Wednesday, December 14, 2005



Posting has been, and will likely be, sporadically. Not feeling too swift, traveling, shopping, bla bla bla..... You know the drill.

Anyway, in case you haven't been following it, there's been a dust-up at the Washington Post. Apparently the White House WaPo correspondents are cheesed about Dan Froomkin's blog. Seems they think we ignorant folk mix up Froomkin's work with their real journamalism from the White House. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that Froomkin get's the story right, and routinely scoops the WH cocktail crowd more often than not. But anyway, there's been some back n' forth about Froomkin's blog and it's place in the WaPo heirarchy.

I read Froomkin daily. Usually first thing. My only criticism of Froomkin is that it sometimes takes him a long time to get his piece up on the internets. But I also realize it's not his first priority.

I think there's a more important story below the surface of this itty bitty cat-fight. The so-called "journalists" have brought alot of ca-ca-do-do down on themselves of late. Woodward, Miller, Novak, Novak, Isikoff, Cooper, along with Jayson Blair, Howell Raines, all of Faux News and any number of administration paid P.R. folks posing as journalists have hurt the fourth estate (what fourth estate would be an honest question). That's all obvious.

But there's even more. Take a look at this stock chart for Gannett. Gannett, btw, is the largest of the media conglomerates and the largest newspaper holding in the United States:

How about WaPo?

And Knight-Ridder. Note, the only reason Knight has a spike up is because it is the subject of being sold, another symptom of a troubled business:

And finally, the vaunted GreyLady, the New York Times Co.:

Gee whiz. But I'm confused you say? Isn't this the greatest expansion in economic history? Isn't big business reaping windfall profits and such? A booming economy results in lots of advertising, want-ads and newspaper profits. Right? If so, why do these holdings stink?

It's quite simple. The dispersal of information via the internet as well as the complete loss of credibility in the large journals has hurt the newspaper business....bad. And interestingly, the more desperate the big newspapers become, the more mistakes they make, and the worse they do.

As a small example. The NY Times recently put the op-ed folks behind a subscription, an obvious move to boost revenues. And indeed, the op-ed folks of the New York Times used to be some of the go-to folks for opinion. But as predicted, since the Times put those writers on a pay basis, I hardly hear of them anymore. Of course, those who have subscriptions still read. But there are fewer and fewer subscriptions readers all the time. And anyone half-way familiar with the internets can get an particular op-ed piece for free ..... anyway.

There's an old saying. "Opinions are like assholes....everyone has one". Witness 10,000 new blogs per week. The newspapers value lie in credibility and the "rareness" of what they sell. As it gets less rare, they're feeling the heat. And they really have no one to blame but themselves.

I suspect this dynamic is behind the recent desperation of journalists to be in-the-know, to be willing to be treated so contemptuously by the White House, the movement towards more tabloidism, and the lousy journalistic standards. And I suspect that the brewing war between newspaper reporters and blogs stems from pressure felt by reporters to deliver readers. Froomkin delivers. The WaPo White House correspondents deliver GOP talking points.

Will newspapers go away? I don't think so. But they will have to find a niche' that makes them worth an ad or a subscription. That's going to mean an overhaul in how they do business, how they approach journalism, and how they approach the internet.

We were all warned about this as the FCC deregulated and concentrated ownership. The resulting corporatization has intensified the risks and results of losing the most important newspaper commodity ..... independence and objectivity.

You reap what you sow.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the whole flap appears to have been coordinated by the GOP. I'm shocked!


At 1:17 PM, Blogger Lynne said...

"Will newspapers go away? I don't think so."

Me either. It's hard to swat a fly with my computer.

The FCC deregulation and concentrated ownership has driven prices up and quality down for everything: phone service, cable service, newspapers. When American business no longer operates in the Gordon Gecko mode things might change but not until then.

p.s. Chicken soup.


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