When I was in training to become a foot soldier in the army of the newspaper media — at the East Coast Academy of God-Hating Elitism and French Cheeses — I was given fair warning that most Americans, in fact, despise the media and everybody associated with it.
“You may find it difficult to fathom,” one professor told me, “but there are many Americans who see the news media as a coterie of self-serving whiners who proffer pretend populism in exchange for cushy hours and high pay.”
The truth, dear Pax reader, is far different. Newspapers are the only thing standing betwixt the common man and a tidal wave of searing hot fascism and smelly, smelly corruption.
And now that the laziest elements of our society have decided that simply flipping on a computer and “surfing” the “Internet” are easier than wandering down the driveway through 8 inches of snow, retrieving the increasingly thin local daily, spreading the broadsheet out over the entire expanse of the dining room table, and flipping inky thumbs through page after page of coupon inserts and horoscopes, the newspaper industry is suffering major organ failure.
AND NO ONE SEEMS TO CARE!!!!!!!!!!!11!!
My colleague Tim McGuire of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University sees it the same way:
The progression of bad newspaper news is not surprising, but the lack of concern is mystifying and frightening. Hirschhorn wrote this: The collapse of daily print journalism will mean many things……. And it will seriously damage the press’s ability to serve as a bulwark of democracy.” Ya think? Hirschhorn tossed off in one dismissive sentence one of the most crucial potential developments for journalism and democracy since the First Amendment. I think brass bands are required to force a focus on the democratic implications of what’s happening.
Despite the general lack of debate and concern about the subject, I was taken by the insight of a blogger for Science News who made this observation: “What we have to keep in mind is that true journalism is the closest thing most adults have to formal continuing education. Each newsroom that goes dark, then, amounts to another school closing.”
An excellent point. A school is a school even when no one attends.
That’s why McGuire is going to catch the wave of this newfangled “technology” business and finally clue the youngsters in that the next generation of media will be different from the past:
I am going to spend a lot less time in this year’s classes this year discussing the demise of mainstream media and try to focus more on what’s going to replace the floundering corporate media model to which we’ve all become accustomed.
I applaud McGuire for his forward thinking on this issue. The Internet has only been a major media source for 14 or 15 years, but I think it might be time for the leadership of our print media outlets to come together and really think about what it could mean to an industry that had grown accustomed to researching topics, writing stories about them, printing those stories on big bundles of paper, shoveling pallets full of those bundles onto trucks, and carting them to your house.
How will an industry built on such a model adapt to cheaper ways of doing the exact same thing?
The “market” will supply some of those answers. As mainstream media outlets struggle and flop around like beached whales I am convinced creative entrepreneurs are going to find new openings in the competitive landscape. For example if the Detroit papers leave a hole in the front part of the week, I will be shocked if somebody doesn’t start a weekly web/print publication to cover sports in that market. (Insert your own damn Lions joke!) With big players scrambling out of the picture, the landscape will change and so will business models.
Some of these new efforts are going to be the product of out-of-work journalists desperately searching for a place to land quality journalism. That can be good, because quality will win out in the marketplace and high-quality stuff may find a means of support. Other new business efforts are going to respond to holes in the marketplace created by mainstream media cutbacks. Those efforts stand to be well-rewarded.
I agree. There is nothing that out-of-work journalists want more than to bring their skills to bear in a new media landscape, where quality wins out and the survival of the Democracy is ensured.
Well, that and cushy hours and high pay.