Thursday, March 17, 2011


I was literally lying around the other day, reviewing my stellar career in the news media. The reverie was brought on because I'd seen a promotion the newspaper I used to work for had posted online for its new Twitter news feed. This development had made me remember how I told a co-worker in the mid '90s that print newspapers would mostly disappear in 20 years (I thought the only survivors would be huge "newspapers of record," as they are called, and small-town weeklies.) Just call me Nostradamus. My afore-mentioned employer has been very slow to develop its Internet presence, much less apps for smart phones and touch pads. They seem to finally be dipping their toes in the social media. Meanwhile, they've been cutting positions and salaries like Johnny Depp in "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

So what's new in all this? Well, as my mind was wandering around, it occurred to me that even with all the adjustments the newsies are making to use new media, newspapers and magazines are doggedly hanging on to the printed page, even though that technology is sinking faster than the Andrea Doria (thought I was going to say Titanic, didn't you?) After salaries, ink and paper are the biggest expense a daily newspaper has. If these news outlets would jettison their printing, they'd have a windfall of money to invest in improving their staff and therefore their product. So there must be some reason they're hanging onto this deck chair, even though it's water-logged and dragging them down.

I think it's because the printed page is their last vestige of exclusivity. Anyone can blog, anyone can Tweet, anyone can become a clearing house of news links on the Internet (this essentially is what the Drudge Report is.) I have a friend who's been following the turmoil in North Africa via Twitter's news feed, and he's been better informed about the overall scene than reporters who are there. But not everyone can afford to print their product every day, or week or even month. That sets these old media outlets apart, and I think they're clinging to it as a mark of legitimacy and therefore power. But that's another thing they just don't get -- the new media has put the lie to press "objectivity" and the limits that printed pages (that is to say, space) put on news coverage. The same thing can be said about the limits (that is to say, time) put upon broadcast news. The old media is just inferior in every way. And it will die a tortured death if it doesn't recognize that soon.

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