The Troubles of Journalism: A Critical Look at What's Right and Wrong with the Press

By William A. Hachten | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
The Fading American Newspaper?

The newspapers! Sir, they are the most villainous -- licentious -- abominable -- infernal -- not that I ever read them -- I make it a rule never to look into a newspaper.

-- Richard Brinsley Sheridan ( 1779)

At this time of great change in public communication, newspapers, as well as news magazines, have been undergoing modifications similar to those of broadcast journalism. Publishers and editors of papers are increasingly under pressure to expand their profits and their attractiveness to Wall Street investors. As in other industries, many newspapers have been downsizing to increase their profitability. In addition, many editors, in pursuit of greater circulations, are stressing more entertainment-oriented, celebrity-soaked infotainment, as well as soft features that relate to the personal concerns of readers. Newspapers are not adverse to pick up on the sensational stories carried on television.


SLIPPING MORALE

Morale of reporters and editors on many newspapers is clearly low -- a sense that working for a newspaper is no longer an exciting and respected calling. One former newsman, C. S. Stepp ( 1995) wrote:

For all the trials of poor pay, lousy hours, and grinding pace, the payoff (in earlier times) was high: deference, entitlement, the buzz of recognition, the glory of it all. Readers grumbled but they paid attention. . . . These are different days. The newspaper person (today) is just one more harried

-92-

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