Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Will Journalism Ever Be the Same? No. but That May Not Be a Bad Thing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Will Journalism Ever Be the Same? No. but That May Not Be a Bad Thing

Article excerpt

Byline: Lee Scott


Author: John Stackhouse

Data: Random House Canada, 325 pages, $29.95

The Fourth Estate is on the ropes.

The newspaper publishing industry has been knocked to its knees by billions in revenue losses in recent years. The boxing metaphors are more than appropriate for the current state of an institution commonly referred to as the fourth branch of government for its watchdog role in modern democracy.

Despite the seemingly tsunami-like changes brought on by the so-called digital revolution, the industry has been edging toward this decline for decades. Advertising peaked before the current millennium and circulation even earlier. Whatever the reasons: greed, arrogance, sloth, intractability, stupidity, it is an economic truism that a mature industry, even one awash with money, dies if it is unable to adjust to external forces and changing times. As a whole, publishers have fought the recent change by attempting to hop the digital juggernaut. But like climate change, the efforts are misdirected or too little too late and nothing seems to stop the decline, which continues at an ever-increasing pace. Meanwhile, "experts" pontificate and pundits rail. But for an industry that specializes in explaining, there is (also like climate change) little agreement on and or understanding of the phenomenon.

As editor of the Toronto Globe and Mail, Canada's second largest newspaper, John Stackhouse was forced to the forefront of the efforts of major newspapers to maintain their dominant role in the communication industry. It will fall to future historians to determine what actually happened and why, but with the same clear-headed reasoning he used to become a successful foreign correspondent, Stackhouse explores the "who, what, when, and where" in his new book, "Mass Disruption."

In 2013, he attended a gathering in England of editors and news executives of major newspapers from around the world. Under discussion was the "plight of serious journalism" after a decade-long digital assault. Attendees included Jill Abramson of the New York Times, the Washington Post's Robert Kaiser, Dame Liz Forgan from the Guardian, Peter Stothard, former editor of The Times of London, and Digital First Media's John Paton. …

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