I hear that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, like many other once-proud newspapers, is up for sale. Even worse, if it's not sold inside of 60 days, it will cease to exist in print (but might continue in a greatly scaled-back online form).
Sad. Very sad.
I was thinking the other day about how the newspaper biz has changed since I was a kid, throwing a paper route in Shreveport, Louisiana. It's changed a lot - and not for the better. Of course, you could argue, and many do, that the Internet killed the Newspaper, just like it's kill(ing) CDs and will soon kill DVDs. But if you've ever tried to get all your information from the web, you've probably seen that there's something that you lose, when you ditch paper. So, I'm not convinced the problem with newspapers lies at the feet of the World Wide Web alone. No, I think it's something(s) much deeper, and will, in fact, cause the destruction of an entire industry in no less significant a way than what happened to the dinosaurs.
First of all, times have changed. In '63, it actually made sense to "stop the presses" and run a special edition of the paper with the news of JFK's assassination. After all, there were (in those days) just three TV stations, and a handful or radio outlets, none of them equipped for round-the-clock news dissemination. Today...not so much. There's literally no way a print pub can match the immediacy of an online publication. However, I believe that print and online can compliment each other, to the extent where print could provide the details, fleshing out stories, and speaking with a more focused, macro view. All too often in the rush to publish first, online media get the story wrong. That simply goes hand in hand with the need for speed. But the problem for print is they are stuck in the 60's, trying to be all things to all people.
Take, for example, what they print, besides local stories. I can get the stuff from the AP wire from a dozen different online sources, and get it well before it's published in the (printed) paper. Ditto with syndicated columnists. I can get most - if not all - of the comics I like, served up in a convenient RSS news feed. All of this content "graces" the printed papers around the country - and shouldn't. If they can't offer some exclusivity, why bother? The biggest joke, however, is the idea of publishing stock prices. By the time they get to the ink-on-paper stage, you can kiss any benefit to investors goodbye, except as maybe some kind of historical (hysterical?) record.
All of this pales by comparison, to the biggest sin that the papers commit.
They're too bloody liberal.
There are four job descriptions in which the Left succeeded in infiltrating, indoctrinating, and infecting: college professors (first and foremost, which lead to:) ordained ministers, entertainers and journalists. When academia was overrun by Liberals after WWII, life changed in America, with a slow but certain shift to the left, at least in those fields. Tenured teachers felt safe in espousing any and every radical doctrine they cared to spread. Theologians decided they could deny the divinity of the Trinity with absolute impunity. Entertainers were judged not on talent, but on how outrageous their behavior could be, and journalists? Well, journalists wrapped themselves in the flag of "the people's right to know" and became righteous poseurs, titling at every conservative sacred cow they saw.
Like any other profession, journalism has never been all about sainthood. Just like every other job description, they have their sinners and saints, legends, and liars. Back in the day, movies like The Front Page depicted journalists as oftentimes doing the right things for all the wrong reasons - chasing stories for glory, and every now and then, doing something noble, mostly by accident. That's probably a pretty accurate description of most people, and most professions. Then, in the 70's All the President's Men painted journalists as crusading saints, serving as an unofficial fourth branch of government, charged with exposing corruption and malfeasance.
What a crock.
That one movie (and to fair, the events that inspired it) probably did more to corrupt journalism than anything else before or since. Simultaneously allowing journalists to pose as heroes and hide their motives behind a shield of righteousness, the movie effectively told the public, "don't worry about our motives - we're all saints...and it's our job to tell you about your public officials."
Trouble was - and is - journalists have an agenda (getting the story first...at the expense of right) and an axe to grind (a very liberal bias). Consider this, just before and after the election, several very prominent journalists sat around and offered that "we really don't know anything about this Obama guy...we've not really delved into his background, his policies, or his goals." Um...yeah. Thanks, guys. Good job. Isn't that what you're SUPPOSED to be doing? I mean, and exposé on Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter or a trumped up story on a possible flirtation between John McCain and a lobbyist makes for scintillating tabloid trash, but does that really help us choose who's to be leading our country for the next four years? I think not.
Do a little research yourself. (Hey...do I have to do ALL the work on this story?) Examine the newspapers who's circulation is way down, with advertisers dropping like flies. Now correlate their political bias to the numbers. You'll see that the most liberal papers are having the worst time of it. All other factors being equal, it's easy to see that liberalism simply doesn't sell among the "great unwashed" in the Lower 50.
So we are left with a perfect storm of events that are conspiring to kill Journalism As We Know It: The paradigm shift brought about by the Internet, the evolution of journalists as superhero poseurs, and the liberal bias of most of print media.
Can Journalism be Saved? I dunno. You can't do anything about paradigm shifts. Shifts Happen. You either go with the flow, or get capsized by the incoming tide. Papers can adapt, change, reinvent themselves to adjust to the new way of disseminating information. The other two factors are harder to fix. I suspect that if the country undergoes some major problems in the next four years, journalists - not to mention liberals - may be held to account for things. After all, it was journalists that anointed Obama as The Chosen One, and insisted that his way is The Solution. If it all comes a-cropper, both the Lefties and the Journalists may find that their street cred is down to zero, and their power to sway the country is lost. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are about to the learn the truth behind the old saw, "all progress requires change...but not all change is progress."