Last Rites

Last week was a sad week to be in the Newsvine offices. While we were toiling away, our friends upstairs at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer received their unemployment orientation in advance of being laid off two weeks from now. The conference room in which these talks occurred is right next to Newsvine headquarters, so during the course of entering and leaving the office throughout the week, I caught multiple glances of the scene and the people affected by it.

People losing their jobs is always a sad thing but I feel like this is the true beginning of the end for almost everyone who works at a newspaper. If you work at one and you aren’t intimately tied to the web operation, you should start making future plans as soon as possible. And honestly, even if you are intimately tied to the web operation, I wouldn’t feel too safe either.

The death of the newspaper is a depressing thing to absorb, but what’s much more disappointing to me is that I feel like news itself has been devalued. There’s an oversupply of news-”ish” information on the web, and people have decided — usually without realizing it — that free “news snacking” is a better value proposition than paying for in-depth reporting. As one who is surrounded by news snacks everyday in the form of Newsvine, RSS feeds, instant messages, and other inputs, I’m as guilty as anyone of this mentality. At the end of the day, I just feel like through my various short-attention-span news inputs, I will absorb most of the news zeitgeist without any cost to me.

Cost is a funny word though. It is generally used as it was used in the paragraph above: to denote the expending of money. Lately though, I’ve noticed there are many non-obvious costs associated with us becoming a society of news snackers:

  • Our attention spans are shrinking below even the levels caused by the television explosion of the ’80s and ’90s
  • We are consuming more and producing less (no, sharing or reblogging does not count as producing)
  • We value timeliness of information more than depth of coverage, or even truth in some cases
  • We are driving most kids completely away from journalism as a profession
  • We’re uncovering more of the whos, whats, whens, and wheres, but less of the hows and whys

I suppose we’re saving some trees and removing some friction from the publishing flow in the process, but all of the above are very bad things; things that will probably take us awhile to fully realize the effects of.

A lot of people have been asking me lately how the P-I (and newspapers in general) could be saved and even whether I’d like to be a part of it. In fact, if you want to see a live session about it and you live in Seattle, I’ll be doing an event at the UW Business School on the subject next month.

I have several modest ideas but none of them involve saving the actual paper. I’m a lot more interested in saving the future of long-form and local reporting than I am in saving the newspapers themselves.

Rarely are one’s ideas completely original so I’m sure these are no exception, but here are the three most promising in my opinion:

Getting smaller and staying local

Many privately held businesses and all publicly held ones require growth. It isn’t enough to turn a healthy profit every year. If your business isn’t growing, your management is questioned and your stock declines. The first step in keeping local news viable is realizing that it may not be much of a growth business, and it may be quite a bit smaller of a business than it has been in the past. These two factors do not bode well for the prospects of publicly held local news companies in the future. Imagine the P-I as something more along the lines of what Cory Bergman has built with his network of neighborhood blogs like My Ballard. I would argue a fully built-out neighborhood blog network like this is more valuable than what the P-I currently has. Nothing against the P-I’s website… it’s great… but it doesn’t pull me in as a citizen of my neighborhood. It’s a conventional mix of local stories that usually aren’t that local to me along with national stories I prefer to read on sites like msnbc.com instead.

Local news companies need to concentrate on creating communities of people who talk to each other, not just people who read the news and leave. Where you can connect people, you can make money.

Make something that’s worth paying for again

I may not pay for every author I happen to read on a daily basis, but there exists a collection of more than a few people on my blogroll who I would pay $5 a month to read, if it were exclusive. I’ve always been bearish on paid content as a model, mainly because you could usually do better with advertising, but with CPMs dropping through the floor, I’m not convinced that is necessarily the case anymore. What I’d like to see attempted is positioning a publication as more of a “discussion club”. Heck, maybe you even can read the content for free, but in order to join the discussion, you need to be a paid club member. With membership also comes social events around town, swanky garb, and other niceties to help you rationalize your modest membership fee. I always thought the New York Times should have done this with Times Select.

Bear in mind, I’m not suggesting just throwing up a pay wall. That would not work. The idea is creating bits of value — in addition to content — that people would gladly pay several bucks a month for.

Partner with your people

As a great business, your customers should be your best partners. In the case of news agencies, this doesn’t need to stop at readers evangelizing your publication for you. In many cases, they are actually willing to help you run it. Why have a staff of 150 when you can have a staff of 15 and engage your community to help produce a lot of the content? People like doing things that benefit their community. Make sure your business is seen as a way to do that.

The future of journalism may be in pro-am publishing.

Anyway…

Overall, I’m not super optimistic about the future of a lot of these newspaper companies, but I really would love to see them at least replaced with something better. I still have a hard time believing that a 146-year-old company like the Seattle P-I is moving out of their own building before we are. I don’t see that as any sort of victory for Newsvine since we are much more of a news platform than a news agency, but rather an indication of what happens when you have everything to gain and nothing to lose versus everything to lose and nothing to gain.

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42 Responses:

  1. David says:

    Coincidentally, I had a brief discussion about this topic with my friend Justin at a play rehearsal this evening. I pointed him to this link from the Atlantic:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/print/200901u/fate-of-newspaper-journalism

  2. The idea is creating bits of value — in addition to content — that people would gladly pay several bucks a month for.

    Man reading that is like a breath of fresh air. It sounds a bit like the cheap European airlines model where you pay extra on top of a cheap ticket for perks like more legroom, lounge etc. and I would be there with you paying for extra value (I wish my local gym would understand this!)

    What worries me is the quality of the ‘snacknews’ that is available. Not only is there oftentimes little depth or responsible fact-checking of the ‘news’, but those very same qualities make their way into how people are thinking, it seems: not critically.

    Lots of focus on First! and little focus on anaylysis. Really, it doesn’t even have to be instant breaking news; timely and with depth would be great.

    Perhaps once we reach a tipping point in terms of lack of good critical thought and writing we will see Renaissance 2.0?

  3. this.mat says:

    You have to admit though, that the quality of journalism is extremely low right now.

    Not to say the quality isn’t governed by the populace, but we don’t need more stories on a woman and her 8 babies, we don’t need news sources talking about politicians like they’re greek gods, and we don’t need journalism we can’t trust.

    Or is it that we just no longer care/have time enough to verify? Trust but verify right?

    I agree with Mike Papageorge, critical thinking is on it’s way out quickly in the ‘age of entertainment’ we live in.

  4. Chris says:

    The UK recession in the early 1980′s seemed to be mostly blue collar workers losing their jobs…miners, steelworkers, factory workers ie, people in industries where it was easier to import a cheaper product. But the human cost to those towns and villages was never counted. This time it seems to be everyone. From bankers to shop workers. It’s really sad and unemployment will probably effect someone in every family worldwide.

  5. Make something that’s worth paying for again

    I feel this is true for so much of the web. Including the likes of Facebook and Twitter. I read a lot of a trade pub called AdvertisingAge and they had a great article a while back about just charging $10 a year for something like Twitter or Facebook (or anything that is highly valued) would produce billions of dollars in revenue. The age of “free” internet I think is slowly coming to an end.

    The death of the newspaper is a depressing thing to absorb, but what’s much more disappointing to me is that I feel like news itself has been devalued.

    What is interesting is that most of the main, large-market (1-50) are struggling, but according to AdvertisingAge, many of the smaller market, truly local papers aren’t doing as bad as the ones making the news. So it seems the more accurate title might be the death of large newspapers.

    We’re uncovering more of the who’s, what’s, when’s, and where’s, but less of the how’s and why’s

    I hope you know I respect you more than just about anybody when it comes to web development, etc … And I hope you don’t take this personally, but this is ultimately the reason I stopped visiting Newsvine daily and took it off as my homepage. I used to love reading Newsvine because I felt I was “getting smarter.” But the more I got into it, the more I just felt like all I was doing was “getting angrier” and no why’s or how’s were ever really being dealt with in a mature and civil manner (which isn’t any different than most of the web).

  6. The death of news is just the next sign that people are more focused on themselves than the world around them.
    They seek out the news that conforms to their own views regardless of facts. I’ve been looking for years for that one news source that EVERYONE trusts, but to no avail.

    I’m truly frightened about losing this valuable layer of public protection.

  7. Don says:

    Getting smaller and staying local

    They missed that boat a while back. They cover the NFL, NBA, NHL, etc. etc. on the front page of sports and relegate local sports stories — even significant ones like state championships — to internal or back pages. They claim that is what people want, but in reality, most people who want in depth stories on such things don’t buy the local paper for that in my opinion.

    Heck, maybe you even can read the content for free, but in order to join the discussion, you need to be a paid club member.

    The comment sections to most new sources I read are not intelligent discussions (unlike yours he he), so I definitely would not pay to join them. I might pay to hide them.

  8. JJ says:

    Seen this? THIS is what I call a problem. When you need a Helen Thomas or a Woodward and Bernstein, where are you going to find them? What happens when the bloggers can’t get media credentials (or don’t even try)? Who’s going to keep tabs on the lobbyists and the sleazemongers? When the watchdogs are gone, who’s going to warn you when your house is being robbed?

    http://tinyurl.com/ddtana
    Washington Post

    Bloggers Can’t Fill the Gap Left by Shrinking Press Corps

    “And it’s not just the bodies that are gone — it’s the institutional memory and knowledge.”

    “Packs of lobbyists fill two rooms outside the House and Senate chambers in Richmond every afternoon, watching the proceedings on big video screens, zapping legislators with e-mails the instant the lobbyists sense that one of their bills might be in trouble. The interest groups that hire lobbyists can rest easy; they’ve got the legislature covered.”

  9. Alderete says:

    It’s a few years old at this point, but Rob Curley’s talk about how the Lawrence Journal-World (lawrence.com) was going hyper-local was by far the most inspiring story I’ve heard about evolving journalism forward. The recording of the talk is on IT Conversations:

    http://sic.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail550.html

    It seems like this is _exactly_ what you’re talking about above. I haven’t read any updates since this talk, though, and would be really interested in knowing how things are going now…

  10. bradi says:

    As someone in the Newspaper industry, for some time, I can tell you that it is not nearly so simple. Large dailies, as noted by commenter Andy, are in much worse shape than many smaller town papers. Disclaimer: I work for a smaller daily in a BIG company; I recognize that I have skewed vision as a result of being vested.

    My big worry, as a consumer, is some of the largest “real” news gathering capabilities are supported by newspapers. Where will “real” news come from without them? As several comments allude to: pop, web & blog information leaves a lot to be desired.

    Many of the suggestions you put forward are (in some form) a part of the plans of my company. My statement shouldn’t be confused with the notion that we are succeeding – maybe we will or maybe not. Until subscription direct news delivery (in easily consumable format) is out there, I don’t think newspapers will go away. Clearly, they aren’t the dominant media they were, but I think there is still a market for daily & weekly news publications in many forms, for some time to come.

  11. JulesLt says:

    I love the word ‘news-ish’ – it’s like ‘truthiness’. We’re already seeing the affects of this on the stock market (where people clearly seed unverified rumours via the web in order to manipulate stocks in the period before the rumour is debunked).

    Sadly, I think the nature of technological transitions is that ‘we’ (the masses) need to actually see the damage before we believe the problem needs addressing – think of the affect of the car on urban planning, and how it took a couple of decades before cities started re-pedestrianising their centres.

  12. Michael says:

    I know this shift is hard on journalism, but paper is dead — dead trees and fossil fuels. We are going electronic and that’s a good thing. Sites like Huffington Post are examples of the new journalism. 25 cents for a paper pays for what? Some of the printing and distribution, most likely. Ad revenue pays journalists salaries, and always will, on the web.

  13. Mark says:

    “When you need a Helen Thomas or a Woodward and Bernstein, where are you going to find them?”

    LOL. There are already thousands of Obama cheerleaders in the press corps. They won’t be missed.

  14. magsman says:

    A friend and I were interviewed recently by the Chicago Sun-Times. We met the reporter at the Sun-Times offices and walked with her through the city room. It was a shocking sight: The vast room — in years past, a bustling hive of activity — was nearly vacant. Several desks were being used, but otherwise it was a ghost town. Sad.

  15. Pallian says:

    Hey Mike – talking about news, what are your thoughts about the future of twitter and news. Specifically, newsvine and twitter. I ask because I’ve just launched my little startup called tweetizen (http://www.tweetizen.com) that lets you filter tweets into groups and then, as of next week, give you the ability to embed these groups on websites.

    So, for example, say you create a group named “Newsvine Politics” and you create tags, say, obama, politics, msnbc etc… you will now only receive tweets that contain these tags.. and suddenly you have a user generated real-time tweet news!

    I would love to get a chance to try this on your site when we’re ready for it – would also like to hear your thoughts.

    My hunch is this is the future of news… while I still enjoy newsvine and the commentary, it is twitter that has been providing me with breaking news… and now with tweetizen, it just made it a lot more simpler.

  16. Eric says:

    Twitter? As Eric Schmidt was recently quoted, “Speaking as a computer scientist, I view all of these as sort of poor man’s e-mail systems.”

    You want to live in an echo chamber, then customize the news that arrives to your computer/phone/reader with tags and filters.

    Smart news organizations will figure out how to survive. It’s going to be a tough time. As a journalist who got out of the business at just the right time to prepare for retirement (most news organizations don’t care about such things, and that’s part of the problem I suspect) I am glad I won’t have to go through this transition. BUt somehow, they will either figure out how to do the job journalists are best qualified to do, or our democracy will be threatened by people Twittering our way into some post-democratic society where powerful interests have no worries about the masses figuring out they’re being swindled out of their futures.

    I know, that sounds post-apocalyptically pessimistic. But the fact of the matter is our freedom is based on a free flow of ideas, and professional journalists are better equipped at getting at the heart of the biggest threats to that freedom that twitters won’t even catch wind of.

  17. We’re uncovering more of the who’s, what’s, when’s, and where’s, but less of the how’s and why’s

    You also seem to be uncovering a number of unneeded apostrophes… ;-)

  18. paul says:

    In the grand tradition of newspapers using wire services as “rip and read” sources, here’s some stuff I posted as comments on Facebook this morning on a very similar topic:

    I’d like to see this conversation (I hear it everywhere) move away from fishwrappers to what newspapers do. From media consolidation to the mgmt at the papers sleeping through the arrival of the internet, the newspaper may be a relic. But does good quality local/national/world journalism have to be?

    Does everything have to be delivered on paper? could ads/circulars/coupons be online and the actual editorial be delivered (smaller/cheaper)? Could be tied to an acct number so they don’t get given away to friends, could also be personalized/targeted like loyalty card programs . . . .

    One of our two papers is closing and may do an online “daily” with a Sunday fishwrapper. That’s an option.

    But newspaper mgmt really blew it, with the emergence of craigslist and the idea that anyone could afford to put on their own show.

    This reminds me of meetings in the mid-90s where internet folks would patiently explain to movie and TV people that with a TV or theater, the consumer paid the cost of delivery by buying TV or a ticket, while the internet changes that by making the producers pay — a lot more — based on how popular their stuff (cue: Akamai, et al).

    Factor in what a craptastic job the newspapers and media in general have done over the past 20 years, and who’s surprised?

  19. “We’re uncovering more of the who’s, what’s, when’s, and where’s, but less of the how’s and why’s”

    The value of one institution or journalist’s vision of the How and Why is overstated here. Modern journalists have completely failed to recognize that their audience is capable of extrapolating these two items from the facts and in turn continued to produce bloated, unpalatable reams of information when the audience was loudly saying they want the opposite. It’s pompous to think we know what’s best for the public.

  20. Fantastic post Mike – with a lot of insightful comments. Many of us in the “news” industry should be scared – the world is changing around us – and although change has been somewhat slow in our industry, it is definitely coming fast nowadays. It looks like the PI may be gone (I’m hoping they can salvage their web ops, but am almost positive that the revenue is not there to support it). Seattle could be without a daily real soon.

    If you like newspapers and what they are trying to do – support them. If not, don’t. It’s that simple. The people will decide.

    We’re fortunate that Eastside Business is in a niche market and has the best readership in the world – and I appreciate any and all support that we can get. http://www.EastsideBusinessJournal.com

    Regardless of everything else, I would like people to remain positive (I know it is not always easy), take action and do whatever you can to help someone else.

  21. Pete Gee says:

    I agree with the author about the possibility of becoming very local and creating content that readers will value. One other thing that has not been mentioned is the fact that a newspaper’s political stance can substantially differ from its average reader and still thrive if and only if the paper enjoys a monopoly. For decades this situation has been typical for many (most?) of America’s larger city newspapers. The web has now removed this monopoly and the results are obvious. If newspaper 2.0 is to be successful, this gap has to either disappear or narrow substantially.

  22. Mike says:

    Anyway, not Anyways. I learned that in my Grammar for Journalism Students class.

    I switched majors because my field had no future.

  23. [...] Last Rites by Mike Davidson (via DF): The death of the newspaper is a depressing thing to absorb, but what’s much more disappointing to me is that I feel like news itself has been devalued. There’s an oversupply of news-”ish” information on the web, and people have decided — usually without realizing it — that free “news snacking” is a better value proposition than paying for in-depth reporting. As one who is surrounded by news snacks everyday in the form of Newsvine, RSS feeds, instant messages, and other inputs, I’m as guilty as anyone of this mentality. At the end of the day, I just feel like through my various short-attention-span news inputs, I will absorb most of the news zeitgeist without any cost to me. (tagged: research news economy business essay todo future ) [...]

  24. If newspapers are trying to find out how to add value, one of the first things I would do is get the paper on the porch instead of balancing it on the curb and making me walk as far as possible without getting in the street.

  25. Bulbboy says:

    The problem with news is that people want newer news and more of it. Maybe if it was called Goods rather than News we, wouldn’t have as much of it, and we might have better quality. Reblogging coupled with adSense is guilty of tons of digital pish.

    I’m not much of a reader or creator of news (guess that’s why my small piece of newsvine (art.newsvine.com) was taken away from me. ;)

    I know a journalist aged just over 30, salaried for 5 years, freelance for 5, who is finding it tough now. He and a few freelance colleagues have been getting screwed over by newspapers as the ‘credit crunch’ tightens. They have been sending in stories as usual to newspapers. Instead of using or not using the stories, salaried workers have been changing a few words here, a quote there, and publishing it giving the journalist who came up with the material nothing.

    In a bid to cost-cut, newspapers might just quicken their own demise.

  26. Christian says:

    Comments like #3, “You have to admit though, that the quality of journalism is extremely low right now,” say a lot about the source of the problem.

    The public, not newspapers, have killed newspapers. If you think the quality of journalism is low, it’s been years since you’ve read a newspaper. The quality of journalism isn’t measured by who shouts loudest on TV or who churns out the most posts (quantity over quality!) on The Huffington Post. The quality of journalism is measured by a publication’s ability to turn out pieces like this: http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/article750838.ece, e.g. long form, exhaustively-researched stories.

    Answer me this: In a newspaper-less world, who is going to do the full-time reporting on local schools, government, and businesses? One thing I can guarantee you: It won’t be bloggers.

  27. paul says:

    Answer me this: In a newspaper-less world, who is going to do the full-time reporting on local schools, government, and businesses? One thing I can guarantee you: It won’t be bloggers.

    It may be time to sort out quality newspapers and quality bloggers from the rest of it all. Bear in mind that while there is good quality journalism being committed, there’s an awful lot of filler/rip-n-read wire service stuff being published (look at how many articles in a newspaper are un-bylined). If we admit to no differences in quality in online-only news operations (bloggers, if you will), then how to explain how an online-only outfit — TalkingPointsMemo — was the only place you could find anything on the political meddling in the DoJ and the firing of those US Attorneys? The Abramoff story was old news there before the fishwrappers covered it.

    Yes, you can find examples of great local reporting. But you can also look at the broader landscape and see how poorly the public has been served over the past couple of decades. A gold coin in a pile of manure is a gold coin, but that doesn’t make the manure smell any better.

    To update the post at the top of this page, Seattle may have no daily papers by year-end. The Times is partially (49.5%) owned by McClatchy who declared their stake to be worthless, ie liabilities exceed asset value.

    We may get to find out what does happen to a newspaper-less market.

  28. [...] #2: Mike Davidson of Newsvine has written a nice piece about the demise of the print edition of the Seattle P-I: “Overall, I’m not super [...]

  29. Viki says:

    Hey Mike.

    I write a weekly column for my local paper, which is owned by the Sun Times in Chicago. Recently, ten of the local editors were laid off, and the bulk of their work was dumped on the remaining editors. What’s happened is that I no longer receive the slightest bit of feedback from my editor. He simply does not have the time.

    I’ve watched over the last year as the paper has attempted to do just what you’ve suggested–they’ve opened all of the stories on their website up to commenting. They’ve also got a voting system in place.

    But I don’t know if anyone is reading my column, or anything else on the website. They’re certainly not creating any kind of community (certainly not one like I’m used to on Newsvine). Nobody comments, despite my best attempts to encourage them to do so.

    I do know that they’re reading it in the physical paper, because people stop me on the street to talk to me about it. That’s awesome, sure. But in order to ensure the survival of the paper itself, the people who run it are going to have to get a lot smarter about creating the community atmosphere of which you speak.

    Sites like Newsvine are great, because users are able to read news from a vast array of sources, and discuss the stories with members of the community. I can’t see the average joe taking the time to join several different newspapers’ sites and make an attempt to be a part of several different communities.

    I can see, however, the large dailies, in concert with their local papers, creating a larger, whole community. If the Sun Times were like Newsvine, and its small locals different subsets (like Newsvine’s categories or groups), I can see that working quite well. I’d have access to world and US news, in addition to local news, and the ability to participate in a community that exists on many different levels.

    My editor has gone so far as to start a Facebook group for the paper in an attempt to garner just that kind of community and readership. He’s got the paper up on Twitter and posts links to articles.

    He’s trying, sure. But it’s never going to work unless the entire organization gets on board and gets organized about what they’re trying to do.

    Lots of food for thought here.

  30. I published a critically acclaimed national music magazine for the last 13 years and we made the decision to abandon print in May of 2008. We were one failing industry covering another failing industry, what could possibly go wrong?! I decided to try and take the magazine online and have struggled over the last 5 months to monetize the web site to the level necessary to support an editorial budget. As a last ditch effort to keep No Depression alive I relaunched as a community site with user generated content built on a social networking platform last week and have been shocked by the difference in the analytics I’m seeing from the previous editorial site (http://www.nodepression.com) to the new community site (http://community.nodepression.com). People spend about 5 times longer on the community site and view 4 times more pages. We have a very literate educated audience of readers and some of the best music writers in the country freelanced for us so I was very surprised by this. Makes me wonder if people really care enough about quality journalism to sustain it online.

    I wrote a blog last week attempting to educate my readers why the current online business model doesn’t work. I have found that most people don’t understand what the problem is. They see ads on websites and assume they must be doing great.

    http://community.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/the-cold-hard-facts

  31. paul says:

    We were one failing industry covering another failing industry

    Is that accurate? The music industry was/is failing, meaning the sales/marketing/distribution/cocaine concession part of music. You were covering music and music itself is still plenty vibrant, as the fact that there is an audience for an alt-country magazine, in any format, demonstrates.

    But your central point that people assume things are fine until their local purveyor of desirable product goes away is not really new. The rule of thumb about small business startup is that 19 in 20 fail in the first year or something like that, due to undercapitalization/slow sales — no money, in other words.

    13 years is a great run, especially for a magazine with a niche audience: well done.

    I think maybe the current financial mess and this situation all point to a fundamental disconnect from how things work and what they cost. The presence of ads does not mean things are good or newspapers wouldn’t be where they are.

    There are no answers to be found until we ask better questions. What does quality journalism cost to do and what does the lack of it mean for us? Newspapers != journalism just as LP records != music. We need to move our thinking past the desire for a rolled-up fishwrapper. Cities used to have 4,5 or more dailies 100 years ago. Radio and TV at into that. What did broadcast media offer, and how does the new electronic media further eat into the newspaper’s position?

  32. [...] Last Rites The death of the newspaper is a depressing thing to absorb, but what’s much more disappointing to me is that I feel like news itself has been devalued. There’s an oversupply of news-”ish” information on the web, and people have decided — usually without realizing it — that free “news snacking” is a better value proposition than paying for in-depth reporting. [...]

  33. [...] Last Rites by Mike Davidson (via DF): The death of the newspaper is a depressing thing to absorb, but what’s much more disappointing to me is that I feel like news itself has been devalued. There’s an oversupply of news-”ish” information on the web, and people have decided — usually without realizing it — that free “news snacking” is a better value proposition than paying for in-depth reporting. As one who is surrounded by news snacks everyday in the form of Newsvine, RSS feeds, instant messages, and other inputs, I’m as guilty as anyone of this mentality. At the end of the day, I just feel like through my various short-attention-span news inputs, I will absorb most of the news zeitgeist without any cost to me. (tagged: research news economy business essay todo future ) [...]

  34. Chelle says:

    It is sad that this kind of stuff happens – I’m nowhere near Seattle, but I found out about the Seattle PI after one of my sites was receiving a ton of traffic from theirs – apparently they linked to me, which makes me think they have good taste! When I heard they were having problems, it made me kind of sad, because I know many other papers will be headed in the same direction.

    I started out as a journalism/communications major in college – before I graduated they discontinued the major! Journalism on a whole seems to have declined quite a bit, especially now because the media is so biased – nothing seems objective anymore. (which maybe stems to the lack of asking the “how and why” you mentioned)

  35. [...] Mike Davidson – Last Rites.  This quote is actually from a comment by Mike [...]

  36. Nic says:

    Interesting tactic by the UK paper Guardian in opening up it’s own journalistic content: http://www.guardian.co.uk/open-platform/what-is-the-open-platform

  37. Maureen says:

    I’m so wholey disappointed in our newspapers, that I have a hard time being sad to see it go. The problem being exactly as you said and was reiterated above… “news-ish”. I totally agree, it’s like “truth-ish”. That’s exactly what I’ve seen in the papers over the last few years. They have no real or new stories to discuss, so they exagurate propaganda and repeat stories that have already been run 19 times–many times with the same verbiage as the first run. They’re like vultures flocking towards a dead story to see how many beatings they can get out of it.

    I blame the media for the panic causing the run on wamu and devastating Seattle. I’m sure many people will be shocked I say that, but think about it… How many times in the past 10 years has it been published that Citibank or Chase was going to buy Wamu when it wasn’t true? Regardless of the excess capital, how many times in the weeks leading to the “run”, did the papers reflect a doomsday scenario on a bank that was already precarious? The FDIC walked in–NOT because the bank had reached unacceptable capital levels through it’s own doing, but because the run on the bank (which by the way, still didn’t deplete capital beyond acceptable levels) made them nervous. A run on the bank caused by the beating given by the media–not of pure truth, but a few tiny pieces of truth burried amongst a massive slew of crap and speculation. Creating a self fullfilling prophosy does not make the crap truth. Sadly, this information was given to people who rely on the news to be the truth, the news, not “news-ish”. Therefore, they act upon these stories as if they are the truth and the nation suffers for it.

    I’m not saying that wamu may not have gone down anyway, but I’d sure feel better as a citizen that now has to live in this job market, or lack thereof, if the bank went down on it’s own accord, not because people can read the “news” & choose to get their financial advice from it.

    I will respect the news again when they start giving actual facts and give the whole side of the story. In all that gloom and doom, I don’t remember the other side of the story–isn’t also the newspaper’s job to provide reality? like saying don’t withdrawl your funds, they’re FDIC insured and all you’ll do is cause the exact thing you don’t want.

    Doesn’t the media have an obligation to support the community they live in? Instead, they play god by creating havic and panic that is unnecessary and eventually become the actual cause of taking down a bank instead of letting the bank do that itself, or heaven forbid, maybe have a chance to save itself… but what fun would that be, right? then what would they write about?

    So, no, I don’t beleive that kind of news is worth paying for. I believe that the news has an unofficial “fiduciary” duty to the community because of the trust and reliance individuals put on its truth, whether they like it or not. I also believe they have badly abused it.

    I want to trust the news again, but I don’t know that I can.

  38. Michael says:

    It’s very interesting to hear that from you. The Journalism in Germany is the same way…

    Best Regards,

    Michael

  39. [...] Mike Davidson — Last Rites "I’ve noticed there are many non-obvious costs associated with us becoming a society of news snackers: #Our attention spans are shrinking below even the levels caused by the television explosion of the ’80s and ’90s #We value timeliness of information more than depth of coverage, or even truth in some cases #We’re uncovering more of the who’s, what’s, when’s, and where’s, but less of the how’s and why’s" #specialization solipsism narcissism individualism myopia criticism journalism news literaryculturevsoralculture [...]

  40. [...] is absolutely incredible. The iTunes Music Store is the world’s largest music retailer, newspapers are shuttering and magazines are going web only. I can download 80% of music and movies I want for free? Are you [...]

  41. Patrick F says:

    It’s not that I get news for free on the Web (I’ll gladly pay for good information, and do so), it’s the paper itself. I don’t like having a physical paper or magazine or what have you. I don’t like dealing with the item itself. I understand that news organizations are having difficult times, but they’re missing an opportunity to save themselves – form a guild.

    News organizations can compete with each other and concurrently keep customers paying for their product if they work more as a group and less like competitors. Competition is only good to the point where it benefits those competing. In the case of news it’s not working so well because every organization is acting independently, and by so doing is slitting the throat of traditional investigative reporting.

    Group together and force customers to pay – don’t give news away online.

  42. [...] piece on how to save journalism but lose print newspapers by Mike [...]

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