Leonard Downie, the executive editor of the Washington Post, needs to shut up.
Downie spoke this week on the future of newspapers at the University of Kentucky before a “packed crowd” reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The newspaper reports:
“The fact that cutting costs makes papers less appealing hasn’t occurred to corporate managers,” he said. “But despite the real challenges facing them, newspapers aren’t dying. They’re struggling to adapt.”
Here’s what Downie should say to the budding journos in Kentucky:
I want newspapers to fail. I want to see the chains die, have earnings crashes, circulation scandals and more layoffs. I want the streets filled with laid off, angry reporters and editors.
The newspaper business has to destroy itself to save itself.
First the family-owned papers died. They were taken over by chains that bought regional clusters, set cookie-cutter approaches, and slashed the benefits of the survivors.
At a newspaper where six reporters might have covered a small city, there are now only two.
The slash-and-burn chains aren’t going to turn newspapers around. They’re dead. They’re dying. And it’s time to finish them off, says Downie to the cheering University of Kentucky students.
Here’s the future, kids:
These ex-reporters, burned by their newspapers but committed to their craft and street-reporter tough, are beginning to realize that the world is ready for online-only newspapers. That’s what the blogs are telling us.
It’ll be difficult for them, but good reporters are resourceful, good reporters like to compete, to win, and good reporters don’t quit on the story or life. They don’t get beat, is what they do.
And the chains have been beating these newspaper reporters for too long. It’s time to fight back in the only arena they understand: as competitors.
One town at a time.
Downie looks hard at the Kentucky students and says:
If you take a job with a crappy newspaper just to get one, then realize it’s not your future. Learn what you can, and if local journalism is what you want, then start your own online newspaper or write for one formed by an ex-reporter or editor.
The enemies of the chains are grouping now, and there’s going to be hell to pay when the street reporters, those tough men and women who have faced threats, dangers, and emotions roiled hard by the things they have covered, turn their anger on this business and rebuild it, from the street, from the underworld they know.
Of course, instead of doing that, we can all whine about how newspapers need to hire more reporters.
Shut up. I mean it. It’s not going to happen. Just shut up.