Skip to content

The Death of Newspapers

April 13, 2009
Here is a good article by Gary Kamiya about how while newspapers may be vanishing, news is evolving. Let me know what you think.

The death of the news

If reporting vanishes, the world will get darker and uglier. Subsidizing newspapers may be the only answer.

By Gary Kamiya


Feb. 17, 2009 |

Journalism as we know it is in crisis. Daily newspapers are going out of business at an unprecedented rate, and the survivors are slashing their budgets. Thousands of reporters and editors have lost their jobs. No print publication is immune, including the mighty New York Times. As analyst Allan Mutter noted, 2008 was the worst year in history for newspaper publishers, with shares dropping a stunning 83 percent on average. Newspapers lost $64.5 billion in market value in 12 months.

All traditional media is in trouble, from magazines to network TV. But newspapers are the most threatened. For readers of a certain age, newspapers stand for a vanishing era, and the pleasures of holding newsprint in their hands is one that they are loath to give up. As a former newspaperman myself, like most of the original founders of Salon, I have a strong attachment to my dose of daily ink. I get most of my news online, but I still subscribe to both the local paper, in my case the San Francisco Chronicle, and to the New York Times. At parties and in casual conversations, speculation that newspapers might vanish like the dinosaurs that once ruled the earth spurs passionate jeremiads about the decline and fall of Western civilization.

But the real problem isn’t that newspapers may be doomed. I would be severely disheartened if I was forced to abandon my morning ritual of sitting on my deck with a coffee and the papers, but I would no doubt get used to burning out my retinas over the screen an hour earlier than usual. As Nation columnist Eric Alterman recently argued, the real problem isn’t the impending death of newspapers, but the impending death of news — at least news as we know it.

What is really threatened by the decline of newspapers and the related rise of online media is reporting — on-the-ground reporting by trained journalists who know the subject, have developed sources on all sides, strive for objectivity and are working with editors who check their facts, steer them in the right direction and are a further check against unwarranted assumptions, sloppy thinking and reporting, and conscious or unconscious bias.

If newspapers die, so does reporting. That’s because the majority of reporting originates at newspapers. Online journalism is essentially parasitic. Like most TV news, it derives or follows up on stories that first appeared in print. Former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll has estimated that 80 percent of all online news originates in print. As a longtime editor of an online journal who has taken part in hundreds of editorial meetings in which story ideas are generated from pieces that appeared in print, that figure strikes me as low.

There’s no reason to believe this is going to change. Currently there is no business model that makes online reporting financially viable. From a business perspective, reporting is a loser. There are good financial reasons why the biggest content-driven Web business success story of the last few years, the Huffington Post, does very little original reporting. Reported pieces take a lot of time, cost a lot of money, require specialized skills and don’t usually generate as much traffic as an Op-Ed screed, preferably by a celebrity. It takes a facile writer an hour to write an 800-word rant. Very seldom can the best daily reporters and editors produce copy that fast.

But the story is more complicated than that. At the same time that newspapers are dying, blogging and “unofficial” types of journalism continue to expand, grow more sophisticated and take over some (but not all) of the reportorial functions once performed by newspapers. New technologies provide an infinitely more robust feed of raw data to the public, along with the accompanying range of filtering, interpreting and commenting mechanisms that the Internet excels in generating…

Read full article at

Originally found at;

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aaron Sorensen permalink
    April 13, 2009 6:46 pm

    Without taking to much time to read the directions, I am not sure what I am supposed to do. However as far as the question of what will happen to print media and journalism. I am hoping/believing that the small hometown newspaper will again thrive. Yes journalism as we know it will pass but we will again become interested in local events. I can’t Google the local fire or accident down the street. Journalist will become specialist in their own neighborhood.

  2. dialoguefringe permalink*
    April 13, 2009 11:53 pm

    Thanks Aaron – you are doing just fine, thanks for the comment and great to hear from you! I think you may be on to something about the specialization aspect of things, and maybe the small town model can start to flourish again. I think as long as people still want the physical paper there should always be some niche. I wonder if local specialization would help or hurt the profession?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: