Death of Newspapers

As many large newspaper operations are being shut down or on the brink of bankruptcy, as evidenced by the closing of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and its conversion to online formating, and the closing of Rocky Mountain News of Denver.  The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are in bankruptcy.  The New York Times has to mortgage their office building.  What is happening to these great newspapers?

This article makes a point that perhaps it is due to the cutbacks in news resources such as the closing of foreign bureaus as well as some of their investigative operations due to consolidation of major dailies and news organizations, and from the emphasis of short term profits over substance.   The article even poses whether the death of journalism is near?  Twenty years ago, there was much more competition between news organizations.  Are commentators becoming the new news sources for people? Has news entertainment taken over journalistic integrity?

Today they do almost no investigation into where the trillions of public dollars being spent by the Federal Reserve and Treasury are going but spare not a moment to update us on the “Octomom.” They trade in trivia and reduce everything to spin, even matters of life and death.

The article goes on and states that journalism is a public good, and therefore there must be multiple views and that state censorship needs to be prohibited.  Since journalism is a public good, it has social benefits greater than that of merely the transaction between the buyer and seller, but that of an obligation to the public for journalistic integrity.  So, what is the solution?  The article suggests the use of subsidies to involve more people in journalism and encourage more grassroots journalism like public and municipal journalism.

However, in this other article, it discusses how there are alternatives that can be more attractive than newsprint.  For example, the Economist adds more value to its brand by charging for its podcasts.  In addition to non-traditional forms of media, the democratization of supply of news sources as evidenced from news aggregators such as google news, makes it easier to receive multiple sources of news.  As discussed in an earlier posting, the economy of free is prevalent, as it is aided by the long tail.

Here is another article from the New York Times, this opinion piece states that most of what we care about our local experience is in the long tail, much of the city section in local newspapers do not appeal to mass audience.  By far, the biggest drawback to local newspapers would be the timeliness of updates of reports.  With tools such as twitter, people can get real-time updates of any event around the world.  People can turn to blogs for localized reports.  The article continues to opine that as the print medium is dying, newspapers should embrace the digital one and adapt to it.

I think it is a combination of the timeliness, content on demand as well as the lack of substance is partly to blame for the death of newspapers.  Also, I find that many newspapers do not offer enough perspectives on issues.  Therefore, I subscribe to Google News and I use Google Reader to receive most of my daily news, and from these news aggregators, I enjoy multiple perspectives on issues.  I think if short term profits are cast aside for long-term journalistic integrity such as more investigative journalism, the printed versions of weekly magazines or perhaps weekly newspapers and the non-traditional media like podcasts of those publications can be sold successfully.  As for newspaper dailies, I think digital is the way of the future.

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