Bloomberg’s David Pauly becomes the latest commentator to bemoan the death of newspapers. He invokes three common arguments, none of which persuades us that society is on the verge of being screwed.
(Please note that we draw a sharp distinction between “newspapers,” which are dying, and “journalism,” which isn’t.)
My wife Jeannie and I buy three newspapers Monday through Friday and two on Saturday and Sunday. What would we do during and after breakfast without them? Don’t tell me that we’ll have our computers propped open on the kitchen table to read news on Web sites.
Yes, you will. And what’s wrong with that? We’re doing it in our house now, and it’s not much different. It’s much cleaner, more efficient, and less wasteful. The table is less of a mess. Also, we can each read bits of 5-10 papers now, not just one.
I clicked on the Slate online site last Friday and called up its stock market report. The story was compiled by quoting five newspapers — the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — plus Business Week magazine and Reuters electronic news service. Clicking on a headline about the Federal Reserve’s stress tests for banks, I was linked to a Bloomberg.com story.
First question: If newspapers are so great and web sites are so bad, why are you reading Slate? Second, how great is it that Slate can excerpt the best bits from all those sites and not have to have you waste your time going to all of them? Third, If three of those newspapers croak (which they won’t), maybe Slate will have enough ad revenue to hire one of the reporters to write the column from top to bottom (this is an overcapacity issue, after all).
We clearly can’t depend on a handful of Web rewrite people to provide meaty stories about local politicians on the take, widespread killings in Darfur or how a famous Wall Street firm died.
No. But there will always be a market for that stuff, and someone will provide it. Small, lean online operations can cover some of the local news, and major global news organisations like Reuters (which is doing fine) and AP can cover a lot of the geopolitical stuff. We don’t need hundreds of White House reporters. 25 can probably get the job done (and their stuff can be syndicated). There won’t be as much coverage of Darfur, perhaps, but there’s too much for you to read as it is.