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An Internet without Newspapers:

When newspapers cease to exist, who will supply the news for all those folks who claim they don't need newspapers because they get their news on the Internet? I conduct a small study of the question in my latest Rocky Mountain News column, Dying newspapers, vanishing coverage.

taney71:
I don't get it. Whats the point of this post?
2.7.2009 3:26pm
JA (mail):
This is another example of why we might worry.
2.7.2009 3:29pm
Just another in an army of David:
You certainly have a valid point, however, my only thought is that nature abhors a vacuum. If the reportage for the game was not available through the local paper, I can certainly see a dedicated fan stepping up to give his own "fan's-eye view" of the game. There certainly seems to be quite a bit of interest in these niche blogs appealing only to a relatively small number of people.

I am not saying that something like sports journalism would be replaced by talented amateurs doing it for "fun", but I can see a situation where it would happen. The existence of the current newspaper structure makes it less desirable to for someone to go to all the work of attending these games and writing down their impressions.

David
2.7.2009 3:34pm
CDU (mail) (www):
I think the problem with this column is that it assumes that if newspapers disappear it will happen in a vacuum. If newspapers go away, something is going to come along to replace them. This replacement may not provide the same level of coverage that newspapers do now, but it will probably provide more coverage than non-newspapers do today, because the replacement won't have to compete with newspapers.

For example, David writes, "So, consistent with Krieger's thesis, the game coverage on the major national Web sites for sports was provided by traditional newspapers and wire services. If newspapers don't exist, neither will this content."

I doubt that Yahoo! Sports, MSNBC, CBS Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN.com will just fold up there tents and go away if the newspaper coverage they currently rely on disappears. Maybe they'll hire some of the folks from Examiner.com as stringers. Maybe they'll band together to create their own Associated Press like cooperative with bureaus in major sports markets. Maybe they do something else entirely. Regardless, a world without newspapers is not going to look like our current world, just minus newspaper content.
2.7.2009 3:42pm
Franklyn (mail):
DK's article's subhed,

Amateur-run Web sites a poor alternative
provides all the context one needs to answer taney71's inquiry.
JaiaoD and CDU are spot on. We won't really know the problem's solution till the vacuum forms. Then watch out!
2.7.2009 4:00pm
Hoosier:
When newspapers cease to exist, who will supply the news for all those folks who claim they don't need newspapers

From John Stewart and SNL. Like they do now. Why are you trying to make this so complicated?
2.7.2009 4:11pm
paul lukasiak (mail):
The biggest problem with the column is that it concentrates on a subject (sports reporting) for which there would be no gap in coverage. First off, the games themselves are generally available on TV and/or radio. But most importantly, there are all those fans there, many of whom know as much, if not more, than professional sports writers about the teams and leagues.

There will be a void in sports reporting, because sports reporting isn't just about the game, but about what is going on inside locker rooms and front offices as well.

And when it comes to news about government and politics, the void will be even bigger -- however I strongly suspect that it will be filled -- at least when it comes to national news. People like Josh Marshall have already created a template for advertiser supported coverage of Washington DC.

What I foresee is the institutionalization of reporting by political junkies -- and the aggegation of their reporting by various sites. The current model is based on editors assigning reporters to stories/beats -- in the future, the "reporters" will decide what they want to cover, and the aggregators will function as "editors" -- picking and choosing from among the work of these reporters.

What happens with international news is something still up in the air -- although the likeliest outcome is that we'll get our international news in much the same way. But this will mean that the reporting will not be done from an American perspective -- which will be a big shift.
2.7.2009 4:22pm
John (mail):
Here's a thought: if the market wants something, it will pay for it. If it will pay for it, some one will supply it. It's just a question of whether they can agree on a price. At the moment, the papers are having a hard time with that.

The question is, what will people pay? That will determine the quality of what they get. I'd think the likely result will be a stratification of news services at different costs for different audiences. That's happening already, with places like the WSJ site, which charges for full access, and Stratfor, etc.

Sports news may be cheap; foreign reporting might be more. The internet makes it easy to set up your markets this way.
2.7.2009 4:28pm
nickseevers:
As the link JA suggests, creating a blog focused on city or county government may be a good way for people to get local information that seems to be lacking in newspapers today.

It seems to me that a niche blog focusing on city politics for a medium sized city (or as the article JA links to suggests even small communities) would be well received, especially by people who are more concerned about local issues then national politics.
2.7.2009 4:33pm
K:
It doesn't matter where we might then get news. Is that what we get from newspapers today?

Clearly if the newspapers fail it is because readers no longer believed what they printed or advocated. Or perhaps reading didn't seem worth their time or the very trivial expense.

Why lament when people don't support a commercial activity they no longer wish to support?

In this case we will truly say "they died of themselves." They chose their own drugs and OD'ed upon them.
2.7.2009 4:33pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Note also that one of the reasons newspapers are vanishing is that they have ceased reporting news of interest to their readers. The perfect example of this is the Los Angeles Times.

We can argue over whether reduced local reporting is more a cause of newspaper dieoffs, or more of an effect, but it is at least a contributing cause.
2.7.2009 4:38pm
luci:
Is it better to be uninformed or misinformed?
2.7.2009 5:15pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Dave, you might as well start thinking about it, because it's gonna happen. As a recent post on TechCrunch pointed out, it would cost the new York Times less to buy a kindle e-book for every subscriber than print the physical paper.

When the physical papers are at the much of a cost disadvantage to the electronic ones, and when their main cash source — advertising — can be provided at 10^-6 times the cost, the physical papers are doomed.
2.7.2009 5:16pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
The problem is not so much the death of print newspapers, as long as there are online substitutes that can provide the same information. The two main problems are (1) not everyone is online yet; and (2) the free online journals can't afford the costs of doing serious investigations or supporting distant on-site operations.

However, most of the print newspapers have been failing for some time to investigate and report on things their readers want to know about. Especially official corruption, or anything out of the box of their herd mentality. See blog post on this. The independent online journalists have been doing a better job of satisfying that demand, and that more than anything else is what is killing the print journals.

The question is where is the money going to come from to fund independent investigatory reporting, and how is it going to be able to withstand the threats of lawsuits to suppress it. I foresee the emergence of ad hoc investigatory funds to which people donate to support. The trick is to make a credible appeal before the investigation is complete, and to avoid alerting the targets of the investigation.

The test I like to use for whether a journal has investigative integrity is whether it is willing to criticize judges. If it does that, I'll give some credence to the rest of what it writes. If it doesn't, then I won't.
2.7.2009 5:50pm
Times Current (mail) (www):
There will be a void in sports reporting, because sports reporting isn't just about the game, but about what is going on inside locker rooms and front offices as well.

I don't agree - many of the best locker room / player coverage comes from radio hosts like Jim Rome and Dan Patrick already, as well as from ESPN and FSN who provide internet content as well as radio and television. Sports does not need newspaper coverage, in fact news coverage has been inferior to TV/radio/internet for the better part of a decade.

And for now, it looks like any print publication that aligns with a TV outlet is well positioned. Newsweek and the like can fill much of the space of newspapers with less overhead and wider distribution. Getting good content will not go by the wayside with the demise of the papers, much as communications was not destroyed by the telegraph being made obsolete.
2.7.2009 6:17pm
dcuser (mail):
I think the reporting can all pretty much be handled by Joe the Plumber.
2.7.2009 6:25pm
gray (mail):
The article by JA in post nails it. Governmental corruption will soar without newspapers. TV doesn't do these stories - until they are broken by newspapers - and news blogs don't sit through council meetings.

The demise of newspaper will be a disaster for small town honest government.
2.7.2009 6:45pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
Printed newspapers could all fail tomorrow, and there would not be a shortage of news. Most newspapers are poorly written, poorly edited, and openly biased. Their demise is welcome.

Almost all the national and international news in local newspapers comes from wire services that can (and do) sell their stories to web sites that will select and aggregate stories. Good local newspaper reporters can become freelancers who sell news stories to local TV, radio, internet news sites, and bloggers. The lack of printed newspapers will provide opportunities for people to create their own 'flavor' of online news. Those who do it well can make a living at it, just like newspaper editors.
2.7.2009 6:59pm
CDR D (mail):
I like newspapers. I read four of them. Two are local weeklies, one is a national weekly (Washington Times) and the fourth is a regional daily (San Francisco Chronical).

They all fill a niche. The local weeklies provide information about my medium sized suburban community which is useful and handy, and which would be very hard to try to find and sort out on the Internet.

The Washington Times Weekly provides news and opinion that I cannot get from the SF Chronicle, but the Chronicle has a first class sports section.

I particularly like the daily Chronicle for the sports section, which I read while having my breakfast.

After breakfast, I read the Chronicle's front (news?) section and its editorials/letters while engaged in my morning..ah.. evacuation. Really, it's a glorious ritual. The letters are a hoot.

I even get to add appropriate punctuation marks.

Life is good.
2.7.2009 7:08pm
Dave N (mail):
How did the Denver television stations cover the game (along with their websites)?
2.7.2009 7:34pm
New Pseudonym:
One thing missing from blogs (in general)is serendipity in sections other than the main news section. I have been reading papers since I was able to read (starting with the Newark News daily and the New York Daily News and Herald Tribune on Sunday). I leaf quickly through those sections scanning the headlines, and I can't predict what will catch my eye and tempt me to read it.

Plus, who will save the crossword puzzle and the comics?
2.7.2009 7:51pm
New Pseudonym:

When newspapers cease to exist, who will supply the news for all those folks who claim they don't need newspapers

From John Stewart and SNL. Like they do now. Why are you trying to make this so complicated?


Unfair! Many rely on Stephen Colbert.
2.7.2009 7:59pm
wm13:
Gee, no foreign affairs coverage from Walter Duranty? No political coverage from Dan Rather? That will be a big loss.
2.7.2009 8:21pm
Gaius Obvious (mail):
I can envision a similar argument being made in 1800 about the loss of town criers. Without a town crier to inform a town of local events, how could anyone stay informed? Newspapers came along and filled that gap. Then came radio in 1920 and newspapers were less important (KDKA first came on the air with live election returns). Then came television in 1950, and radio became less important for news (but still useful for music). Then came the Internet in about 1995. Give it time.
2.7.2009 8:56pm
CDR D (mail):
For "taney71":

This is off topic, but does your handle mean that you served on the USCGC TANEY in 1971?
2.7.2009 9:05pm
Waldo (mail):
I suspect the same thing that happened to television will happen to newspapers. Thirty years ago there were three major networks that combined news, sports, entertainment, etc. in the same way that major newspapers have multiple sections. Today, cable channels are specialized, but there is no shortage of content. Instead, several channels produce original content (Mythbusters on Discovery, BSG on SciFi, Monk on USA, Colbert on Comedy Central). In the same way, while traditional newspapers are likely to keep losing market share, specialized news outlets, with real content, will take their place. The Wall Street Journal, which charges for news rather than opinion, is one early example of a specialized newspaper. Finally, there are already independent journalists like Michael Yon providing coverage of military operations overseas.

The analogy, "I don't care if all the farmers and ranchers go out of business. I get my food from the grocery store," is also inaccurate. Instead, it should be, "I don't care if all the grocery stores go out of business. I get my food from the farmer's market."
2.7.2009 9:52pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
For those of you who believe the demise of newspapers is not big deal, or that they will be replaced by bloggers, "citizen journalists," an "Army of Davids," "a pack, not a heard," etc., I would recommend the excellent article, The California Section, RIP.

Oh, and if you choose to read the article, well that just goes to prove my point. :)

The loss will be devastating.
2.7.2009 10:31pm
CDU (mail) (www):
Oh, and if you choose to read the article, well that just goes to prove my point.


How exactly does it prove your point? The article you link to is written by a former journalist turned blogger. Doesn't it's existence undermine your point by proving that articles like this one will get written even without a newspaper to publish them?
2.7.2009 10:48pm
John Moore (www):
There is a demand for reporting and for editing. What is failing is a particular business model, not the loss of demand.

Someone will figure out new ways of monetizing those functions in the new world. We just don't know the model.

The result will be ultimately a different product or products. Hopefully it will be better.
2.7.2009 10:49pm
wm13:
Gee, Charles Chapman, trading a little more local corruption (it's not like the New York Times ever did more than abate it slightly) for a little less in the way of Stalinist apologies might be a good deal in terms of worldwide utility maximization, don't you think?

I really believe that everyone who gets all weepy over the demise of the mainstream media has an obligation, if he or she wants go convince anyone, to explain the national benefit provided by Walter Duranty. And Dan Rather. And Steven Glass.
2.7.2009 10:52pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
What do we need professional reporters to do? the article Chapman and JA link to states:
I attended every city council and planning commission meeting; pored over every campaign finance report, trying my best to trace donations back through limited liability corporations; read through all city ordinances and contracts until I understood them; and filed all sorts of public record requests for documents like cell phone records, expense reports filed by city officials, and e-mails sent from municipal accounts.
It's these kind of activities we need to find some way of replacing.

If you look at what the "important" reporters at the NYT do, however, their loss would not matter much at all. They certainly don't read very much, and in fact they seem largely ignorant about the very things they write about. One thing they do is rewrite press releases and propaganda messages from organizations they support. They also print leaks they approve of from government employees. And of course they feature interviews with important people. And how do they get these press releases and leaks and interviews? It's completely trivial. Because they are the New York Times, the releases and the leaks and the interviews come to them, and they don't even have to leave the house or change out of their pajamas.

If we lost the NYT, then the releases and leaks and interviews that went to them would simply go to someone else instead. For example, a leaker would leak to the most well-known, sympathetic person he could find.
2.7.2009 11:36pm
first history:
Personally, I don't really care about sports coverage, it could disappear and I wouldn't miss it (except for the Dodgers). Unfortunately, the glorification of sports far exceeds its importance. No doubt support for sports coverage would materialize; however, I doubt people in general would support national or international coverage on their own. While people may live or die by what happens to their favorite sports team, they probably don't care what is happening to democracy activists in Burma or in the corridors of Washington enough to pay for it.

I foresee the emergence of ad hoc investigatory funds to which people donate to support.

What now, pledge drives to support investigative reporting?Given the example of public radio/TV, for example, the precentage of their time spent on daily hard news is very slim, and long-form investigation hardly at all. I'll bet the ratings for "Antiques Roadshow" are a lot higher than "Frontline."

As far as "donations" go, I would rather see foundations or wealthy individuals finance such work. A good example is ProPublica, an independent media investigation non-profit and favorite target of Prof. Kopel. It shares some of its stories with newspaper and TV outlets.

Note also that one of the reasons newspapers are vanishing is that they have ceased reporting news of interest to their readers. The perfect example of this is the Los Angeles Times.

We can argue over whether reduced local reporting is more a cause of newspaper dieoffs, or more of an effect, but it is at least a contributing cause.


The lack of local coverage in The Los Angeles Times is regrettable, but I doubt it had much to do with the sharp decline in circulation. Besides competition from other news sources, mergers between deparment store chains and bankruptcies have sharply reduced advertising to support newspapers in general.

In addition, unstable ownership since the Chandler family sold the paper to Tribune (and since Tribune was acquired by Sam Zell), coupled with the revolving editor's chair, give the impression that no one is in charge. The LA Times is still profitable, but it needs to make these severe reductions to help meet Zell's massive debt payments (as evidenced by the Tribune bankruptcy filing).

It is no coincidence that both the LA Times and the LA Dodgers went into a sharp decline following the loss of family ownership.
2.7.2009 11:53pm
TRE:
time for a bailout!
2.8.2009 12:01am
But Seriously Now:
Information wants to be free, yo.

(Someone had to say it)
2.8.2009 12:27am
John Moore (www):
There are a couple of examples of a new model - subscription-funded free-lance reporters: Michael Totten and Michael Yon.

Either of these provide much better reporting than you will find in the newspapers.
2.8.2009 1:04am
Jim at FSU (mail):
People who actually give a shit about hockey can join forums where like minded people hang out. They will have much deeper analysis than any sports journalist could provide. The same is true of nearly any subject- actual experts discussing the events instead of journalism majors discussing them.

At best, the utility of journalists is that they go out and find news. But most news is not that newsworthy- the newspapers and especially the TV news channels devote enormous effort to discovering and promoting filler stories to keep people tuned in on slow days. If this were to be lost, I don't think many people would mourn it.

Lets take a random example. A robbery takes place at a gas station on 7th Street and main at 3AM. If no journalists report on the story...
-it still gets reported to the police
-the crime still gets solved, or at least attempted. Whether it is reported on or not has a minor effect on this.
-all the people affected by the crime are still notified
-the only people who miss out on the story are people who wouldn't really care that much about it anyway.
-it still makes it to the local police blotter

I guess the point is that except for rare events of national impact, there isn't much utility provided by the papers or even by the major TV news outlets. The vast majority of news stories are completely irrelevant to the average person, even shocking "big" stories like a school shooting or a space shuttle accident. Unless you get hit by shuttle debris the story isn't relevant to your interests.
2.8.2009 5:46am
EricPWJohnson (mail):
Except that most news is not gathered by serious reporting like we see in the movies.

Today - its on the cheap -

there is very little fact checking -

Editorial review is dogmatic rather than pragmatic

Reliance of Press Releases and canned statements as well as police reports replaced man on the street interviews

No presence of Reporters art School Boards, County Boards even city council meetings unless some juicy racial controversy is being advertized in advance

There are plenty of Bloggers who will be happy to convert themselves into the kind of detached never leave the cubicle, cub reporters that replaced those chain dmoking guys who could write shorthand
2.8.2009 7:56am
John Ballard (mail) (www):
Other printed periodicals?

Magazines support large stables of very good journalists. The old fashioned newspaper isn't the only game in town.
2.8.2009 8:49am
AccountingProf:
Those of you arguing that "there will always be demand for good reporting" need to explain the business model that will allow reporting to pay for itself. In the old days, the only timely source of reporting was the newspaper of the reporter's employer. That employer could bundle the news with advertisements, making it worth hiring the reporter in the first place.

Now, anyone can read the paper and turn right around and republish or summarize it at no cost, siphoning off the advertising dollars from the original reporter's employer.

So sure, there will be a demand for reporting, but the lack of intellectual property protection and the ease of republishing means that suppliers will be unable to profit from that demand.

Isn't this the kind of market failure lawyers should be able to recognize and propose solutions to?
2.8.2009 8:57am
devil's advocate (mail):
Doesn't anyone remember that papers started as free scandal sheets that served as transport vehicles for the editorial outlook of the publishers.(sound like any modern day media you can think of?!)

Mr. Dr. T

Printed newspapers could all fail tomorrow, and there would not be a shortage of news. Most newspapers are poorly written, poorly edited, and openly biased. Their demise is welcome.


Ditto and seconding the the sarcasm re Duranty, Rather and company.

My wife has for 30 years subscribed to the Christian Science Monitor - the paper that purportedly bucks this trend, so I had my own introduction to "objective" journalism. Now the CSM does have a flare for covering a wider range of topics and seeming insight and subtlety, but I followed their environmental coverage that manifested this same approach on the surface during the 1990s and found it just as in the bag as all the other places and the institution was simply not interested in doing anything about it. I tried to build relationships with editors and writers there without being an apopletic critic and got absolutely no where.

So I gave up. haven't touched the damn thing since around the year 2000 although it is sitting on my coffee table every day. And now they aren't going to print it anymore. What a crying shame. I just got to understand that, if they are completely off target in an area I know well, why would I believe anything else they have to say because some bunch of their peers gives them some award for being "objective". That would tend to make me more suspicious these days.

This whole professionalism in journalism movement is a bunch of CYA for allowing journalists to revel in their own biases. I don't have any problem with tlhe reveling, it is the refusal to admit it - even when caught red handed, e.g. Rather, that rankles. And then they and their defneders have the nerve to keep talking about the internet as 'biased', e.g., there are actually some folks from the right there as well.

All of this whining about newspapers is the biggest bunch of crybaby bullshit I've ever seen. I am so happy to see them getting what they roundly deserve.

We'll be just fine if there ain't a newspaper in the country. But that ain't going to happen because, despite all the bellyaching from the majors, people are starting local newspapers. Local coverage will be better not worse.

Brian
2.8.2009 9:27am
David Warner:
AccountingProf,

"Isn't this the kind of market failure lawyers should be able to recognize and propose solutions to?"

Well, for libertarian lawyers, after they've tried everything else. Rightly so.
2.8.2009 11:30am
devil's advocate (mail):


So sure, there will be a demand for reporting, but the lack of intellectual property protection and the ease of republishing means that suppliers will be unable to profit from that demand.

Isn't this the kind of market failure lawyers should be able to recognize and propose solutions to?


so let me get this straight, no one is interested in newspapers anymore and that demonstrates a demand for reporting.

the intellectual property point is tangential, TV and Radio figured out how to give away their product and make money. And they are figuring out how to do it as the distribution model changes for video and audio. Where is the market failure here? I don't see it.

Brian
2.8.2009 12:11pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
We will have newspapers, in one form or another. I think they will be expressly subsidized by partisan groups.

(They already are, but I mean groups that are more partisan than CNN/NBC/ABC/etc.)
2.8.2009 2:01pm
AccountingProf:
@ devil's advocate,

Other than press-bashing by conservatives, what makes you think 'no one is interested in newspapers anymore'? Paid print circulation is dropping, but the New York Times articles now reach far larger audiences directly (through http://nytimes.com) and indirectly (as bloggers link to NYTimes articles). The same is true with other major outlets.

As far as TV and radio "figuring out how to make money," they have more effective property protections, because rebroadcasts are more easily protected from pure replication, and because a simple republication of the basic facts ("Jessica Alba is pretty, according to sources", "Britney Spears has a nice voice") are not a substitute for watching the video content or hearing the music. Not true for news.
2.8.2009 3:58pm
Times Current (mail) (www):
Charles Chaplin,

I don't think the article you posted proves the need for a newspaper at all. The same sort of stories about graft/swindlers/sleeping city workers get investigated in depth on local news stations. Those reporters are paid to spend their full time digging into such allegations. That work will still get done and reported without newspapers.

Plus, you get the visceral satisfaction of watching the corrupt politician trying to slam their front door in guilty aversion before the camera gets a shot of them.
2.8.2009 4:05pm
guest:
"newspapers" will continue to exist, but they will only exist online and won't do much or any original reporting. instead they will continue to pay for news through wire services and post that on their websites, deriving revenue from advertisements and perhaps some paid subscribers like the WSJ does today. wire services, some cable news stations and freelancers/bloggers will be the only sources of original reporting in the future.
2.8.2009 8:06pm
first history:
Jon Roland:

The question is where is the money going to come from to fund independent investigatory reporting, and how is it going to be able to withstand the threats of lawsuits to suppress it. I foresee the emergence of ad hoc investigatory funds to which people donate to support. The trick is to make a credible appeal before the investigation is complete, and to avoid alerting the targets of the investigation.

Interestingly, today's LA Times has a column on this exact model, profiling Spot.us, where reporters pitch stories and ask for contributions to fund their completion.


On the website, visitors leave story tips and reporters pitch formal proposals, trying to persuade other folks to contribute $5, $100, whatever, to turn ideas into stories. Journalists on the site generally ask for $500 to $1,000. (And individuals can give a maximum of 20%, so no one person can have an undue stake in the story.)

That groundbreaking model has helped Spot.us to midwife and then post six stories in its first three months. Supporters have ponied up enough for six more stories, with five other writers in pursuit of donations for their ideas.

The finished stories appear on the site, although Cohn hopes to sell exclusive rights to future work to websites, newspapers or other outlets. In such cases, the initial "micro-donors" could recoup their investments.


As noted above, my preference is for larger organizations to support investigative reporting (esp. on national or international issues), but this appears viable for local coverage.
2.8.2009 8:31pm
MLS:
Call me old-fashioned, but I like things that I can still use without electricity. I can read a newspaper. A blank laptop display is quite another matter.
2.8.2009 9:05pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'if the market wants something, it will pay for it.'

Not true, as the history of paved roads demonstrates.

Newspapers would be doing better financially if people would stop stealing their product. Record companies, too.

'Steal this book' is not really a new paradigm.
2.9.2009 1:10am
devil's advocate (mail):

Other than press-bashing by conservatives, what makes you think 'no one is interested in newspapers anymore'? Paid print circulation is dropping, but the New York Times articles now reach far larger audiences directly.


NYT tried to charge for its web content and it gave up.* So, the evidence to date is that , if they have to pay for it, no one is interested in newspapers anymore. That is not market failure, that is shifting demand.

If you have evidence that intellectual property protection is what slayed that model, by all means let's see the pointers. But my impression from following the issue is that papers of record that tried to charge for their sites found that folks chose free sources instead, in other words they didn't really value the paper-of-record model enough to pay so they are marginal not real customers.

And these free sources were not reprints of the work of the major newspapers. In fact, many stories were hitting the web before newspapers had them -- not as reiterations of crisp incisive prose, but as preemptions. Occasionally these were rumors or tips that were being investigated by print journalists, but the underying events don't belong to anyone, and the sense that this organic function would be lacking is just wrong. Woodward and Bernstein didn't really turn in any miracles, they just answered the phone. So it is not like Mark Felt couldn't figure out somebody else to call up if there were no newspapers.

You can call it conservative press bashing if you want, but if these were made up complaints and there were a demand for newspapers absent this partisan racket, they wouldn't be spiraling downwards. If liberals were all willing to buy papers and conservatives weren't, they wouldn't be going out of business (see talk radio).

And the ethos of the web is developing well to drive people to free newspaper sites, just as you yourself describe, so, if they figure out how to keep that up and sell advertising, value added, collect commissions on classifed ads or link to local ads on ebay and craigs list for a price -- or whatever other revenue plan they devise -- they can continue the schlocky supercilious purportedly objective nonsense that passes for journalism.

In any given case this might amount to an overstatement of what is really nitpicking, but a lifetime of reading this stuff as well as my experience with the Christian Science Monitor which is supposed to be on the top of the heap lead me to this point of view. I see no need for newspapers, period. They started as partisan scandal sheets and they never really changed - they just put on airs.

Brian

*Now maybe the NYT wants to charge again. That of course will reduce their audience, precipitously at a guess.

I'm not some believer that everything on the internet has to be free, but of course the 'objective' press is the place where you read that 'net neutrality' is some fight for individual freedom and not google vs. time-warner or the micro equivalent playing out. And, at the same time the Google camp is pretending it is about censorship, they are censoring content in China as the price of doing business. If you want any perspective on this issue you have to go to partisan sites.

But I can get 'better' Hockey coverage from the Rocky Mountain News? Give me an 'effin break. Look, the hockey thing was kind of a clever way to try to take this out of the charged partisan context, but I think, rather than serving as an analogy of how important newspapers are in the harder news context, this was a necessary device to escape that arena -- because as soon as you start in on political or culturally significant stories, you are instead going to reinforce why people are jaded with the newspaper experience when they recognize the prejudices of the various media.

I think a context not being paid much attention here is that people tend to know something about issues of particular importance to them. Thus, if they find media reports biased, incomplete or incorrect, they are going to be suspicious of reporting in areas that they know less well and might otherwise have relied upon, i.e., created a demand for, mainstream newspaper reporting. This conception is strictly anecdotal. But I think it describes a pathology at work that is underplayed compared to the overplaying of the sense that the lack of intellectual property protection is at the root of these 'problems'.
2.9.2009 8:06am
Happyshooter:
Local papers are nothing but bias. When the publisher of our city baegged that her only goals were to 'get blacks, black women in particular, elected', and 'to redress the wrongs of slavery' she was promoted to editorial oversight for the whole chain.

Her successor then let the cat out of the bag that she had been covering up black city council crime for at least two years. He was cautioned but allowed to keep his job. I no longer subscribe and look forward to the day when the paper folds. It won't be long, they just went to 1.50 per day, 2.00 on the weekend.
2.9.2009 9:28am
Piano_JAM (mail):
Who's going to pay for all the polls? That's half of the news.
2.9.2009 3:01pm

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