Questioning the Motives and Bias of Prominent Newspaper Critics

Article excerpt

(Commentary) As many newspaper companies try to turn themselves around in a brutal economy, under huge debt loads and against a backdrop of increasingly funereal media coverage, it's worth looking at the behavior and motives of some of the industry's harshest critics.

Earlier this month, Time magazine, struggling for its own survival in the hemorrhaging newsweekly marketplace, published a column on its website entitled "The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America," which hundreds of news outlets around the world ran under the headline "What Newspapers Will Die in 2009?" complete with a list of soon-to-be-dead newspapers.

The trouble is: Time's "report" appears to have been created from pure speculation, with minimal reporting or research, by a Time.com affiliate called 24/7 Wall St.

Needless to say, the Time piece roiled the newspaper industry, sparking denials and rebuttals while driving already beaten-down newspaper-company stocks even lower. Though 99% of the people who read this premature obituary probably assumed it was written by the professional journalists at Time magazine, it actually was written by Douglas McIntyre, an editor at 24/7 Wall St., which, according to its website, also runs a site called Volume Spike Investor, whose self-described goal is to bring stock-market speculators "5 to 10 stock ideas per day in unusual trading activity that we see in stock volume and in options activities. Many of these stocks are among very active and very liquid stocks, yet we will always aim to bring you key ideas in stocks that might not otherwise get noticed."

It's a sad day when Time magazine, once one of the most trusted publications in America, runs an unsubstantiated article on its website, without a single disclaimer, from Wall Street speculators who make their living peddling tips to help day-traders jump in and out of distressed stocks.

Another prominent newspaper pundit with questionable motives is the ubiquitous Jeff Jarvis, a former magazine editor and newspaper executive who has built a lucrative cottage industry for himself as a quote-machine, author, blogger, speaker, and new-media consultant specializing in one primary area of pontification: the imminent death of newspapers and the rise of a new world order dominated by his favorite company, Google, the fawning subject of his most recent book, "What Would Google Do?" In fact, if you Google "Jeff Jarvis and the death of newspapers," 74,000 articles and references pop right up.

If any journalist on deadline needs a quote about the imminent death of newspapers, Jarvis will serve one up in a hurry. His BuzzMachine blog features columns such as "Newspapers are f***ed" and "Hitting the coffin nail on the head for newspapers."

I've met Jarvis and found him engaging, but it's disappointing how often he is quoted by other journalists as a "newspaper-industry analyst" or "media critic" without any mention of his bias or his consulting work for new-media companies, including Daylife, a popular aggregator of other people's proprietary journalism for websites that can't afford to pay for their own content. …