It's absolutely fascinating that you don't watch Breaking Bad and that you don't care. Please tell me of other shows in which you have no interest, because it's really very interesting, this non-interest of yours. And as I presume you suspected, it really makes you seem likejust about the coolest person ever.
Well, you know, newspapers have to do something, and I'm not sure why everyone thinks it's so dumb to try paywalls. They have worked in some instances, and they might yet work in some others. It doesn't look good in general, but neither do the revenue prospects for online ads. So what would you suggest be done to ensure local and regional coverage that's at least as good as it was about 15 years ago? A relatively (at least) healthy, robust, full-time, professional press that we need for democracy to function?
>>all a paywall really does is open up a huge market for online competitors
Well, that would be great, actually. But has it happened anywhere? There are some cities with some decent upstarts (New Orleans, San Diego, Austin, etc.). Most are nonprofits, and most are understaffed and struggling (though often doing great work). I don't know offhand of any that have launched in reaction to a local paper erecting a paywall, but I'm happy to be enlightened.
Frankly, I think any story about this problem, or even brief post like this, has to acknowledge that financing quality, newspaper-like local news coverage is an immense challenge and that online ad revenues aren't sufficient to the task. The lack of such an acknowledgement implies a belief that online ads are the answer, but they're clearly not.
You're contradicting yourself, and you apparently don't know what you're talking about. I've been in journalism for 25 years -- responsible opinion pages are as careful about facts as news sections are. A lie or an error isn't an "opinion" -- it's a lie or an error. The WSJ's opinion section isn't particularly responsible, but the fact remains - you can't just lie about discoverable facts and then say, as cover, "well, it's just an opinion, and so it's above criticism."
As for the First Amendment, the only possible response is, what the fuck are you talking about?
You also don't know what you're talking about re: the WSJ. It's actually doing fine. Pretty much everything you just wrote is addled and insensible.
Well, but being in the opinion section doesn't make it OK to spew a bunch of egregious lies or errors. By publishing it, the WSJ DOES in fact back it, your high dudgeon notwithstanding. Respectable newspapers try not to publish false claims, and run corrections when they do, no matter which section it's published in.
The problem, as I noted at Fortune.com about this abomination, is that the Wall Street Journal and the Wall Street Journal opinion pages are very different things. The news pages, for now anyway, are still mostly very good. But the news pages are stained by the opinion pages because, as you see in the comments here, everyone just refers to "the WSJ," which of course isn't the fault of the people doing it.
And you're making a whole bunch of mistakes, and false assumptions. I don't demand that journalism be as profitable as it used to be -- margins were often 40 percent and higher and that's never coming back. I do hope journalism can be sustainable, though, and pay journalists a decent wage (and while we're at it, let's work on the teachers, too).
As for "citizen journalism." Well, people have been saying that for years and years. And it does happen sometimes, in some circumstances. But citizen journalists have neither the time nor the economic incentive to do it 10-12 hours a day, every day over periods of years; to develop beats, work sources, examine and interpret documents, etc. etc. "Some will" isn't really an adequate substitute for a newsroom full of dozens or hundreds of reporters and editors working full time, with the resources that can only be supplied by a serious, going concern working with some scale.
I also don't think that "Publick Occurrences" and other early newspapers are relevant to the discussion, except in very limited ways. That was an agrarian economy where public events were about 1 billionth of what they are now in terms of number, size, frequency. And the population was a fraction of what it is now, and society and the economy are just so much more complex that, well, it's irrelevant.
You might be right that what we end up with is a bunch of small outfits doing what one or two big outfits have done in recent decades. But it will be a long time before we get there, and given the economics, it's not certain that we will.
"Publications" in 10 years will mean online publications almost exclusively. The word isn't tantamount to "print." I've worked for a whole bunch of online-only publications.
This stuff about students and whistle-blowers sounds good, and it happens sometimes, which is great. But people have been saying that since before the Web was invented, and it hasn't happened yet - only a very tiny amount of news gets reported that way. Comprehensive coverage can never happen by such means because there are no economic incentives for sustained coverage, investigations, etc. Nothing can fully replace a dedicated staff of professional, ethically bound journalists working full time to cover a community.
No, it generally won't. At least, not for a while, and not nearly to the extent that good local papers covered such stuff until recently. At least, not until it makes economic sense to do so. Local TV is mostly shit (with some exceptions), and the Web sites are often actually worse than the TV presentation. Small papers take up some of the slack, but not very much. It won't happen unless and until enterprises that can reach sufficient scale are able to take over the task, or unless until there are a sufficient number of independents doing it to really cover local news completely. It's certainly not happening now.
And the Net is very different in terms of advertising, for the simple reason that ad revenues online are a fraction of what they are in print. Until that changes, regional, state and local news is in big trouble.
I'm optimistic in the long term, but very, very pessimistic in the short.
Sure, sites like this one might take over the tech news, etc. But which publications are going to cover the schools, city halls, cops and courts, etc.? Which sites that cover those things are going to get "tons and tons of traffic" when the LA Times goes behind a wall?
Arguments like this (which might be right on as far as whether paywalls are a bad idea) always seem to forget that when local newspapers go down, that's what gets lost. Tech coverage, like every other nonlocal topic, is *already* being taken away from newspapers by specialty Web sites. Few on Reddit or anywhere else will be linking to stories about LA police corruption, because it often won't be there to link to. In fact, no story might ever get done at all, and the corruption will just continue, unknown to the public. I find it hard to cheer for that.
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