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May 5, 2009

The Future of Newspapers

Off topic, but so what...

The continuing decline of the newspaper industry made headlines again over the weekend when Warren Buffet said that he wouldn't buy newspaper stocks at any price. The topic continues a national and local discussion about the future of the daily rag.

There has been discussion about the newspaper industry's eventual shift to a pay by the drip model like iTunes or a government subsidized model like PBS-TV. I'm not sure what the eventual answer is, but I did enjoy this thought provoking, lengthy blog article a few weeks ago:
"Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work."
The article is correct. We need quality writers and quality reporting. We don't need the physical paper. And bloggers like me are most certainly not going to fill that gap when the AJC has no one left to layoff.

Anyway...just rambling.



Anonymous said...

UGA's Conrad Fink was decrying the death of newspapers as far back as the late 1980's.

Back then he thought the most likely candidate to kill them were the Baby Bells - remember them?

At the time it was thought that the regional bells would begin delivering news/information via their cable and fiber optic networks like a tv network. If the FCC cleared the way for it.

I guess in some ways what he said came true - but there just not Baby Bells doing it to newspapers but the individual news sources available via the internet.

Anonymous said...

I get the point, but it's the advancement in technology, not poor journalism, that has killed the print industry. Why would I pay for a hard copy of the AJC when I can get it free online? The real problem is that there's no way to distinguish between real journalists and bloggers once you enter the interwebs. Once news sources find a way to make advertising revenue cover the loss of newspaper profit, the next task is distinguishing themselves from the bloggers. (No offense PWD).

Anonymous said...

The problem is larger than you might realize. Fact is, the only media outlets actually reporting news are newspapers.

Nobody else is doing any real journalism...they're just doing follow up or providing their own slant on information the newspaper provided. VERY rarely does news appear at all if it didn't first appear in the newspaper.

For the most part, all news websites are just a collection of newspaper links....all bloggers are blogging about news that originated in the newspaper...all television reports, at least on the local level, are merely following up on what the newspaper has already reported. Same for news-oriented magazines, which simply provide even further analysis of what newspapers have already provided.

And here's the HUGE dilemma: All these information outlets have nothing to report if newspapers go out of business because each and every one of them - news magazines, television stations, bloggers, news websites - all of them will fail if forced to hire and pay a staff of reporters to track down stories for themselves.

Where does the information come from then, once the golden goose of information has been slaughtered?

It's happening before our very eyes, far faster than even the most astute industry insiders thought possible just a few short years ago.

Anonymous said...

Local TV news is not far behind.

Anonymous said...

I have always read newspapers and bemoan the decline of them. papers are better than computers because I can take a paper into the john with me. I can go to Starbucks and read a couple of sections while I drink my coffee, and read the rest later if I choose. I can read whole pages without aggravating the carpal tunnel syndrome caused by a mouse scroll wheel. I can cut things out if it if I want. There are a lot of reasons that internet content is not a viable option imo. But that isn't the only problem.

I chastised the AJC as strongly as I could when they first stated changing things around a few months ago. While I understand the dilemma of declining revenues, I have a hard time understanding how their solutions solve their problems. Recently they cut service to Athens, where I now live. What do they save by doing that? I know I wasn't the only subscriber, and now you can't buy one in Athens. The main expense of the newspaper is the staff, the reporting, page layout, ad sales, etc. The actual paper itself - even with higher newsprint costs - is still fairly minor. So now, to save a little newsprint they have cut out a chunk of their circulation. I wonder what that is going to do to the ad revenues. Aren't the rates based upon the circulation?

In the meantime, the content has become dumbed down in ways that make me think have Henry Grady, Ralph McGill and other giants turning in their graves. Even some of the giants that are still there probably shouldn't be: in the 1950s Furman Bisher was nationally known and respected. He's lost a step in 50 years. Or two. Or three. Hell, if he's working for free, it's still too much.

Where is the journalism going to come from? I am skeptical of the blog approach to journalism because while there are certainly good writers in the blogoshpere, there is not much in the way of standards nor of staff resources, or any of the structure that fueled journalism in the past and that is particularly true of investigative journalism. Who is going to do that? Who is going to set standards for it?

Anonymous said...

anon5 sayz "i dont think newspaperz are the wavve of the futer cause you cant get naked ladiesx in em. quite frankly i only like my news when it containsz the most neude of the nude/ ladies. word. lude ladies on the red. nude ladies on the reg. meth on the reg. birth control on the reg."

Hobnail_Boot said...

Anon @ 9:57-

A good laptop is your friend.

Dawgnoxious said...

Anon @ 6:28, is it even important to differentiate between "journalists" and "bloggers"? I would argue the distinction is meaningless. Your question presumes print journalists have no bias, and offer subjective analysis. Pfft.

I submit that is at best naive, and at worst a lie. In fact, the beauty of bloggers is that the generally wear their bias on their sleeves, so there is no disingenuous effort to convince you their story should carry the elevated prestige of being "subjective."

All writers have a bias, and I think in post-modern jounalism the bias should be acknowledged and vetted by the competition.

Take this blog for example. You get parody, you get satire, but you also get you-heard-it-hear-first news. But you won't see us putting on airs like the increasingly irrelevant, marginalized print media.

Sidebar: is it me, or does the new AJC format remind you of the Weekly Reader from elementary school?

Anonymous said...


The difference between journalists and bloggers is mainly a matter of resources, but also a matter of serious peer review. Bias is a small part of it, and mostly exaggerated by bloggers when talking about newspapers.

And Hobnail, if I take a laptop into the john, my wife will make me throw it out. I can throw out a newspaper, but I ain't wealthy enough to be throwing out laptops.

RedCrake said...

I submit that newspapers are totally unnecessary because contrary to the comments of a previous post, I can in fact read on the john...and do so frequently on my Blackberry. And when I'm done, I can look at naked ladies... And when I wrap that up, I can read this fine blog.

God bless technology.

Anonymous said...


I think you are missing part of the point.

The post before this one begins, "The Athens Banner-Herald reports..."; the last one about Coach Fox begins, "The Macon Telegraph has..." and the Larry Munson story is a repeat of what was reported in the AJC.

Without newspapers, the material available to bloggers is significantly reduced, since most bloggers are not doing original reporting, but rather making (entertaining) commentary on news that is reported elsewhere.

So, I think that the previous poster was not trying to say that journalists are these great unbiased reporters, but rather that they provide the news that TV stations report and that the bloggers pontificate on. If newspapers go away (including electronic versions), then the big question is where will the news stories come from?

Unknown said...

You guys spend way too much time on the john.

Trey said...

1) Eat more fiber.

2) Blogs happened because certain people felt compelled to write something beyond a) the typical message board hurr-hurr clutter and b) the straight facts that newspapers felt compelled to provide. The world still needs beat writers. How they will be compensated in the future, I don't know. One of the many reasons newspapers are dying is because nobody wants to pay to read Jeff Schultz or Terrence Moore spout opinions. Opinions are like assholes, remember, and on the internet opinions are rewarded with page views based on intelligence of the discourse, readability, accuracy, etc. Simpleton observations that are designed to "get people to think" simply aren't read except by those that are looking to pick a fight - trolls.

3) For the most part, bloggers provide more thorough analysis and probably do more research into a topic than any editorial opinion in any newspaper. That's why I read PWD, Blutarsky, Hale, etc. everyday and I'll read an editorial opinion in the AJC maybe once or twice a year when on of the aforementioned links to it.

HMMMMM said...

Newspaper websites have also brought about the development of blogs for "reporters" where they often veer from reporting the facts to voicing an opinion. Once they do that, said reporter is always jaded in the eyes of the reader.
If a sports reporter has previously ripped your fav team or if a political reporter called your guy a cry baby in their blog they have lost their ability for the reader to view their work as subjective.
While intelligent readers may be able to distinguish between the two, this has brought the papers into a grey area. Keep the opinions on the editorial page and the facts in the rest of the paper, be it online or in print.

Seth said...

1) Read Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody" if you want more in the vein of his blog post you cite.

2) Met him @ SXSW in Austin, TX earlier in the year and he's a bright, articulate guy who truly believes in the power of people using technology to create and distribute information. It all seems very Reformation in Germany/Printing Press vs. Catholic Church, but that's not a new analogy.

3) Go Dawgs!

4) As a UGA College of Journalism grad (Go Grady!) I'm going to miss newspapers too, but it's not like the writing hasn't been on the wall. As my dad likes to say "if you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevancy a whole lot less".

Unknown said...

My problem with newspapers these days is that it's no longer news by the time it's been printed. I used to subscribe to AJC and National Review. The only thing I was reading in the AJC when I dropped it was the Jumble. By the time I dropped National Review, the only thing I was reading was Buckley's monthly posting. At least when TV news scooped the paper, TV didn't have the time to go into a lot of detail. In fact, since newspapers are mostly AP aggregates these days, I have usually read the EXACT SAME ARTICLE by the time I see it in print.

Speaking of TV, TV news should be enough proof that the current newspaper predicament is not from a lack of journalism. If that were the case, TV News would've been doomed decades ago. Either that or "good journalism" means almost exclusively covering apartment fires.

I really think the papers' major problem is a lack of variety. Every paper is the same AP stories printed everywhere else with editorial boards that all seem to take the exact same stances on issues. That gets a little old and doesn't give us anything we can't get elsewhere for free.

I'm just glad the government is not bailing them out. I'd hate to see our President have the media in his pocket any more than they already are.

David Manning said...

As someone who busts their ass to get the best pictures available - be it of the Bulldogs or of a Police Manhunt - I thank you for your ramblings.

When the newspapers finally go, who will provide the content that all the bloggers use?

Ball-U-Dawg Triangle said...

I think it may be instrutive that the Wall Street Journal has actually been increasing its circulation.

Its done so by offering a good combination of free and pay content on its web site. The "pay" articles tend to involve hard news, but not breaking news. The articles involve news designed to appeal to "movers and shakers" and wannabe "movers and shakers". The WSJ provides the breaking news for free, since (as is noted above) such information can be obtained from many sources. It also provides makes free more "human interest" type stories designed to attract eyeballs and help ad rates and inspire people to subscribe.

For example, on todays site a "breaking news" article about the inadvertent bombing of Afgan civilians is free, as is an article on the expenses of self-employment. But articles concerning Bank of America and AIG, and an article on the trend of brokers leaving Wall Street, are subscription only (and are also among the site's most viewed items).

This blend of pay and free content I believe is the future of "print" journalism. The ad rates just aren't high enough to support making all content free.

Anonymous said...


The newspapers aren't a "who". They are a "what." The who can still exist. They'll just work for a different "what."

It would seem to make sense for the industry to spend a heap more time figuring out the who "what" than they have so far.

David Manning said...

Can't disagree with you. However its a rough future to contemplate.

I agree that the paper and the current economical model of an advertising supported product is not economically viable. I think that TV is next because radio is seriously feeling the pinch and eventually it will all consolidate down to content-on-demand through all mediums.

Now what will I be doing than and be paying my paycheck? I have no idea. Hopefully I won't end up like the guys at the Baltimore Sun.

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