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Welcome The End of Newspapers

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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.

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About KOB

  • I wouldn’t “want” newspapers to fail. Rather, I’d prefer to leave “market forces” to determine whether or which newspapers survive or perish. Let Darwinism “do its thing”. There’s no need to call for or try to artificially force newspapers to fail.

    I personally no longer have any need for the “paper”, but there are people who actually *like* the feel of a real-world newspaper.

    Our motto should be “In Darwin We Trust”.

    — Jack Krupansky

  • KOB

    Thanks for the post — I’m not suggesting that something be done to “artificially force newspapers to fail” — Newspapers are failing on their own.

    What will push them over the edge are online newspapers, in local communities, created by people who have a passion for the news business. Competition will kill them. That’s what we need to encourage. Competition.

  • You know what will happen.

    It all go on the web (at vastly cut quality and with very little thorough, mass, expensive reporting) and then some bright spark will say, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we can get all this online content onto a dozen or so paper pages? Then people can travel where they want, when they want with it without having to stare at a tiny screen or wait for their broadband to connect!’.

    Despite all this doom monger and the reality of declining sales and revenue/ there will be a demand for printed news for a long time yet.

  • hhhmmm…I live in a 2 daily newspaper town (Seattle). Recently the Hearst Corp. put their paper (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) up for sale. Drags…They have a different point of view than the Seattle Times..

    ANYWAY!!!! Why are newspapers threatened? Internet availability of news? That is what they say.

    PROBLEM. There is no way I am going to read a newspaper’s worth of information on a stinking computer screen. I am sick of ‘screens’. Geez, a society of screenheads. Wii, hand held video toys, laptops, etc.? There is no way my intelligence is going to de-evolve to such a level. A robot to screens?

    Need a phone number? I find it much quicker using a phone book (true, I have challenged computer geeks to such a challenge and have won everytime).

    What if I want to hang a funny comic or article on the bulliten board? Print it? Well, we are right back where we started.

    How will advertising rates be calculated for online newspapers? I surely won’t be reading the news off this irratating screen. Fewer readers in the long run. You think I am going to buy a laptop for sake of reading the news on a bus or doctors office? E-mail, BlogCritics, other simple readings are all that it is used for here.

    Those who are robotized and hypnotized by the ‘screen’ will have a big surprise in the future. I imagine the printed paper will survive as the online versions will lack the substance of print. Then wonder why you are getting migrane headaches?

    Don’t wonder.


  • NO newspapers? I guess I’ll just lay some laptop computers down on the floor for the dog to crap on…

  • STM

    Picture this: a long, leisurely, Sunday breakfast at a beachfront cafe under the palm trees. Nice big plate of bacon and eggs, coffee, toast, fresh OJ, the sound of the sea, a bit of people-watching, bikinis everywhere, the sound of surfers getting barrelled and hooting, warm offshore breeze, just chillin’ at the table and flicking over the pages of the nice big sunday … laptop?

    Yeah, right, especially handy if you spill anything on the keyboard.

    (Sorry if that’s too vivid a picture, but you never have to go on vacation if you live Down Under 🙂

    Come on guys. Think about it. The newspaper won’t be going west anytime soon. Not in out lifetimes at least.

    I don’t know about the US, but here in Oz the big sellers are the weekend papers on Saturdays and Sundays – for obvious reasons – and most sales of the others are to commuters using the public transport system to get into the city.

    Whilst declining marginally, sales are still healthy enough to justify a) their existence, and b) advertisers’ dollars.

    During past recessions, or in prior troubled financial periods, it’s been noticed that newspapers actually do really well because the only way most businesses can keep ticking over is to keep advertising.

    The smart businesses, and those who survive, are those who keep letting people know that they have a product to sell.

    Thus, whilst not totally immune to the pressures all and sundry will be feeling, the media tends to do pretty well in those lean periods.

    Rupert Murdoch’s no dummy … and he’s a classic example of a tough-times survivor.

    Of course, the key to survival is remaining relevant.