Magazine article Information Today

The Luxury of Print

Magazine article Information Today

The Luxury of Print

Article excerpt

On the last day of February--before I began writing this column--word started oozing out onto the internet that the newspaper where I used to work was shrinking the newsroom by another 10% ( report-tampa-bay-times-to-cut10-of-newsroom-staff). According to various sources, the copy desk was targeted to bear the brunt of the job cuts. Generally speaking, this means shoving a lot of "institutional knowledge" out the door. From a practical standpoint, it is predictive of even more errors in both the print and online products.

Having been a reporter and then, later, a news researcher, I always loved traditional print journalism. But I painfully came to the conclusion a few years ago that my personal future there was too precarious to ignore. To be blunt about it, I am not independently wealthy, and "going down with the ship" was not a viable career option. So I bailed ... and now, seeing that my former employer is facing even greater financial problems, I feel professionally vindicated. But I also feel sad.

The Trouble With Print

The newspaper industry has been struggling for years now to come to terms with the internet. With a few notable exceptions, newspapers have not been able to figure out how to make money online. Commercial advertising sales on websites are tricky--the rates are much, much lower--and craigslist has cannibalized the traditional classified advertising sector. Meanwhile, for a daily newspaper, if you're not The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, a paywall is not a winning strategy.

Just this past week, I read an item describing how the Orlando Sentinel suddenly dismissed all its photographers and is requiring them to reapply for their jobs ( orlando-sentinel-photographers-mustreapply-for-jobs). Hiring preference apparently will be given to those who can shoot video. Well, I don't know about you, but I seldom watch videos on newspaper websites. Usually, I'm there for quick info--to scan an article and move on. I don't have time to sit and watch videos during the workday. On the other hand, if Tm there to read an article and happen to spot a lovely photo ... well, that's a bonus.

But that's just me. And I realize that I am outside the mainstream; I still subscribe to a daily dead-tree newspaper {The Washington Post). Granted, I often do not have time to read the entire paper every day, but not having a newspaper to peruse each morning as I eat breakfast would be a drastic lifestyle change for me--and not for the better.

Amazon Enters the Picture

The Post was purchased last year by Jeffrey Bezos, Mr. Amazon. Note that this was not an Amazon acquisition; this was a purchase by the man his own self. From what I gather, he likes journalism ... and wants the challenge of trying to make money in a struggling industry. He told a Post reporter (washingtonpost .com/lifestyle/style/jeffrey-bezoswashington-posts-next-owner-aims- for-a-new-golden-era-at-the-news paper/2013/09/02/30c00b60- 13fB-11 e3-bl82-lb3bb2eb474c_story.html): "The product of The Post is still great. The piece that's missing is that it's a challenged business. No business can continue to shrink. That can only go on for so long before irrelevancy sets in.... I've been told, 'Jeff, you're fooling yourself; the problem is unsolvable.' But I don't think so. It just takes a lot of time, patience and experimentation."

Meanwhile, in a February New Yorker article, George Packer more or less accuses Amazon of single-handedly destroying the market for quality literature via unrelenting financial pressure on the traditional publishing industry (newyorker. …

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