Ed Driscoll

The Future Of Newspapers--Or Lack Thereof

As Jonah wrote, one reason why a grab at guild socialism is an increasingly popular survival strategy for old media is their new-found competition. But even a formal or informal guild strategy can’t stem all the ongoing hemorrhaging, which is why Bill O’Reilly paints a gloomy future for newspapers. That’s not at all a surprising take from Bill given his biases, but he makes several great points:

Here’s a story the print press doesn’t really want to report — many American newspapers are in big trouble. Earnings at The New York Times Company, for example, are down more than 50 percent this quarter, the Los Angeles Times has changed its editor and editorial director in the face of steep circulation declines, and scores of other papers are having major problems convincing consumers to buy their product.

There are a number of reasons for the depressing situation, pardon the pun. The Internet provides news efficiently, the decline of public education means fewer Americans care about what’s going on, and people are very busy these days. Many of us don’t have time to spend an hour reading the paper.

But the collapse of journalistic standards is another reason some have turned away from the press. Most Americans are not ideological junkies, craving their daily dose of political propaganda. Just give us the facts and some lively opinion based on the facts. The political jihadists who have taken over some newspapers are driving people away.

Here’s an example. In the 30 days following Hurricane Katrina, The New York Times ran 53 columns criticizing President Bush on its editorial pages. Even Barbra Streisand might consider that overkill.

The Boston Globe, which is owned by The New York Times, has one conservative columnist and 10 liberal ones. So why would any conservative bother with the paper?

Over at the Washington Post, an editor named Marie Arana criticized her own paper saying: “The elephant in the newsroom is our narrowness. Too often, we wear liberalism on our sleeve and we are intolerant of other lifestyles and opinions … if you work here, you must be one of us. You must be liberal, progressive, a Democrat.”

So why would any Republican buy The Washington Post?

As Patrick Ruffini said in February on the night of the (astonishingly lowrated) Oscars:

Liberals get all pissy when conservatives decide to tune out institutions that don’t represent them and create new ones — just look at the sneering at “Faux News” and Rush and homeschooling and values voters. In Hollywood as in mainstream media, there is a price to be paid when an institution decides to leverage its prestige to push a political position where none is warranted; it’s a price that is paid in viewership, influence, and profit — in this case, a 30% falloff in viewers.

For newspapers, the situation is even worse: it takes serious money to put together even a small, independent movie. But a blog? The only cash one need put out to get started is to buy the pajamas.