The deconstruction of the news media and its sort-of replacement by the internet is a social tidal wave, greater than the advent of television and more important than the election of a president. In many respects it is a second “Gutenberg” with the introduction of moveable type in the 15th Century.
Ken Doctor in “Newsonomics” gives the first understandable report of this social tidal wave that swept away at least 8,000 newspaper employees in the last two years and almost 1,700 this year. The count grows each day. The network of reporters who provide you news is being dismantled.
The Associated Press, which has faced its own cutbacks, is seeing the network of local reporting, which supported it, disappearing. Major metropolitan newspapers are dying and even The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Times are in trouble. Smaller dailies and weeklies are cutting staff an average of 25 percent.
Yes, Tiger Woods is still being covered, excuse the expression. Your planning commission, police and fire departments, hospitals and doctors, city councils, state legislatures and Congress may not be.
“The Old News World is Gone–Get Over It,” Doctor concludes.
He is right. It hurts this retired newspaper reporter with more than 40 years in the business and 13 news organizations, of which four survive, and nine are dead or merged out of business. The last, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is now a ghost web page only with a tiny staff.
It hurts because of the people hurt, thrown out of jobs into the Great Recession and because of the loss of a system of which I was a proud part, providing news to the American public. The truth shall make you free but what if there is no one to tell you the truth?
Doctor has no answers per se but he does spell out the internet sites which are replacing newspapers as the sources of news and advertising. Unfortunately the computerized search engines can only find the news that is reported and they do not cover city councils and bad highway crashes.
“The Digital Dozen Will Dominate,” he predicts. “A dozen or so multinational, multiplatforms media companies will dominate global news and information.” That should frighten liberals and conservatives alike.
What if they fall under the control of dictatorships, private or governmental? Look at Google’s problems with China. Doctor doesn’t fully discuss this issue.
I have some reasons to distrust Doctor. He was a vice president of Knight-Ridder, a company whose three piece-suits made my life hell for a time. His company folded its cards and ran with the money just before the crash, turning some fine newspapers over to the shredders. (I must admit K-R did produce some fine newspapers and foreign coverage so it may not be all Doctor’s fault.)
He has produced a readable and understandable progress report on the tidal wave and he gives some hits of what may result. It won’t be all bad. Some of it is good but for the news workers these times are far too interesting.
We all need fair and comprehensive reporting of and sources for news, local, state, national and international. Our lives, liberties and sacred honor depend on that.
Gil Bailey of Port Ludlow worked as a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1978 to 1998. He’s a past president of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild. The PostGlobe relies on your donations. Please support this writer’s work by going to our donate page and let us know where you’d like your donation to go.