Belmont Club

The passing of Arthur

The Associated Press says a survey of editorial rooms across the country reveals a great deal of pessimism about the future of the industry. This suggests that the news model is dying.  But the real question is what will come in the old model’s place?  As newspapers begin to fold up, the void will be filled in other ways. In some sense the AP article can be read, not as an obituary, but as a prologue.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Nearly three-quarters of U.S. newspaper executives responding to a recent survey said their ability to inform readers has diminished with their steadily shrinking staffs. The survey conducted by the Associated Press Managing Editors illuminated the doubts and concerns hovering over newspapers as the industry reels from a slump that has been worsening since last fall. …

The comments accompanying the responses were filled with resignation, frustration, anger, despair, confusion and even some gallows humor that reflected the depressed state of the U.S. economy as more people lose their homes because they can’t afford their mortgages.

“Our newspaper’s biggest revenue source today is foreclosure notices,” wrote Clifford Buchan, editor of the Forest Lake Times, a free weekly newspaper in Minnesota. “We have uncertainty once that run ends, as it most surely will.”

To cope with the hard times, 65 percent of the survey respondents said they have laid off workers since January 2008. Nearly 30 percent said they have lowered wages.

This is a moment of opportunity for a new industry to be born. The problem is that nobody has figured out how to do it, yet.

There is a good choice of 19th century quotes to go with the AP piece. Tennyson catches part of the mood.

Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:
“Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole Round Table is dissolv’d
Which was an image of the mighty world,
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds.”

And slowly answer’d Arthur from the barge:
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

And then there’s Matthew Arnold. Darker, but close enough to the mark.

Wandering between two worlds, one dead
The other powerless to be born,
With nowhere yet to rest my head
Like these, on earth I wait forlorn.

Yet the moment comes.


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