Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Globe Lives On...


It's nice to see The New York Times has decided not to shut down The Boston Globe after reaching deal with the unions. I guess that's good news. Yippee. But I can't shake the feeling that we're in a whole new phase of the destruction of the newspaper industry when we are cheering that one of the nation's oldest and best papers, based in the hub of an amazingly vibrant cultural and economic region, has earned a reprieve from the guillotine. We all know the blade remains sharp, and ready to drop on any one of us next week, next month, next year.

If the economy really recovers perhaps we can begin to understand how much of the recent wave of layoffs and newspaper closures is cyclical and how much is structural. Obviously it has been an evil combination of both until now. But I think we all know that the long-term prognosis is dire so long as print revenue keeps plummeting and web revenue stays so thin.

And I'm getting sick of the lazy assumption that we all were simply too stupid to adapt to the tidal wave as it loomed on the horizon. Just about the smartest journalist I have ever known-- Steve Coll, he of two Pulitzers, the New America Foundation and New Yorker staff writerhood--spent the late '90s and early '00s trying to see the future during his previous incarnation as the managing editor of The Washington Post. If he couldn't figure it out before it arrived, I'm not sure any human could have.

So what's left to do? I wish I knew. I hate the idea of walling off the news business behind the money of private foundations, no matter how well-intentioned. All money has strings, and in a way pure profit motive--money freely given in exchange for a service--is actually the most straightforward ethically. Is there a way to make money on the web? Can this idea about charging tiny amounts for each story work? It all depends on how much the public decides they value what we do. In that narrow way, maybe the scare over the Globe's possible death has been a wake-up call to us all. If our nation values its newspapers, they are going to have to decide they are worth saving, which means somehow paying for them again.


4 comments:

  1. fact that troubled globe in a wealthy, sophisticated, high-tech region sounds ironic but actually causal -- look at troubled papers in SF, seattle and to some extent LA....

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  2. Obviously it has been an evil combination of both until now. But I think we all know that the long-term prognosis is dire so long as print revenue keeps plummeting and web revenue stays so thin.

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  3. If our nation values its newspapers, they are going to have to decide they are worth saving, which means somehow paying for them again.

    ReplyDelete
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