The Arrogance Of Newspapers Is Astonishing

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In an article in today’s New York Times, Richard Pérez-Peña tries to imagine a world without physical newspapers. He doesn’t get very far:

No one yet has unlocked the puzzle of supporting a large newsroom purely on digital revenue, a fact that may presage an era of news organisations that are smaller, weaker and less able to fulfil their traditional function as the nation’s watchdog.

We love (and subscribe to) our local paper, but find Richard’s vision unimaginative and even a bit arrogant. Online publications aren’t weak, they’re just niche-focused.

If newspapers went away tomorrow, people would get their national politics from Politico, their celebrity news from TMZ, their sports news from countless team-specific publications (my favourite is PewterReport.com), their local politics from a guy with a laptop, flip cam, a WordPress account and an axe to grind, their business news from here, and their world news from a suddenly-crucial-to-subscribe-to New York Times or Wall Street Journal.

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Or, more likely, 66% of them would continue to get their news from TV just like they do now. Only instead of getting all their story ideas from the newspaper, news producers would learn to get comfortable with zooming through lots of RSS feeds.

Maybe this is loony optimism or blogosphere naivete. Certainly crusty newspaper editors think so. But the problem for them — and their employers — is that most of their potential customers don’t share their pessimism.

In Pew’s latest News Interest Index, conducted March 6 through March 9, only 33% of respondents said they would miss their local newspapers “a lot” if they went away. A quarter said “some,”  and 16% said “not much.” 

A full 26% said “not at all.”

Photo: my name is katy

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