New Yorker: The News Business: Out of Print

The New Yorker has a depressing story The News Business: Out of Print about the collapse of the newspaper business.

trends in circulation and advertising––the rise of the Internet, which has made the daily newspaper look slow and unresponsive; the advent of Craigslist, which is wiping out classified advertising––have created a palpable sense of doom. Independent, publicly traded American newspapers have lost forty-two per cent of their market value in the past three years, according to the media entrepreneur Alan Mutter.

Most managers in the industry have reacted to the collapse of their business model with a spiral of budget cuts, bureau closings, buyouts, layoffs, and reductions in page size and column inches. Since 1990, a quarter of all American newspaper jobs have disappeared.

All this and in 10 days the Newseum will open in Washington. The Newseum site has a section of Today’s Front Pages where you can see, for example, Canadian front pages (if you burrow down by region). Perhaps we can watch newspapers disappear from this site – a time-lapse on news until there is one paper left (and what will that be?)
As a regular paper reader I have mixed feelings about the business or loss of it. I love to hate the Globe and Mail, which like many papers is becoming a collection of columns rather than a “news” paper, but I love to hate it in hand in the morning with a coffee. I also love Google News as a source of news and through the New Yorker essay, just discovered the Huffington Post. Google News, however, is built on the smart aggregation of news from real newspapers (as in places that pay people to write news.) How will aggregations work when there is nothing new (outside blog posts) being written? Will we end up with a few multinational news engines like Reuters and lots of opinions like mine? Will I have to get a Kindle to read in bed in the morning? (At least it would save going out in the cold to get the paper.)

Just how an Internet-based news culture can spread the kind of “light” that is necessary to prevent terrible things, without the armies of reporters and photographers that newspapers have traditionally employed, is a question that even the most ardent democrat in John Dewey’s tradition may not wish to see answered.