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
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2009 @ 7:18pm

    Re: Newspapers, because print matters......

    "Reality: Almost no-one under the age of 30 actually goes to the newspaper as their primary source of news anymore. This means that newspapers, despite still hanging in their, have a limited amount of time before all their readers die off."

    Reality? I don't think this is entirely accurate. Most people do consult newspapers, but often NOT in printed form, but rather online. They hit google news, type "Obama makes an oops" and get a news story that likely comes from print media (or news services such as AP).

    From what I can see in my town riding the subway, the freebie newspapers they give away at the door are actually very popular with the under 30 crowd, mostly because they don't have to pay. That may be more of the key here, the under 30s have grown up with the net thinking that everything is either free, cracked, or hacked.

    The freebie rags tend to be just this side of death all the time, due to a lack of ad dollars in the marketplace. One would probably do okay, two are just hurting each other.

    "In this respect newspapers, being controlled mostly by big money, are the primary avenue that misinformation and disinformation is spread to people."

    Apparently you haven't watch Faux News Channel recently. You want to talk about disinformation, just watch the O'Reilly Factor for a while. Another great example of opinion disguised as news, telling people what to think. Perhaps you might want to tune in for the Rush Limbaugh 3 hour programming of the dittohead bots, where people are mislead so badly that they still think Shrub Bush was a great President. Newspapers don't have the market on editorial opinion - but for the most part, they tend to keep it in areas marked as "opinion" rather than spewing it all around.

    All big media is owned by big money. Grassroots media (like blogs) are horribly unreliable.

    Most important is the source for news. As mentioned earlier, the newspaper people are a little peed off that TV news people tend to take their stories and just condense them for TV, using the newspaper story as source. What would happen if all the Newspapers stopped publishing tomorrow? Where would you get in depth news? Where would you get local news? What would be on TV if they didn't have newspapers to do the leg work?

    It's easy as heck to declare this dead, that dead, call businesses "buggy whip industries", and so on, but it is way more difficult to even come up with a replacement for what you propose to bury.

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