Journalism 101

August 19, 2008

Just an opinion for you to peruse, with no comment from me, on the state of American newspapers:

A quality news product will increase circulation.

Increased circulation will bring more advertising.

More advertising brings better profits and allows even more news quality.

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2 Responses to “Journalism 101”

  1. gadfly Says:

    From the top:
    “Executive management at the Allentown Morning Call recently laid off more than two dozen persons from its newsroom, most of them veteran reporters drawing higher salaries. Management plans to cut 35–40 positions…”

    This ia a clear violation of The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

    “During the past few years, newspaper owners demanded and were getting at 20–40 percent profit”, Where is the uproar from the Democrats?

    We need a Windfall Profit Tax on Big Newsprint.

    “They have already ‘maximized profits’ by low salaries and minimal benefits, giving veteran reporters ‘involuntary terminations,’ significantly reduced employee education programs, cut the number of pages, reduced the page size, and increased the use of material provided by syndicates rather than local news staff. These latest cuts are deep into the muscle. Owners of the Morning Call, like owners at hundreds of other newspapers, apparently believe that reducing quality improves profits. The owners of the newspaper industry need a course in Basic Journalism 101.”

    Capitalism rears its ugly head once again …and that does not sit well with liberals in charge of the “news” content of the papers in the great majority of papers. Perhaps a course in Business 101 would be useful here.

  2. Harl Delos Says:

    I’m too young to remember, but radio was the big thing, between the two wars, and newspapers started radio stations, as a defensive move, among them “Wayne’s Great Lady”, and “William Kunkle Journal-Gazette”.

    But radio’s audience was too fragmented, and it was hard to advertise things that you had to see.

    And then after WWII, there was television taking the center stage. It had more impact than radio, being visual, and with only three stations, it had bigger market share. But it still was pretty ephemeral. Hard to advertise a used car, or the 150 items in a typical grocery flyer.

    Meanwhile, newspaper people laughed at television news. In a half-hour program, they said, you only have about as much news as on the front page of a newspaper, they pointed out.

    Of course, nobody was noticing that the front page of most daily newspapers was mostly national and international news, that the and that most daily newspapers only had about one page of local news. The rest of the paper was recipes, comics, Dear Abby, and other “evergreen” matter, instead of news.

    So it’s not like you couldn’t see this one coming. People were predicting half a century ago that one day soon, instead of having a complete newspaper delivered, you’d print out the things you were interested in. If anyone is surprised, it ought to be that the other predictions, such as the ones that predicted we’d have picture phones on our wrists, and we’d all commute to work in personal airplanes, haven’t come true as well.

    For decades, the “news” in a newspaper has mostly been stale; people have already received fresher news on TV, complete with color, motion, and sound. What they get the newspaper for are the ads (the grocery ads, the sale bills, the coupons, the want ads), the obituaries, the local high school sports.

    Kinda hard to reference the online classifieds when you’re out garage-saling. A newspaper is essential for that. Many stores are really reluctant to accept internet coupons. It’s hard to compare grocery ads online. A lot of people clip obituaries and put them in the family bible or a scrapbook. And nobody seems to be covering high school athletics like newspaper stringers do.

    But you can do all that with a weekly. There’s no good reason to incur the expense of delivering a hardcopy newspaper on a daily basis.

    When newspapers were reporting 20-40% profit, the smart investor understood that it wasn’t actually happening. Newspapers weren’t spending money to sustain themselves for the future because it didn’t make economic sense; instead, they were returning capital, and GAAP demanded that it look like taxable profit, instead of a tax-free return of capital investment.

    There are more horses in the US today than a century ago, but there aren’t many factories making buggies or buggy whips. The news industry will survive; it’s the printing plants that are dying.


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