Newspaper Association Insists That Only Newspapers Can Do Real Reporting

from the say-what-now? dept

An anonymous employee of a decent sized newspaper forwarded me a letter sent out to employees by John Sturm, the head of the Newspaper Assocation of America called The Reality About Newspapers. It's embedded below:

It lists out a series of 7 "myths" about newspapers, followed by the reality. The first 6 myths are actually good points that we absolutely agree with. Basically, it says the newspaper business really isn't that bad. A lot of people still read the newspaper and most newspapers are quite profitable on an operating basis. Indeed, we've pointed that out in the past. The real problem has mainly been with really poor decisions by some in management to take out huge loans. It's the debt load that's killing so many newspapers -- and it's not helped by the fact that newspaper readership is declining and advertisers have a lot more options than in the past.

However, the 7th myth and reality is just ridiculous:
Myth: If newspapers close, you will still be able to get news from other sources.

Reality: Newspapers make a larger investment in journalism than any other medium. Most of the information you read from "aggregators" and other media originated with newspapers. No amount of effort from local bloggers, non-profit news entities or TV news sources could match the depth and breadth of newspaper-produced content.
The problem is that his "myth" is a reality and his "reality" is a fiction. It is true that today newspapers invest more in journalism, but the rest of his "reality" isn't reality at all. There is simply no reason (nor does he provide one) why other publications can't fill the gap. And, note (carefully) his metric: it's the amount invested in journalism. This is like when movie industry guys say "but how do we keep making $200 million movies." You should never trust anyone who tries to base output on the amount invested. Perhaps the answer is to invest smarter in journalism, rather than investing more.

That said, I should make a separate point that's important: I'm still an optimist and a believer that newspapers will figure this out. A lot of people falsely seem to assume I think all newspapers must or should die. I don't think that at all. I received a few emails from people who were surprised about my comments in a Guardian article about why I think newspapers will figure all this out. But, they won't do it if they continue to think that they have some sort of special quality that makes it impossible for other media to report the news.

Filed Under: journalism, newspaper association, newspapers

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  1. identicon
    skeptic, 1 Jun 2009 @ 2:07pm

    what makes newspapers think they are so great

    first of all this was a half page add in the Washington post last week. not an insider secretly leaked letter.

    I read the Washington Post every day and newspapers by and large are getting consistently worse. the local newspapers that are doing well, give their paper away for free already. They do this by being full of adds and increasing readership with sensationalist articles. I read (and pay for) the post because it is better than most, but they by no means have no room to improve. I sincerely believe that newspapers can charge for their content, even online, by increasing the value of the content. right now however, even the best newspapers are writing at an 8th grade reading level. Most far less than that. Newspapers are moving in the wrong direction. Better papers see the trashier ones doing better because they are reaching more readers by giving away their content at a lower (or zero) price. Instead of trying to reach that broader market, the better papers need to actually narrow their market to serve those that are being ignored. I am willing to pay for better content, because I cannot find that better content else ware. But the papers cannot hold themselves on that high horse and say that no one matches their content, because it is simply not true. Give me a place where content is fair, factual, unbiased, intelligent and complete, and not only will I pay for it, but others who want the same will as well.

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