A few things we all really need to keep in mind.
• The death of several newspapers does not equal the death of all newspapers.
• Economies go in cycles, up and down. When they go down, newspapers suffer along with everyone else.
• The crisis for big newspaper chains is much more related to the mountains of debt than it is the absence of advertising. If anything is failing, it is a business model based on aggregating titles by borrowing money.
• It sucks that so many journalists have lost their jobs, but this isn’t unique. I’ve been on both sides of the desk during recessions, when I’ve had to lay people off and when I was laid-off. Nor is it unique that newspapers die.
• All newspapers are dying, but they are nowhere near dead. They will eventually die — as newsprint-based publications — and be replaced by something else that relies on journalists but that day is a long way off.
Right now, newspapers remain the most efficient way of packaging and spreading large amounts of news. Neither radio or TV can make that claim, which is why newspapers survived both new technologies quite nicely. But newsprint, radio and TV waves and digital pipes are all, in the end, merely delivery systems. When a technology (or combination of technologies) emerges that can match what newspapers deliver, newsprint will die. But, despite some of the claims you may read, we’re not there yet.
• One more thing: Many, many, many newspapers still make money. If “democracy is being threatened” by the loss of journalism jobs, it’s because those that remain aren’t making saving democracy a priority. (Frankly, I am not among those who claim that every lost journalism job chips away at democracy, anyway.)
A couple of things touched off this post. One was reading some more you’ll-miss-when-we’re-gone pieces from, frankly, whiney columnists. The other was the hue-and-cry over the Pew survey that was summarized under the headline Many would shrug if their local newspaper closed. Here’s an excerpt:
…fewer than half of Americans (43%) say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community “a lot.” Even fewer (33%) say they would personally miss reading the local newspaper a lot if it were no longer available.
The numbers sound horrible but they shouldn’t surprise anyone. As Steve Yelvington pointed out in tweet earlier today (surely there’s a way to link to tweets; I just haven’t figured it out yet), if you compare those numbers with subscription numbers, particularly in large urban areas, they pretty much correlate.
As I said, perspective, please.