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Monday, August 05, 2013


The Shrinking Globe

Bud Norman discussed the sale of the Boston Globe.

Even the shrewdest publishers would be hard pressed to survive the modern era of communications, and today’s newspapers are not blessed with shrewd leadership. The money-drenched era that followed the monopolization of every town’s newspaper and preceded the age of the internet and talk radio inculcated a dangerous complacency in the nation’s editors and publishers, and they arrogantly refused to respond to the rapid changes taking place until they had left too far behind to ever catch up. Most of the people running today’s newspapers began their careers in the post-Watergate era when journalism was a prestigious profession and everyone was looking to be portrayed by Robert Redford in a movie about their speaking-truth-to-power exploits, and few of them have any practical business sense or empathy for their unwashed readerships. In our experience most newspaper workers would rather go broke with their rigid orthodoxy than to thrive by allowing an occasional alternative viewpoint to infiltrate their pages, and we note that the Times’ even passed up a more lucrative offer because the would-be buyers might nudge the Globe a few notches to the right.

If this sounds slightly embittered, so be it. ... Still, we have some regrets about the demise of the newspaper, .... An untold number of local scandals are going unreported because of newsroom cutbacks at papers around the country, just as a number of national scandals go under-reported because they involve the wrong party, and we are old enough to remember a time when newspapers occasionally did some good.
The conclusion of Norman's article is one of the reasons for the decline in the newspaper business.  If newspapers were not a regional monopoly the lack of editorial balance would not lead to the destruction of the industry.  Two competing newspapers offering differing viewpoints would battle for the readership that agreed with them.  The newspaper monopoly leaves the individual who disagrees with the editorial slant no alternative than to go to an alternative news source.  By monopolizing the news in their cities the newspapers created the recipe for their own destruction.
The newspaper industry may be the only business that deliberately insults its customers while expecting them to come back and buy again. 

It's a reminder that another publication, Newsweek, which was sold for $1 has been sold a second time, hoping to survive on the Internet.

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