After much mud has been slung in the debate over what’s driven the turmoil in the newspaper industry, there’s now a fairly straightforward consensus about what has happened in the past decade.
Circulation and revenue fell as the media market fragmented with the arrival of digital platforms. Traditional newspapers are now having to tackle cost bases that got bloated in the the days of the “rivers of gold” from classified advertising. At the same time they’re having to cut out costs – in many cases by sacking journalists – their readers expect more content on more platforms. Many have not, and will not, survive the change to the new economics of publishing.
That’s pretty much it.
It seems nobody told Chris Powell, the managing editor of Connecticut’s Journal Inquirer.
He has another theory: that single mothers are to blame.
Newspapers can be sold to traditional nuclear families, he believes — but they don’t appeal to the modern types of family unit he sees (and clearly disapproves of) in modern America.
We first spotted this on Slate. Here’s the best summary paragraph:
newspapers still can sell themselves to traditional households — two-parent families involved with their children, schools, churches, sports, civic groups, and such. But newspapers cannot sell themselves to households headed by single women who have several children by different fathers, survive on welfare stipends, can hardly speak or read English, move every few months to cheat their landlords, barely know what town they’re living in, and couldn’t afford a newspaper subscription even if they could read. And such households constitute a rising share of the population.
He shares his concerns about society, and how it appears to be rapidly turning into that envisioned in Idiocracy.
Even in a supposedly prosperous and well-educated state like Connecticut, how strong can demand for those things be now that half the children are being raised without two parents at home and thus acquiring developmental handicaps; 70 percent of community college and state university freshmen have not mastered what used to be considered basic high school skills; poverty has risen steadily even as government appropriations in the name of remediating poverty have risen steadily; and democracy has sunk so much that half the eligible population isn’t voting in presidential elections, 65 percent isn’t voting in state elections, and 85 percent isn’t voting in municipal elections?
This social disintegration and decline in civic engagement coincide with the decline of traditional journalism just as much as the rise of the Internet does.
You can read the full, bewildering article here.
Just a thought. Maybe the consensus view on what’s happened to newspapers is right. But maybe in the case of that particular paper it’s not helped by the fact that (a) the managing editor had that thought in the first place and (b) committed it to writing.