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Print is Not Dead - Just the Content Is

 

Hugh Hewitt has a great note on the decline of print media.

"'Print is dead,' Sports Illustrated President John Squires told a room full of newspaper and magazine circulation executives at a conference in Toronto in November."
Which is silly. I like print. I can't imagine my life without my subscription to Wired magazine, which my kids also read avidly.

But I would never consider a subscription to the local newspaper.

The reason for declining readership at newspapers and magazines is not what they imagine.

Under sustained assault from cable television, the Internet, all-news radio and lifestyles so cram-packed they leave little time for the daily paper, the industry is struggling to remake itself.

Papers are conducting exhaustive surveys to find out what readers want. They are launching new sections, beefing up Web sites and spinning off free community papers and commuter giveaways in hopes of widening their audience.


It's not the competition. I still have to visit the library once a day and need reading material for my 5 or 10 minute excursion. A newspaper would be ideal for this.

But no, it has nothing to do with competition. It has to do with lousy, lop-sided, biased, negative content. There is nothing provocative in the newspaper any more. It's predictable. The editors will always choose the Democrat running for office and denounce Iraq as an abject failure. If it bleeds, it leads. Even the cartoonist is never a surprise.

In today's fast news cycle, where I generally know the headlines the day before they appear in print, analysis and alternative points of view would make print valuable. Give me information from multiple points of view and let me form my own opinion. But it ain't gonna happen. The Des Moines Register and its AP newsfeed can't help but lean left, which only sends it circling toward nowhere productive.

Therein lies newspaper's mortality... but it's not because it's "print."

 


Tags: media
by Brett Rogers, 2/20/2005 7:50:59 PM
Permalink


Comments

Oh no! Not the whole "liberal media" rant! Please.
The only thing more predictable than a mediocre DSM Register is members of the left blaming it on a liberal bias. What you choose to forget is that the paper was weak even before Mr. Bush took office. Once it became part of a chain, it became a commodity. Anything provoking thought or presenting conflicting ideas has been deemed a non-seller. Given the quality of "infotainment" on TV news, we agree on this much...print is not dead. In fact, it's probably about the most reliable source of news there is...if you read a variety of it, not just our local rag.

If I can handle Cal Thomas, you can live with Molly Ivins. :-)

 

 

Posted by Bella, 2/20/2005 10:01:29 PM


Actually, Molly is entertaining. I mean, even conservatives should admit that the nickname "Shrub" is clever and funny. And I don't like Cal, myself. A bit too Ralph Reed-ish.

C'mon... facts are facts. There is a liberal bias. Most reporters who are registered voters register as Democrat and donate Democrat.

Regarding newspapers, all businesses exist to create a profit. Otherwise they don't exist. (Unless they're AmTrak, and then they're subsidized.) Newspapers are the same way, but they can't figure out how to engage their audience. I don't think it would be hard.

Better if they took a topic and bunch of local opinionated folk from different perspectives and gathered them round an issue and then told them to go for it and write persuasive, provocative pieces.

We don't need Molly Ivins or Cal Thomas. We need Rob Borsellino and Jan Mickelson and Jon Gaskell and whoever else can get in there and be unafraid to soapbox. Local people, local perspectives.

I don't want a media that I agree with - I want factual articles that help me to see the world as it truly is, or perspectives that help me see the world in a way that I haven't seen before. Does the Register do that? Maybe you're suggesting that it never did that.

What happens if newspapers disappear? What if they cease to make a profit and can't exist? Is that bad thing? I don't know that it is. Whether people like it or not, Roger Ailes decided to pay attention to a niche market and create FoxNews. FoxNews is profitable, and their "niche" market is over half the country. Some niche.

That's my suggestion: newspapers should discover red state America and have people on staff who represent that demographic. It won't happen; but if it did, the conservatives I know who once bought newspapers might buy them again.

 

 

Posted by Brett Rogers (http://www.beatcanvas.com), 2/20/2005 11:17:00 PM


I have no problem with profit. Profit over quality, and profit over conscience, I take issue with. Perhaps this is why Gaskell and his gang struck out on their own. More power to them! I may not always like what they write, and I do find them a bit hipper-than-thou most of the time, but they made a point that they didn't have to be a part of the Wal-Mart-izing of DSM newspapers.

As for the gripe about political bias, well, that is the least of our register's problems. Newspapers have been taking sides since the beginning of time. Historically, the press has always been an opinionated medium. "Objective journalism" is a myth. It is our job, as citizens, to come up with our own opinion based on all outlets. For every paper that endorsed Kerry, there is at least one that endorsed Bush. For every Michael Moore, there is a Bill O'Reilly. Or Ann Coulter. Or Sean Hannity. Or Brit Hume. Or Chris Mathews...oh, wait. This would imply a conservative bias in media. Or maybe just in television media.

Maybe the left has the newspapers, and the right has TV. And who would you bet gets the larger audience?

 

 

Posted by Bella, 2/21/2005 11:36:16 AM


I think objectivity is a myth. Which is why I vote for numbers and a variety of perspectives.

As for objective journalism, which we both agree is a mirage that can't be chased, how about just profitable journalism? I don't think that print media has to sell its soul to sell newspapers.

If you were put in charge of the Register (or any large city newspaper), what changes would you initiate to increase the readership?

 

 

Posted by Brett Rogers (http://www.beatcanvas.com), 2/21/2005 11:10:01 PM


I wouldn't. If I ran a large newspaper, it would inevitably reflect my views and ideals. There would be no pie charts and it would have lots of words longer than two syllables. And there would be no Family Circus on the comics page. :-)

Not everybody shares my views or ideals. It wouldn't sell, I'd be fired. But I'd be true to my soul. And, that, my friend, is why I don't sell newspapers. It's also why I have to buy about 3 of them every damn Sunday...it's the only way to gain perspective.

Speaking of pioneers in journalism, I'd like to post a "Have a Good Trip!" to Hunter S. Thompson. Why do you think he killed himself? I mean, granted, he wasn't exactly a poster boy for rational thought, but you'd think if he was ever inclined to kill himself, it would have been way before now... like maybe somewhere outside of Barstow, when the drugs started to take hold. :-)

 

 

Posted by Bella, 2/21/2005 11:30:59 PM


No "Family Circus" is an editorial choice worthy of applause. Most "comics" in the newspaper are anything but...

As for why Hunter off'ed himself, I can only guess that he didn't see the point in continuing the trip. Maybe it seemed like a very rational thing to do.

For what it's worth, if I were given the reins at the Register, I'd put out a call to the community and invite them to contribute stories. Good writing, fresh perspective, fact-based would be the guidelines. Then I'd set up a means on the Register's web site to let people rate those authoring - was the writing good? Fresh? True?

Further, invite kids to submit reporting. This would help to get youth interested in newspapers again.

Would it bring readers back to the pages of the Register? No clue. But I think it would be exciting.

 

 

Posted by Brett Rogers (http://www.beatcanvas.com), 2/22/2005 8:18:28 AM



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