All The News That Was
Tough times in the economy have just made things worst for the newspaper world. Prior to the arrival of the current economic downturn, the newspapers were already suffering greatly. Increased costs from paper to delivery to fuel, combined with slipping readership and declining ad sales already had many just about on the ropes. With a solid push from the flailing economy, two long time papers have called it quits, but each in it’s own way.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (aka SeattlePI) has stopped publishing but has gone to a web only format. In this move, 160 out of 200 people lose their jobs right away. It is also not clear that they will have enough “reporter power” to actually cover the stories they use to, and if the audience will actually follow them to the online world.
The Rocky Mountain News is a bit of a different case. It had been suffering for years, and various moves from management had not helped the decline. No buyer was found for the paper, and so it was shut down entirely. Ex staff members and a local millionaire are currently trying to come back as an online news site, but a subscription model is somewhat out of sync with that the internet community expects there days.
For the most part, things are not looking good for the newspaper business. Various reasons are cited, from the short attention span of younger people to environmental concerns to the papers being too slow in a video and internet world. What is clear is that many papers across the US are in trouble, and that the news business will never be the same again.
I am a net guy, I know the old “out with the old, in the with the new” mantra of progress that never seems to stop. I don’t mind getting my news online or from broadcast TV, the medium doesn’t bother me. What concerns me is the ongoing drop of journalistic standards. Newspapers by their nature often have the time to consider a story before releasing it. A story at noon can get written up and finished just before press time at 11 pm, and a full day’s worth of information, updates, and fact checking goes into the final product. TV and the web is often a transient thing, consider today’s case of the Natasha Richardson ski accident reporting. Various online sources have reported her as alive and doing well to brain dead to somewhere in between. The lack of fact checking and the fast and loose with the facts mentality of the net has led some news organizations to shoot first and ask questions later.
Internet news is in the same boat as 24 hour news channels. Live coverage of news events means that we often see hours and hours with few actual facts and many talking heads, speculating, yabbering, and generally raising the noise level without imparting information. In the first to be first, nobody appears to be worried about being right.
Worse are blog sites (even like mine). I make it clear that what I post here is my opinion, not fact, but many do not do so. It is hard to tell when they are telling the truth, and when they are telling you what they want you to believe. Misinformation is rampant (surveys pre-election showed that many people in Taxes though that Barrack Obama was a muslim, a rumor spread online and through some conservative talk radio shows). A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth, and many opinion shapers use this to their advantage. Their perception, repeated and repeated, becomes their audience’s reality.
In losing newspapers, our biggest loss isn’t the paper, but the people and the standards they worked by.