The Future of Newspapers

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Newspapers at a tipping point [Mlehet / Flickr]

An online redesign of the New York Times aside, newspapers don’t have too much to be happy about these days: advertising revenue is down, circulation is slumping, and newsroom cuts have become daily news. The old Knight-Ridder chain, which includes such papers as the venerable, 177-year-old Philadelphia Inquirer and the award-winning San Jose Mercury News, is under new ownership and is headed, individually, for either the auction block or the chopping block.

The internet is the source for most publishers’ headaches. Free listings on Craigslist have eaten away at a formerly stable flow classified ad cash. Bloggers are crashing the opinion party. Wikipedia- and google-empoyered readers are fact-chcecking — often successfully — everyone from their home town daily to the gray lady. And while a recent Pew study found that online newspaper reading — especially among younger folks — has replaced some of the dwindling paper readership, web advertising hasn’t yet made a commensurate leap.

So what’s to be done? What’s the best business model for a newspaper in the 21st century? What’s the best editorial model? And are they at odds now — in a different way than before?

Alan Rusbridge and his Guardian think they have some answers. Rusbridge gave a sort of state of the newspaper business talk in London last month and painted a picture of a new breed of newspaper. One example, among many:

We’ve got hundreds of thousands of readers of The Guardian, they’re all highly intelligent otherwise they wouldn’t be reading The Guardian and quite a lot of those will have gone to India, quite a few of them are Indian, so we started a site called ‘Been There’ in which we said, come on, you’ve all been to India; where are your favourite places? Where are your favourite cities? Where are your favourite restaurants? Where did you stay? And this is the beginning of a complete inversion of the newspaper model. It’s not us telling you, it’s us saying to you, “Why don’t you take part in this? We’ll give you the space but let’s hear from you.

If we are watching the “beginning of a complete inversion of the newspaper model,” where does the inversion end? If they’re going to survive, what purpose can — must — newspapers serve in the internet age?

Alan Rusbridger

Editor, The Guardian

Zack Stalberg

President and CEO, The Committee of 70

Former Editor, The Philadelphia Daily News

Mark Fitzgerald

Editor-at-large, Editor and Publisher

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  • You should look at Blue Plate Special, Jay Rosen’s new venture. BPS does in-depth thematic “issues.” The current issue is newspaper blogging, and it contains things that I’m not yet bored by (the whole blogs vs. newspapers thing is so dead; and it was the wrong question in the firstplace).

  • Please, please please talk about audio and video. Media watchers have long complained that TV is brain dead compared to newspapers. What happens when newspapers make (internet) TV?

    Does anybody at the Guardian monitor places like YouTube for interesting stuff? (Or what about keyword-based RSS, or people linking to individual stories at the Guardian, to listen to and maybe even respond to the distributed conversation? So many newspapers seem “deaf” to me, they can’t hear that people are talking to them on the web, except through the comic old-folks ear-funnel known as the Letters to the Editor section, a very tiny pipe indeed.)

    What we need is not citizen journalism but the citizen assignment desk.

  • Nikos

    I kinda hate to admit it, but my own newspaper purchasing dropped precipitously after my local NPR station (WUOM) went wall to wall news and information a few years ago when I lived in Ann Arbor. Between Morning Edtion, Diane Rehm, Fresh Air, Talk of the Nation, ATC — and, yes Chris Lydon’s pre-coup Connection — I got a New York Times worth of info all day and night and could get it while waking, eating, driving, goofing, and even watching the Pistons. (Go Pistons!)

    Ironically, I visit the Times online more now than I did when I lived in Michigan.

  • I haven’t read newspaper in years. Its stale. And LW’s comment about the “old-folks ear-Funnel”, aka the Letters to the Editor, hits the nail on the head. Though, i don’t know if I will ever read electronic books, the news is different. The ability to correct right in an article and note the correction, rather than a disconnected statement in a later edition. The immediate factchecking and feedback mechanisms available can keep the reporting at a higher integrity level.

    Which may be the biggest reasons the papers are losing steam. They may need to reinvent themselves in some ways to adapt to the new, more savvy news reading demographic, but the bigger problem is their loss of credibility. I’ll never read the New York Times again. They lost me with their lack of integrity around the lead up to the Invasion of Iraq. The Washington Post lost me entirely when I learned of Bob Woodward’s conflict of interest in reporting the news or issuing editorial opinions while he was trying to ingratiate himself to the administration in order to write a book.

    I don’t know who the long-term winners will be in regaining the public trust. Currently, its a Wild, Wild West out there in the news reporting world as the pendulum swings away from the venerable institutions of newspapers that have lost their status and searches for where its going to land.

    Perhaps, you could look at the model and see if that is financially successful and providing valuable, trustworthy news. It is a combination of news from the wires, opinion pieces, a very opinionated blog that is addressing up-to the minute political activity, and almost every aspect of the site has comment blogs attached.

    I have, for a while now, wondered if there is a trustworthy, right leaning online publication. One that clearly has its own perspective but is reporting the news with integrity so that I can compare two different perspectives with a sense that they are working with same, reliable facts.

  • nother

    I’m not too interested in new business models and such, but I can relay my personal perspective here. No matter how many books they upload on these computers – “old fashionâ€? books are not going away, and the same can be said for newspapers. The “Timesâ€? can make their new website font as pretty as peach, but clicking away, will never give me that same satisfaction as sitting at that lunch counter, meticulously spreading out and scanning the new knowledge of a new day. I revel in my struggle to open up and fold back that impossibly bent page – to loudly rattle and rummage my way through, like a cultivated scavenger. No worries, as the ketchup seeps across yesterday’s box scores – just turn the page! Turn the page with anticipation of discovering another diamond in the ruff – another enlightening short article in the “City and Regionâ€? section, or the “Sunday Styles,â€? section, places I never seem to take a chance on while surfing the websites.

    Sometimes the journey is more satisfying than the destination – the journey through our old fashion broadsheet is an adventure that is simply more satisfying.

  • nother: agreed, books are a top-notch information display, nothing we’ve invented has even come close.

  • nother

    Allison, the NY times is so much more than news. It’s a place of ideas that challenge. It’s a voice that does not strive to speak to the lowest common denominator. Yes they dropped the ball on the Iraq War, but do you plan on dismissing anyone that was on that side of the issue. Our blogman Brendan has implied on this site that he is not very left of center. He has also stated that their can at least be a case made for this war in Iraq. If you found out that he had supported the Iraq war (I don’t know if he did) would you stop listening to ROS, considering he is one of the editors here? Should I never read Tom Friedman again because he supported this war? You also write about the NY Times’s loss of credibility because of that issue; does that negate all the credibility they have built up over all these years?

    My main point is, I think it is unfortunate that you dismiss “newspapers� out of hand. It’s akin to dismissing the genre of jazz because Kenny G is atop the jazz charts. The internet will not replace newspapers, it will complement them and keep them in check. Why does it have to be either or? You write that the beauty of Salon is it takes “a combination of news from the wires, opinion pieces, a very opinionated blog that is addressing up-to the minute political activity.� Why can’t we add great articles from certain newspapers to the mix?

    The lesson I try to follow is, read – then question, then question, then question some more. I wouldn’t (and I mean this) question the stuff I read on Salon, any less than the stuff I saw on Fox News.

  • nother

    Plus, Salon is national; ultimately we read newspapers for the local coverage. How can I read about Big Papi spanking the Yankee’s with another 3 run dinger, on Salon’s website? Would I have found out about the “Painting Summer in New England” exhibit at the Peabody Essex museum, if I hadn’t looked at The Arts section of the Globe today and read their Spring Museum Preview?

  • Local news in the US is in *big trouble* everywhere that’s more than ten feet outside a top-50 major media market. Lots of these local papers have been rolled up by chains who have squeezed the life out of them — many are not even produced locally anymore.

  • Nikos

    Forget Big Papi, nother. The Tigers are gonna play in the ALCS this year. Against the Sox — the Chisox. 😉

  • The New York Times: I had a job as a relief cartaker on a remote Island where the regular caretakers got the Sunday NYTs. Even though it was at least a week late by the time I got to read it I considered it a major perk of the job. The book review section alone can give me hours of pleasure. Now I mostly just read the book review section and again I get it second hand and a week late but I don’t care. I also have NYTs tabbed on my computer. I go to it, the Seattle Times or the Washington Post sites if I want visuals to compliment my radio news. Those Newspaper websites are great for the photo slide shows plus I’m a regular devotee of Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! watched on my computer but it is a completly different experience. Spreading the NYTs out on the kitchen table and leaning into it with a cup of coffee – can not be replaced. (I sure hope they aren’t clearcutting pristine wilderness to print it.)

  • reality_bytes_it

    The reason why newpapers in general and NYT in particular is that they are too biased to keep thier credibilty yet not biased enough to retain thier readerships. The patina of “objectivity” is easily scuffed off by alert readers and quickly spread around the internet to all who wish to read about it.

    Re: NYT “Okrent, the Times’ first public editor, infuriated many on the paper’s staff in his July 25, 2004, column when he indicted the paper on several counts of pandering to its readers’ expectations with its advocacy journalism. He wrote “if you think the Times plays it straight down the middle” on the social issues—gay rights, gun control, abortion, and environmental regulation—”you’ve been reading the paper with your eyes closed.” The Times presents “the social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading,” he wrote, when coverage that analyzed the effects of gay marriage was in order. The paper’s cheerleading, one would extrapolate from Genztkow and Shapiro, may delight the paper’s 1.1 million circulation, but at what cost?”

    In a new, math-heavy paper titled “Media Bias and Reputation,” the two economists leapfrog over the usual analysis about the media’s liberalness or conservativeness to construct a new model of media bias. They assume, logically enough, that media firms seek to establish reputations as purveyors of accurate information because such reputations increase demand for their products.

    1) If a media outlet cares about its reputation for accuracy, it will be reluctant to report anything that counters the audiences’ existing beliefs because such stories will tend to erode the company’s standing. Newspapers and news programs have a visible incentive to “distort information to make it conform with consumers’ prior beliefs.”

    2) The media can’t satisfy their audiences by merely reporting what their audience wants to hear. If alternative sources of information prove that a news organization has distorted the news, the organization will suffer a loss of reputation, and hence of profit. The authors predict more bias in stories where the outcomes aren’t realized for some time (foreign war reporting, for example) and less bias where the outcomes are immediately apparent (a weather forecast or a sports score). Indeed, almost nobody accuses the New York Times or Fox News Channel of slanting their weather reports.

  • Nikos

    Peggy Sue: can you tell me whether the Seattle Times is better (or at least more leftist or rightist) than the Seattle P.I.? And is there a reason to support one over the other?

    (In southeastern Michigan we had the conservative Detroit News and the centrist-slightly-left-of-center Detroit Free Press operating under a JOA like the Times and PI, so I understand the business angle of the thing. But not the two Seattle papers’ histories and political legacies.)


  • reality_bytes_it

    With both the left and right abandoning the MSM and with the MSM’s general bias it is to conservative’s advantage.

    If one makes a careful read of the article in the link above it makes for an entertaining thought experiment. What would happen to PBS / NPR if all govt funding / subsidies were to be eliminated? Using the model from the study above it would quickly spiral into the same idiotic black hope where Democracynow exists. Why? Just look at the political philosophy of the posts on these threads. In order to keep these poeple happy they would have to move quickly left and then lose all credibility.

    This is an extreme effect but is an illustration why, with the influence of the internet, “national” newpapers like NYT will gradually be beeten down into regional niche players.

  • reality_bytes_it

    read “black hole”

  • Jon

    A brief anecdote: When I was a child growing up in Cleveland, I didn’t have a paper route myself, but I had friends who did, and I’d help them on their routes from time to time. The liberal Cleveland News (that my family subscribed to) was a breeze for the paperboys to deliver–it was so thin. The conservative Cleveland Press, on the other hand, was a bear to deliver, since it contained page upon page of advertising. I still remember the day the News folded–it turns out that it doesn’t matter how wonderful the content is, if the business plan isn’t successful. And now, throughout the country so many other interesting newspapers have folded. We would be wise not to ignore the “business plans” if we want to preserve a diversity of opinion from newspapers in this country.

  • Nikos

    Reality: sidewalker was right — you really do resemble our old pal Winston Dodson. I’m not sayin’ you are, I’m just…uh…scared.

    Do you guys clone each other or somethin’? 😉

  • Nikos

    btw, reality, I’m just clowning — and giving you a sideways compliment in so doing. You’d have to know Winston to understand. And we miss him.

    (Well…sort of.)

  • Nikos

    reality: this is what got my easily muddled mind confusing you with Winston:

    Apologies. (But I meant the ‘compliment’ business sincerely.) Winston has been saying things like you in this thread for months.

  • cheesechowmain

    Newspapers are currently more latrine friendly and resilient to coffee spills than my laptop and tablet. But, the PARC folks will probably create something for another group to sieze upon and then I’ll have trifecta of application: Lounge chair, latrine throne, coffee shop.

  • Nikos: I don’t know the diference these days between the Seattle Times and the PI. I stick with the Times just because it was what my Dad read and I grew up sprawled out on the living room floor with the comics section spead out avidly taking in Brenda Starr. The PI didn’t have Brenda Starr.

  • Nikos

    Peggy Sue. Gotcha. And the Detroit Free Press’s comics were WAY better than the Detroit News’s.

    CCM: what’s ‘PARC’?

    reality bytes it: I feel the need to explain. Last week I identified a blogger from our past in a new disguise. I am 100% certain of this (I’m a fiction writer conversant with individual writing voices – and this guy’s was an unmistakable dead ringer). This identification, plus an unmistakable commonality of sentiment between you and our old pal Winston prompted my class-clowning nonsense.

    Forgive me.

    But, so long as I’ve got your attention: since both he (Winston) and you are echoing the same message of doom for the MSM, is this a common theme in the rightwing blogosphere?

    I ask only because I’m genuinely ignorant (as all my ROS pals will freely confirm), yet also pathologically curious.

    Thanks in advance.

  • cheesechowmain

    Nikos: “CCM: what’s ‘PARC’?” It’s a subsidiary of Xerox called Palo Alto Research Center. They’ve innovated many technologies that others have leveraged off to make oodles of dough. They’re sort of infamous for this sort of thing. It’s a bit over done though. They’ve been working on e-paper for a while. We’ll see how it holds up to the tests of latrine use, coffee spillage, and 2 story building drops.

  • cheesechowmain
  • Potter

    I thought I would end our daily subscription to the NYTimes when they put stuff behind that firewall. Then I kept postponing that day when it would happen. The pileup of paper gets to be formidable here, but I do go through it. I guess I am with those folks who like or prefer some physical paper to soil my hands and get the tablecloth greyed a bit. I will not take my laptop to the Dr’s office to read either.

    I go to my laptop for so much, I need a break from it.

    I find things serendipitously in the NYTimes The Paper as I turn the pages, that I would not otherwise. A photograph of Samuel Beckett that is 12″ x8″ in the paper recently is a postage stamp on my screen. That’s a different experience. The magazine and special sections cannot be duplicated online, though I value the muli-media features the online paper provides.

    I find it most annoying to reading paper online with those moving ads. I can sometimes alter my screen size to cut them out but I sense there is a war going on that will continue for my attention between ad and text.

    So I am with Nother and Peggysue. Still I want to be able to go to the website to retrieve a newspaper article so that I do not need to have disorganized piles of clippings around so I guess I want both as far as the Times goes.

    We have dropped so many of our subsciptions including Newsweek, TNR ( but not the NewYorker or the Nation yet). Mostly all else is read online.

    It occurs to me that perhaps this might be true for others as well, that they keep one paper, possibly their hometown one, and get all the rest online.

    I don’t know what to do with guilt about continuing to cut down trees for the paper. I’d rather work to eliminate the excess of catalogs and junk mail.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Real Or Fake?

    Amid the digitized stream of compelling photographs from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a few that are staged, fake or at least misleading. Photo editors struggle to filter them out.

    “bin Laden wrote about how important the media was in Al Qaeda’s war with the West. “It is obvious that the media war in this century is one of the strongest methods; in fact, its share may reach 90 percent of the total preparation for battles.” The translated letter was provided by the U.S. Army’s Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point.

    Photo fakery at the New York Times

    Is a fake staged photo fit to print? What if it staged in a way that makes the US forces fighting the War on Terror look cruel and ineffective? The evidence argues that yes, it can run, and in a prominent position – at least in the case of the New York Times website.

    L.A. Times Photographer Fired Over Altered Image

    April 1 may forever haunt Colin Crawford, Los Angeles Times Director of Photography, and Brian Walski, a staff photographer covering the war in Iraq for the paper.

    That was the day Walski was fired, after it was revealed that a photo he submitted on Sunday was actually a composite of two images he had captured.

    The photo was shared primarily with other Tribune properties via Newscom, the company’s internal picture distribution service. Both the Hartford Courant and The Chicago Tribune used the photograph prominently on Monday.

    Doctored Photo from the London Evening Standard

    Fake Rape-Scene Photos

    AP Photogs and thier “role”

    It was the surely the most amazing of coincidences that placed an Associated Press photographer in a position to openly photograph an execution, where we are reliably informed, no less than 30 armed men were firing guns and hurling hand grenades. The AP photographer is not in a situation comparable to a defendant in a criminal case, who is entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He is not in any court at all. But like the situation involving Dan Rather and the infamous Texas National guard memorandum, readers are entitled to wonder about the provenance of the evidence served up to the viewers.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Sorry for wasting space, just a test.

  • reality_bytes_it

    In 2 posts above a comment appears next to my post that must have been entered by someone else ? -” Your comment is awaiting moderation. ”

    Does this mean that after being compared to some comtemptable character named Winston by a self identified moonbat (Nikos) uh, I mean guttersnipe, that I am “being watched”?

    If so, does anyone find it juicely ironic that in a thread regarding a show discussing nenwpaper’s / MSMs failure that someone who very rarely indulges himself in the narciscistic editorializing common to many (guttersnipes) who had to be lured away to do so in a less conspicuous place, but mostly only submits threads with links with source info, should be “moderated”.

    P.S. It’s very easy to screen capture all submissions prior to any “moderation” events so as to capture the before and after so that the purposes of the “moderator” can be discerned.

  • Kevin

    When it comes to newspapers, as has been mentioned before, there is nothing like holding open the paper and looking around for the interesting story. Lately, though, I have restricted myself more to online newspapers because I am travelling a lot. One thing that I have noticed about reading newspapers online is that I miss out on the interesting “small” stories, that only take up a small portion of a newspaper page, the small blurbs that are a paragraph or two long. When I read online I tend to go straight for the main stories that cover the paper’s homepage while not spending the time to click through all of the necessary links to get to the smaller stories.

    These small stories are what make newspapers interesting and I think that the web version of newspapers does not make them easily accessible. Instead of a variety of stories about lots of differnent things, I tend to only read the same old stories that cover the headlines on newspapers home pages… Iraq … Bush…. Irag.. Cheney… Iraq etc…

    Maybe the newer web designs for newspapers (I haven’t really checked out the updated NY Times…) will take this into consideration and make these stories a bit more accessible to us all. But for now, if you want to see those intersting short articles, you really have to stick to the print.

  • To clarify, it wasn’t just the Iraq war that ended my trust of the NYT. The fact checking is lazy and there have been too many scandals for me to trust them. But on the Iraq war stuff, they didn’t just have an opinion, they reported without confirming the sources or checking the validity of the source’s perspectives. The NYT times very much behaved as a propaganda mechanism rather than the 3rd estate.

    nother, because it is you and I have a sense of your questioning, I will assume that you are really trying to understand where I’m coming from. But, it is a bit disingenuous to compare how I would feel about Brendan and ROS if I knew that he/they supported the invasion of Iraq to how I would feel about the NYT. First, Brendan is allowed is opinion and may be saying that even if there were no WMD and no connection to Al Qaeda, that he finds if acceptable to invade for other reasons. The NYT ardently reported the presence of WMD and did nothing to dispell the myth that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11.

    I don’t dismiss all newspapers because I lost faith in the NYT. I read my nieghborhood papers. They are closer to their readers and are kept in check by that proximity. Comparing my analysis of the corporately-owned news industry to that of jazz musicians, also doesn’t work. Jazz is an art form of personal expression. It is not about trust. Journalism is about a service of trust. See the Journalist’s creed:

    I suppose I don’t need the portable paper of the printed word, because I am a knitter. A wait in the doctor’s office or at the motor vehicle registry is knitting time for me. I read the news – several different sources of it, which is another thing I like about the digital news era – in the morning while I’m having breakfast. I knit during waiting times throughout the day and I read books at bedtime. I can certainly appreciate the joy of the printed word. Will always read printed books. So, I respect the views of others who cherish their newspapers.

  • Potter

    Reality– this ” comment moderation” happened to me and one other poster. I think it’s a glitch. I asked about it but I never got a response so I have no idea what causes this to kick in. The fact that I am still alive and posting relaxes me about it. I don’t think you should worry about someone spying on you or even awaiting your moderation. I am losing hope about the latter.

  • sergetheconcierge

    Being both a blogger for over a year and a newspaper reader, I personally think the two formats are complementary.

    I subscribe to the Financial Times and read the New York Times usually Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays (Print editions for both).

    I very rarely read long pieces online. I very rarely write long pieces on my blog.

    I do not see many blogs being able to do pieces such as the one on abortion in El Salvador in yesterday’s New York Times magazine.

    I do think that the nature of the relationship between readers and writers and editors will change as the Guardian points.




  • Potter

    Reality I just remembered- I think you posted a lot of links and that’s what makes the “moderation” thing kick in. You have 6 links. I think the number prior was 3. Anybody know? Paranoia dissolved?

  • Yes, Potter. We’re not moderating for content. It’s an automatic trigger thing to try to reduce spam. Brendan okayed the post earlier this morning. For the future, you can include five links but no more.

    Link on!

  • nother

    “nother, because it is you and I have a sense of your questioning, I will assume that you are really trying to understand where I’m coming from.�

    Exactly Allison, I always like to hear you elaborate on your points. I respect your views very much and I would never want you to take one of my comments as anything other than healthy discourse and friendly engagement. You are one of the main reasons I post here.

    My Jazz analogy was akin to the idea of – don’t throw out the baby out with the bath water. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the NYTimes Book Review for instance, because some people in the news department lacked courage in the build up to war.

    The more I think about it though, I guess we have given the Times too much of a free pass on this one. Ugh!

  • nother

    I have to try this knitting thing sometime. Are the points really sharp, cause I have a feeling I would come away with more than a few scars.

    I hope people march for immigration rights today.

  • Nikos

    Reality: I like your input here. There’s a bit of jesting that goes on as we become familiar with newer contributors. My comparison of you to Winston wasn’t personal — not in a bad way anyhow. You strike me as a more conservative voice than that of many other ROS regulars — which is something this site needs. (And you do it with class.)

    When folks start jesting with you, it’s — usually — a sideways way of saying ‘thanks’. Especially when we don’t necessarily agree with the opinions, but appreciate with the effort you are giving to provide us with your views.

    Besides, it was late and I was tipsy. And yeah, I’m a goofball sometimes. Serious posts interspersed with clowning can help make a given thread a bit less of a chore to read through. Most of us aren’t experts, but concerned citizens. Everyone’s voice is equal, and that’s as it should be. Yet sometimes I sense myself (and others) taking ourselves a bit too seriously in the rendering of our inexpert opinions. So, I react with goofiness to defray the sanctimony (my own of course too!)

    On the other hand, perhaps I stray too much from the straight and narrow of this site’s goal of dignified debate.

    In which case: Mea Culpa…but welcome aboard. We appreciate your presence. When your posts are generating reaction, even goofy reaction, you’re doing your ‘job’.

    That’s a compliment, not a wisecrack. 🙂

  • Nikos

    PS to Reality: another way to say it is that I couldn’t help but observe that you’ve got the time and energy to represent points of view that at least one of us – me – rightly or wrongly considers notably similar to the lately missing Winston. Combine that with two straight days of Pacific Ocean rain, plus four ounces of vodka, and you get a well-meant but perhaps dumb-reading joke about ‘cloning’ from a bored night-owl on the Left Coast. (A bored night owl unhappy about the rain ruining his chances for his usual daily runs, too. Which does nothing but cloud my already murky-headed judgment.)

    Again: apologies for any offense – but hidden in the lame humor was a compliment for your willingness to contribute to us. And that compliment stands.

  • Nikos

    PPS: Winston isn’t/wasn’t ‘contemptible’, but, well…zealous. Which, in its own way, is admirable. (I’m a zealot myself more than I care to admit!)

  • Nikos

    PPPS: IMHO, the only thing truly ‘contemptible’ is attacking the contributors instead of their opinions — which I have stooped to more than once. That makes me a whole lot more contemptible than Winston ever was, no matter how his delivery raised our collective progressive hackles. It’s one reason I miss him…sort of! (I’m ever in need of the humility of lesson-learning. Which I defy anyone to deny!)

    WSD, where the heck are you?

  • paleoman1

    Reading all of your thoughts on newspapers has caused a sudden attack of anxiety….what am I? A leftist, liberal stooge…..a mindless rightwing robot espousing the Republican cause? Lets find out… is my online newspaper reading list.

    Billings Gazette

    Casper Star Tribune

    Los Angeles Times

    The Daily Breeze (So Cal)

    The Seattle Times

    The Baker City Herald (only for news/updates on the postal shooting, as I am a manager and have to watch my ass)

    Honolulu Star

    The Honolulu Advertiser Hawaii news, sports and info

    Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Hilo

    West Hawaii Today, News of the Big Island

    Maui News

    Kauai Garden Isle News

    Denver Post

    WOW…..I sure read alot of online newspapers. Soooo……..what does this mean?

  • webgremlin

    A couple of people have mentioned the business models of newspapers, which is where the future can be told. Croteau and Hoynes describe “The Business of Media” as a duel-market. The first is the sale of media to the consumer, the second is the sale of consumers to advertisers. Who do advertisers and newspapers want to reach? Those of us with expendible time and income to spend on their products.

    There is a cross-over of interests here that creates what I believe to be the true bias in mainstream newspapers. It is a rare occation when alternatives to capitalistic market models are shown in a positive spin regardless of how left leaning the source is said to be. Alternative forms of government also rarely shown in equal regards to democracy. Our media bias remains a cultural relative capital-centric one despite the globalization of information and news.

    That said, mainstream news will not fundamentally change in the type of content it produces nor the audience it reaches out to, because as companies have shifted towards digital methods of outreach, so too have advertisers. Even Radio Open Source is riddled with ad’s and reaches out to those of us who fancy ourselves intellectuals.

    It is not a question of how newspapers will compete with newer forms of news distribution, but how can they include the voices of those currently not represented or reached to truly create the free democratic discourse our nation prides itself on?

  • paleoman1

    Of course advertisers will seek out the level of your education and therein craft the ads to appeal to you or your intellectual group…pod…clade…clan…etc.

    That is what advertising is. In your blog webgremlin, you seem somehow to disparage this as not ethical…..beneath an intellectuals radar…..something.

    I am new here and I am looking at the site from the eyes of an observer. I find quite a few of the blogs to be overstated, boring, too long to make a crisp, clear

    point. This is not an attack, merely an observation. When in the “real” world I rarely express myself the way most here write. I can, but choose not too as it

    excludes the majority of “persons of average intelligence”. Forgive me if I seem

    to be picking on you specifically…I am not. Hmmm….maybe its the afternoon whiskey talking.

  • I know this was a topic of a previous show, but what about the impact of hyperlocal journalism projects? When people start producing their own news, what happens to local newspapers?

  • reality_bytes_it

    WAPO – The only difference between the WAPO and the NYT is that the WAPO’s public editor / Omsbudsmen hasn’t adnmitted that the news pages are biased. But there is a conflict between the editorial pages and the news pages. I know that this isn’t supossed to be news since there is supposed to be a “wall” between them but I don’t think that the editorial page is supposed to be a place where the “facts” of a news story is questioned / rebutted without at least admitting that the facts are being questioned. I thought that the editrial pages were places to either present the “opinions” of the editors, communicate guidance regarding the “rules” governing the news pages or present “adjustments” to what was presented in the news pages. The two links below will show that neither of these 3 actions were folllowed but the editorial did challenge the “facts” as presented in a WAPO “news” story of a day prior. So which is it WAPO? Who’s full of crap? This is another example of the reason why newspapers / MSM’s are failing – as the research article points out above, the news pages can’t be both unbiased enough to keep the readers that they need while being unbiased enough to maintain their credibility and the obvious disconnects here between the editors and reporters just makes it more obvious.

    A ‘Concerted Effort’ to Discredit Bush Critic

    United Nations inspectors had exposed the main evidence for the uranium charge as crude forgeries in March 2003, but the Bush administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained they had additional, secret evidence they could not disclose. In June, a British parliamentary inquiry concluded otherwise, delivering a scathing critique of Blair’s role in promoting the story.

    A Good Leak

    The material that Mr. Bush ordered declassified established, as have several subsequent investigations, that Mr. Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth. In fact, his report supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium.

  • reality_bytes_it

    statement above “the news pages can’t be both unbiased enough to keep the readers . . . ” should read “biased”

  • A show about the bias wars…I wouldn’t bother to listen. I think the bias wars are fake; and in any case, boring, because everyone in it has a fixed position: there aren’t any moving objects.

  • Emmett: there has been a show on hyperlocal, and you can listen to it here.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Lisa Williams – why don’t you click on a link somehere and learn? There is an article above, written by a few scholars, that proves to the same degree of certainty that Life Insurance companies use to make billions off of you (and people like you called cohorts) when they can predict, on average, long you will live, that shows there is bias.

    I think that this article below is another example of a reason why newapapers / MSM are losing readership. Once again, they cannot be unbiased enough to maintain thier credibility yet are not biased anough to maintain their readership.

    Media Selectively Recycles Old News

    We journalists are environmentally friendly. We recycle. We’ve been recycling old news all weekend, without, of course, telling you it’s old news.

    “A senior administration official confirmed for the first time on Sunday that President Bush had ordered the declassification of parts of a prewar intelligence report on Iraq in an effort to rebut critics who said the administration had exaggerated the nuclear threat posed by Saddam Hussein,” reported David Sanger and David Johnston in the New York Times Monday.

    For the first time? Here’s the AP’s Tom Raum on July 20, 2003: “The White House declassified portions of an October, 2002 intelligence report to demonstrate that President Bush had ample reason to believe Iraq was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program.”

    “The unusual decision to declassify a major intelligence report was a bid by the White House to quiet a growing controversy over Bush’s allegations about Iraq’s weapons programs,” wrote Dana Milbank and Dana Priest in the Washington Post the day before.

    Mr. Sanger and Mr. Johnston must have slept through that month . . . ”

  • reality_bytes_it

    And, I just had a chance to read the lead-in piece introducing the show. Am I to take the sugestion seriously that the Guardian is an example of the “new model newspaper”? Then, while we are discussing business models we should discuss theirs – unless I am mistaken, the Guardian is a money losing business venture that is subsidized by wealthy individuals who want to keep “its particular flavor” of news available to the public.

    This “flavor” is so specific to particular individuals that it cannot sell enough copy nor advertising to reputable people to pay its costs.

    I think that the Nation was that way until recently – how many years? 20+?

  • Nikos

    reality, your criticism of the Guardian applies equally to the Washington Times. Whose owner is as rich as he is patently insane.

  • h wally

    Nikos, I’d like to add a little more information to the debate about who Reality Bytes is. on this thread at 8:47 p.m. He states, in part: “If so does anyone find it juicely ironic that in a thread regarding a show discussing newspapers/msm’s failure that someone who rerely indulges HIMSELF in….”Himself , he identifies himself as Himself, a man in the usual sense of the word. Now go back to:”BLACK MEN IN CRISIS” Reality Bytes posts March 26, 2006 9:36 am. “But being a BLACK WOMAN I have witnessed the outrage….” Here, he, she, identifies himself, herself as a black woman. Shame on you Reality.

  • Nikos

    h wally, I just checked it, but realized that the black woman in reality’s post was Joy Jones, the writer of the Washington Post piece reality was linking us to. I think it was a simple matter of unclear quoting. (I know why you’re irked though.)

  • diemos3211

    Re: the whole business model thing

    I seem to recall hearing on WNYC’s “On The Media” about 2 weeks ago someone saying the newspapers still make plenty of money, they just don’t have a lot of growth in that profit margin. As a result publicly held newspapers are subjected to pressure from the shortsighted traders on Wall Street to start downsizing to provide savings and thus grow the margin.

    As for the rest, I think that so-called e-paper will eventually be a reality. When that happens I think that papers will settle into that niche (while divesting themselves of all that messy paper and ink overhead) and leave the world of moving ads and instant factchecking to seperate, smaller, more aggressive blog/news sites. There will be fewer papers, but there will probably still be enough to sustain the more in-depth reporting that are the newspapers’ most valuable contribution in this day and age.

  • reality: On the Good Leak reference, that is a gross misrepresentation of the entire story of the “declassified document” and this why newspapers are losing credibiltiy. Bush declassified selected

    portions of the document, not the entire thing. IN the summary of the document, it was stated that the final conclusion is that the evidence for the uranium inquiry/purchase was “highly dubious” and that the effort to buy uranium was NOT a key judgement of the intelligence estimate. The overall document actually supported Wilson’s point of view.

    The highly selective declassiication was done purposefully to mislead and then the Post, with what I now see as conflict of interest, is choosing to be highly selective about when they really investigate. It is one thing to issue an opinion piece. It is another to do so without really delving into the evidence. Especially when your opinions are seen as the informed ones by so many.

  • webgremlin

    Bias aside. If news continues to base its profits on advertising, then the future of news is tied directly to advertising. In the same way that Amazon and Google can taylor the ads you receive, so can they mine the web for the news you want to read. Newspapers are going to need to find the niches they fit just as the early newsletters did after the invention of the printing press.

  • Ben

    More and more newspapers feel like a guilty pleasure, sunday and a cup of coffee kind of thing. They take up a lot of physical space. The weekly and magazine formats give more colorful, in-depth voices and well targeted local “what’s happening” information. The daily headlines are grabbed easily online from a phone or computer. Not to mention cross referencing against different sources and stories through hyperlinks being an amazing 21st century thing that’s impossible to duplicate with an oversized printed work. I don’t pay for much of my printed news anymore though, and the integrity of totally ad driven news content seems more suspect and compromised. How long can free media last before publications become one continuous sales pitch reinforcing only the motives of their sponsors? I don’t want to see the internet become more like television.

  • Reality:

    NYT biased; Fox biased.

    So what?

    The reason the bias wars are fake is that their purpose is not to “restore balance” but to destroy the credibility of any outside voices from any point of view so that all that is left is propaganda from companies and from governments.

    The people who talk about “bias” don’t want objective journalism, they want journalism that supports their political agendas.

  • …and therefore, discussions of media bias actually help people who want to eliminate nonpropaganda sources of information from any point of view.

  • Also, it’s still boring.

  • Nikos

    Lisa Williams: Right! (3:40 PM)

    And if you haven’t already, give a gander to: &

  • kel

    Bias shmias, I think the NYT makes an honest effort to be a mouthpiece for secular, responsible America. Just because it doesn’t pander to the Evangelical right wing that happens to hold power in the country today (President, Congress, Supreme Court) doesn’t make it biased. Someone has to hold a light under the rock to see the roaches scurryihng there…

    I love newspapers but I also love the online editions. In spite of my love for the paper it is an anachronism in the internet age. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Not to gloat but when I think about how much newsprint, and trees that haven’t been cut to feed my information adiction I swell with pride.

  • Potter

    Say what you will about the New York Times, there is just nothing else out there that matches it, that comes even close. It’s not perfect, but it’s a darn good paper. ( So there!) One reason why we continue to subscrbe is because we want it to stay in business.

  • cheesechowmain

    Reportage is largely subjective, whether served up on paper + ink or web browsers. Quarterlies drive public firms and shareholders and advertisers drive executive teams. Boards play a push and pull roll. Actual customers/consumers are not in the driver seat. Wars, scandals, & celebrity gawking appear to be profoundly profitable. The venues may change where the information lands, but the content will pretty much maintain status quo. The fourth estate is not immune from quarterly reports.

  • cheesechowmain

    I believe newspapers have historically enjoyed higher margins on return-on-investment than other sectors. Perhaps we’re long overdue *correction*.

  • kel

    A question: What is the relationship between the income derived from the sale price or subsciption price and the income derived from the classified ad revenue that seems to be the source of the handwringing?

  • cheesechowmain

    A sector that runs cover for superstar journalists Bob Novak, Judith Miller, et al should be mothballed asap. Apologies to W.R. Hearst, but yellow journalism has been and continues to be dangerous and odious. It’s amazing how this part of the war machine has yet to be dismantled. On the other hand where would leakers find an outlet? Will a CIA leaker or Pentagon leaker go to a web blog?

  • kel

    Now wait a second, when was the last time that something published in a local newspaper changed anything about local government. This argument to me seems little more than urban legend. It implies a level of community attention to both the newspaper and the political class that just doesn’t exist today

  • Excellent question.

    The primary question for newspapers (and other media) today is: what kind of relationship are you *willing* to have with your readers?

    Are you willing to allow them to be peers in some meaningful way?

    Or is Letters to the Editor really the extent of the relationship you want with them?

  • Nikos

    My opinion of the NYT’s ‘bias’ is actually closer to kel’s (5:46 PM) — except that from my Social Democrat perspective, it’s more right of center than squarely ‘objective’.

    Still, it beats the hell out of Fox and its mangy canine kin.

  • Readers of the Guardian and the Philadelphia Inquirer are very privileged to read those papers, particularly if they live in the area that’s really covered by those papers.

    However, if you are ten feet outside of a major media market, there’s really nothing to read.

    I actually agree that blogs are not ready to take over for newspapers. I like newspapers and think it would be tragic if my local newspaper, the Watertown Tab, went out of business. I do think that it’s a possibility in my lifetime, and one of the things I think about when I write H2otown is creating a “volunteer newscorps” in the same sense that some communities have “volunteer firefighters.”

  • kel

    What exactly is wrong with yesterday’s news. One of the biggest problems in our culture is it’s ignorance of history, even it’s ignorance of what happened last month. I would love a regular update on stories that hit with a splash and soon fell off the radar.

  • Both the guests are making good points about the virtues of sustained attention that newspapers can bring. But that is precisely part of the problem with my local newspaper that H2otown tries to be a corrective for. Our densely packed 32,000 people in four square miles has one (1!) reporter. Reporters change frequently, paper is edited out of town. There’s little continuity, institutional memory.

    The big dailies are great; magisterial. But most of America lives in the suburbs. Where there’s no decent news.

  • Nikos
  • I often say that what we’re doing at H2otown is Paying Attention. Some of the products of our attention are journalistic in nature. Some aren’t.

    It’s important to me that H2otown “add up” to something coherent and substantive, because the random attention of the internet is one of its weaknesses in contrast to the cohesiveness and sustained attention that newspapers try to apply. Sorry, long quote ahead. The Zen of Watertown:


    H2otown is my method for paying sustained attention to Watertown. It worked: it wasn’t very long at all before Watertown simply wasn’t boring to me anymore. And because I was doing this process in public and allowing others to participate in the experiment with me, everybody could have this experience of sustained attention. A lot of us noticed that we finally felt that we lived in a specific, unique place at a specific time, in a way that we hadn’t before. Our attention drew closer and closer and pretty soon we were having long hot conversations about…


    And we loved it! (You just had to be there.)

    I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your attention that nothing that I have said so far has anything to do with anything remotely resembling journalism.

    cartoon image of a laughing BuddhaThat’s because we’re not a newspaper. We’re just Paying Attention. Sometimes the products of our attention are journalistic, because our attention will fall on Town Hall or the School Committee. Sometimes they will fall on restaurants or whether our neighbors shovel their walks.

    This is not to say that the selection of stories at H2otown is random. Just as with Wikipedia, a relatively small group of very committed people make casual contributions by the many possible. At H2otown, that person is me, and it’s important to me that H2otown “add up,” that there’s nothing major missing. And this involves regular coverage of things like Town Council, the school system, development, and in our town, nuclear and industrial waste; though not the most popular content on the site, I think it is the site’s backbone; it is one of the gifts Paying Attention has given me; and I don’t find it boring.

  • Nikos

    That was s’posed to be ‘an answer to your question’.


  • BTW, H2otown costs me $40 US to run per month. That’s it.

    One thing that I lack (besides the citizen assignment desk) is a decent application to let local businesses design, place, and pay for local ads.

    My local hardware store doesn’t want to take out Google Ads, he wants to take out an ad on my site, and he wants it to look a certain way. That’s very labor-intensive, but it shouldn’t be.

  • gailprice

    Thank you for the opportunity to respond. I read the Guardian daily; it is my primary source of news. I became enchanted with it when I lived in England for over a year. The Guardian offers information and analyses of the news in ways that neither PBS nor the NY Times provide. Less than ten years ago, it took me two days to read the Sunday NY Times thoughtfully; now I can read it in about 30 minutes and come away without meaningful analyses of or even information on the issues. The other significantly annoying concern re the NY Times is the bombardment with advertisements designed to stimulate the reader to think of things other than the news and issues, i.e. sex. The NY Times clearly does not see its role as informing the public of the content and complexity of the issues in a manner that actually conveys information. The Guardian proffers the kind of information required to truly understand issues enabling those interested to take some form of meaningful action, usually calling a legislator. Solution: Research the issue fully, and tell all of the truth about it. I think it is not so much the issue of seeking free news among many of us, but the QUALITY of the news that people do not wish to pay for. I would pay any reasonable price to read the Guardian daily, and not a penny for the current NY Times.

  • brucer

    Is there analogy btwn the major city newspaper business and the American auto industry?

    Newspaper was the only game in town.

    They got fat.

    They got entitled.

    Union jobs “willed” to family and friends

    High margins

    No real investment in the future

    Now coming back to haunt them..

    p.s. How can one feel sorry for a newspaper industry that has enough money to buy a baseball team?

  • How about a public-trust ownership for the Philly Inquirer, like Poynter and the St. Petersburg paper (? might be wrong about it being St. Petersburg).

  • A lot of the question is about readers.

    Have readers ever been the main source of income?

    Isn’t it in advertising?

    I thought charging a quarter was to combat littering.

  • excuse me, about what readers are willing to pay.

  • cheesechowmain

    brucer says: “p.s. How can one feel sorry for a newspaper industry that has enough money to buy a baseball team?”

    I really, really, really wish I had thought of this and then said it! Great zinger…

  • Great hour. Thanks.

    Wonder if the guests will read this?


  • Nikos

    CCM: you get all the great zingers as it is! You an’ Peggy Sue, anyway. Leave some bones for the rest of us, fer cryin’ out loud! 😉

  • aaaaaah


    thank you

  • cheesechowmain

    Nikos @ 6:55. I bow before Peggy Sue and her fertile and fecund mind. BTW, glad you postponed your jog yesterday to hang-out on the Iran thread. Great stuff. See you over on the Jesus thread mi amigo. Ciao…

  • Potter

    Robert Pinsky’s poem “Newspaper” can be found here:

    ( what would we do without the”internets”?)

  • reality_bytes_it

    Allison – Wilson himself said that Sadam tried to purchase yellow cake but irrespective of that, even if you are correct, the WAPO is either contradciting itself or lieing. So, it credibility is harmed in either case.

    The great thing for us conservatives is that we win either way. The decline of newspapers / MSM leaves fewer places to nuture liberal hogwash spewers.

    We love it when the left attacks MSM. “Go girl”

    And h wally and Kikos – Is it also great when a conservative like me can get material from the MSM that is so too the point and makes the “excuse mongering” seem so pitiful?

    That’s what you should be so upset about.

  • mbetancourt

    We are looking everywhere for a solution – but the reality is that American newspapers are no longer providing real in-depth reporting – they are more, and more reliant on AP wires and “general” fizzy news. One of the reasons the Guardian has a larger readership than the LA Times is because their articles are simply better.

  • cubbie

    Please correct the record…the first guest from London had many wrong numbers – by half. $350 to place an ad on The Times not $600-900. The NYTimes has 5,000 employees not 10,000. Craigs list has come round to the paid model! It’s now costs to place a RE ad or Help Wanted ad on Craigs. Why? Because therre are so many bogus ads on Craigs. Paid means real ads and better value for users. Yes it is shifting to digital but newspapers are far from dead. The NY Times has doubled it’s audience since going online. How about an alternative view?

  • frances

    I agree that the quality of the local paper is sometimes lacking. In fact, one of the high points of the electronic world we live in is that I, on the West Coast, can get a local version of the New York Times delivered to my door! I can find it at my coffee shop. There I get good writing in a newspapers. However, I also like my local paper, and find the most interesting part of it, aside from the local stories, to be the editorial columnists from around the country–not wire service stuff, this–and the local letter-writers. I love to jump into the fray, and there is no greater thrill than seeing your letter right there on the op-ed page.

    I love going out in the morning and finding my newspaper in the driveway, spreading it out on the table as I eat.

    That being said, I rely heavily on radio for my news, because I can be listening while I drive or prepare meals or do my daily chores. I support my local public radio station. I also have my own blogs.

    It would be nice not to be throwing away so much wasted paper every week, nice not to have to rely so heavily on advertizing. That, to me, is the downside of newspapers. But without the advertizing, how to pay for good writing?

    Lots to think about here.

  • Frances: You know, your comment makes me think how nobody is talking about how the internet is going to replace magazines. You don’t read stories about “Death Knell for the New Yorker!”

    One of the things that I thought was really weird about the current war is that news was being broken at The New Yorker and Vanity Fair (!!).

    Maybe the good writing and the in-depth writing and the investigative writing is migrating to magazines.

    I subscribe to:

    Foreign Affairs

    Scientific American


    The New Yorker


    The Nation

    Cook’s Illustrated

    and I wish I subscribed to more, actually. I desperately miss Thomas Frank’s The Baffler. I loved The Economist, but the price makes me blanch, and honestly, it felt overwhelming, I’d hardly be through the first few articles and another would land on the doorstep. I really enjoyed it when it was one of the things my workplace subscribed to, so I could just dip into one at will without feeling I was wasting my subscription.

    A magazine stand is a wonderful thing.

    (The net *HAS* been very, very bad for technology trade press magazines. Nobody talks about how Engadget and Gizmodo are competing with Wired and PC Week, but they should. I personally miss the old doorstop size Computer Shoppers).

  • reality_bytes_it

    Oh Allison WAPO says Fitzy boy made a mistaky poo.

    Prosecutor in CIA Leak Case Corrects Part of Court Filing

    Instead, the sentence should have conveyed that Libby was to tell Miller some of the key judgments of the NIE “and that the NIE stated that Iraq was ‘vigorously trying to procure’ uranium.”

  • Still, what you miss, r_b_i, is that they were selectively releasing only parts of the NIE report. These parts did not include the conclusions, where it was stated that NIE did not believe there was sufficient evidence to support the idea that Iraq was actively procuring. They knew they were disseminating misinformation. And the WAPO is still just reporting on that selective release as part of the investigation into what Libby was up to. They are not reporting on what the entire document actually concluded.

  • BTD_Venkat

    Alan Rusbridge mentions India several times as a place where newspaper reading is likely to continue for various reasons. He’s probably right. Reading the newspaper is serious leisure activity there. Retirees in particular take it to the next level. I guess it happens everywhere but I have strong memories of people sitting around reading the newspaper and just seriously lounging with their morning or afternoon coffee or tea.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Allison – The NIE contained the phrase Iraq was “vigorously trying to procure’ uranium.â€? Just like no one doubts that they didn’t actaully have nuclear capabilties at the time of the invasion no one also doubts that they were seeking it. Every agency in every report, before during and after the invasion agrees that they were – NO decents.

    The pointssssss that you want to try and forget is that it is the Papers / MSM’s credibiltiy that is crunbling here. The NYT is still to detract its story regarding the initial claim by Fitz that he just retracted.

    I supply another link that will let any honest individual judge the honesty of the AP for themselves.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Credibility – NYT’s puts artilce based on false statement from Fitzy on front page and correction on A17. “Paper of Record”

    “Too biased to preserve its credibility, not biased enough to keep its readership.”

    But I am sure that Chris has already incorporated the discredited page one story into his CW.

  • Nikos

    What idiot thought up ‘Times Select’?

    Thank you, NYT, for pricing me out of Maureen Dowd.

    You dumb elitist jerks.

  • nother

    I second that Nikos.