.

When it finally came to be, and mobile devices brought news to people wherever they were, news organizations were enfeebled, directionless creatures wounded by so many years of mistreatment that they couldn’t take advantage of a new medium even if they wanted to. And let’s be honest, a lot of the people involved didn’t want to take advantage of the Internet. They wanted to take a damn nap, and could you blame them really.

So the flailing began. Let’s be hyperlocal! Let’s have a paywall! Let’s not have a paywall! Let’s have a paywall that can be hacked by a halfway competent barn cat and put nothing behind it but wire copy and comic strips! Let’s do “longform,” whatever the fuck that is. Let’s do Facebook bots!

LET’S RENAME OURSELVES FUCKING TRONC.

When none of that worked because they’d squandered every ounce of goodwill and every drop of brand loyalty built over decades, they started cutting again. And this time there was nothing left to cut but newsroom jobs. So they cut those, and kept cutting, and kept cutting.

That’s where we are right now. None of it has diddly shit to do with the Internet, which some in the industry are just now, 20 fuckin years in, waking up to. All of it has to do with viewing a public goddamn service as just another piggy bank to be smashed when you need change for penny candy.

A.

One thought on “Nimble. Agile. Digital First.

  1. kaleberg says:

    When did television news stop doing those Christmas Day our team around the world closers? Was it the mid-1990s? That’s when all the newspapers started getting bought up too. We could watch this in slow motion.

    That worked out well.

    Like

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